Humans feel first and think second. Our primitive limbic system processes information far faster than the neocortex developed in the latest stages of our brain’s evolution. Your emotional response to an ad kicks in long before you get around to thinking about the pitch. Nielsen backs that up with 2016 research that showed ads with an above average emotional response from consumers caused a 23% increase in sales compared to average advertisements.
What’s more, researchers have found that a positive emotional bond with a company is more important than customer satisfaction as a predictor of future sales. Another 2016 study showed that when individuals have a positive emotional association with a brand, they’re 8x more likely to trust the company and 6x more likely to forgive a mistake.
So, yeah, let’s get emotional!
Emotions are personal, though, so who has the right to measure and analyze them remains a delicate question. But consumers who are emotionally connected to a brand are worth two times more to a business than the average highly satisfied customer. They trust the brand more, make more purchases, show lower price sensitivity, and will follow company communications more intently.
At the most basic level, any company can learn about what motivates their customers emotionally. Financial services companies, retail establishments, healthcare facilities, and technology firms are using detailed analysis to understand the emotional connections that attract and will help them retain their most valuable customers. From product development to marketing and sales, even after-sales service, companies are making an emotional connection with customers a focus of their business strategy.
Identifying the emotions that motivate consumers isn’t easy— customers themselves usually aren’t aware of them. In fact, the emotions consumers say motivates them, even the words they use to describe their emotional responses, are different than what researchers find actually motivates them. Worse, consumer’s emotional connections with products, “…are neither uniform nor constant; they vary by industry, brand, touchpoint, and the customer’s position in the decision journey…” as one consumer intelligence firm discovered.
It ain’t easy
But it can be done. Briefly, big data analytics can identify what emotions motivate a company’s customers. Then, statistical modeling can compare survey results about people’s emotions with purchase behavior to identify what purchases are associated with specific emotions.
For example, if a home furnishings store helps people feel creative they will shop there more often. If a fast-food restaurant helps people feel revived and refreshed customers will be more loyal.
Interestingly, but not too surprisingly, the emotions that motivate consumers varies across customer segments. Millennials, for example, felt “protect the environment” and “be the person I want to be” were important emotions when they decided on a credit card, while “feel secure” and “succeed in life” were the emotions that older groups responded to.
Responding to customer’s emotional connections doesn’t require turning a business upside down. The most effective way to do it is to make emotional connection a (KPI) key performance indicator and include it in key management reports. But implementing an emotional-connection strategy does require deep customer insights and sophisticated analytical capabilities.
Above all, commitment to the strategy is crucial. That’s true when any new strategy is implemented. But if you have top management support, emotional connections with customers can be a real competitive advantage.