In the last few years, we’ve seen marketers scrambling to keep up with emerging technology and tactics. Loyalty marketers have become too focused on functionality, at times losing sight of the real purpose behind their marketing.
Building a relationship between a brand and customer is about so much more than serving a consistent experience across channels and devices. Customers keep coming back because of a complex emotional bond they have with your brand, not because of a technically flawless experience. It’s time to make a return to what loyalty is really about – creating moments that form an emotional connection between customers and brand.
Why an Emotional Connection Matters
Despite many of us wishing we were rational beings, humans make decisions based on their emotions. This doesn’t mean logic plays no part in customer decisions; many people will use your brand out of convenience. Proximity, price and ease-of-use are all compelling reasons to choose a brand, but emotional factors can often override these logical factors.
According to Gallup, fully engaged customers are those who are so emotionally connected to a brand that they will go out of their way to use that brand over the competition. It’s no surprise customers with this level of emotional attachment to a brand are the most valuable:
• Fully engaged hotel guests spend 46% more than disengaged guests. (Gallup)
• Fully engaged banking customers bring in 37% more annual revenue than actively disengaged customers. (Gallup)
• Fully engaged casual dining customers visit restaurants 56% more per month than actively disengaged customers. (Gallup)
Providing a strong emotional experience can be a competitive advantage, even in a saturated market full of similar products. A good example of this is someone going out of their way for Starbucks every morning even when they have closer, cheaper, and faster options available. People drive the extra mile for Starbucks because of how it makes them feel – whether that is because of the customizable product, personalized customer service, or something else unique to the brand experience.
Leveraging Emotional Moments to Increase Loyalty
Brands that really nail the emotional side of marketing understand which elements of the customer experience are responsible for creating powerful, impactful moments in the minds and hearts of their customers. At Kobie, our approach to creating emotionally-charged moments is based on the following five pillars. Each of these pillars are interconnected and depend upon one another.
Customers dislike feeling like faceless members of a group. Leverage data and technology to tailor messaging, timing and context to the individual, not the segment.
People don’t want a one-size-fits-all experience. Let each customer own their experience by giving them tools and incentives that let them interact with your brand in their preferred way.
Serving relevant content at the right time can move people to take action. Use meaningful content to nurture the relationship with the customer and extend the customer experience into their preferred channels.
Rewards should be based on member preferences and emotional drivers. The key here is giving the customer what they consider valuable, which does not necessarily mean currency-based rewards, like points.
Many brands think of how they can make the customer their advocate, but this should be a two-way street. In a customer advocacy mindset, you view every interaction as an opportunity to learn more about what the customer wants and use those insights to better serve them. Make your customers feel special by delivering on those wants, whether that means access to exclusive content, free trials, important news, etc.
A well-timed strategy that delivers a personalized message or reward when it’s relevant and useful – or even when it is delightfully unexpected – is a good example of how all of the above pillars can work in tandem to create the best possible customer experience.
Identifying the Emotions Unique to Your Customer Experience
Now that you see why impactful moments are an integral part of the customer experience, let’s look at what to consider as you refine your emotional engagement strategy.
1. Pinpoint the most crucial moments.
Which moments have the greatest impact on the customer experience? For example, the most crucial moments in an airline/customer relationship might be when something goes wrong (like how a delayed flight or lost baggage is handled). The most crucial moment for a restaurant patron might be the ambiance when they walk in or their first bite of food.
Also consider the types of important moments that happen with your brand that are outside of your control. For example, the feelings that happen when someone’s child unwraps your product on their birthday (the child’s excitement, the parent’s satisfaction, etc.).
2. Identify the emotional reaction you want to create at each touch point.
How does someone feel when they read an email from your brand, when they open your app or visit your site? Choose which actions you want each emotion to drive.
3. Decide on the overall feeling customers should have toward your brand.
The individual moments matter, but there’s also a cumulative effect. Customer satisfaction rates are based on the sum of every moment, adding up to an overall feeling toward your brand. Determine what all of those moments should feel like in the mind of the customer.
4. Research the emotions associated with your vertical.
Aside from internal input, market research can help identify the existing feelings toward your industry (both positive and negative). Can you leverage these existing feelings to shape the customer experience? Will pre-conceived emotions be difficult to overcome?
5. Keep in mind the emotions you don’t want the customer to feel, too.
What feelings might drive people to stop using your brand? These are just as important as positive emotions, since negative experiences can have a stronger influence on loyalty.
While it’s true that technology can provide the means to serve and create moments that will stand out in the hearts and minds of your customers, it shouldn’t be the “be all, end all” of your loyalty strategy. Adopting a “feelings first” mind set can help you create the right moments at the right time – right when the consumer needs it most. True loyalty happens when interacting with your brand creates emotionally-driven, memorable moments.