Why you shouldn't forget emotions in the digital age.

Customers buy on emotion and then rationalise their purchase.

by Tim Hughes
Last Updated: 30 Mar 2017

I was reminded over the last month of just how powerful bringing emotion into your digital customer experience can be. Combined with ease and simplicity, it can create a distinctive and engaging experience in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Spring had sprung and my friends and I recently decided that it was time to get fit. I rediscovered my fitness tracking device and we all agreed it would be fun to create a group to track progress and a leader board for that bit of friendly competition. I was quickly able to build my own bespoke fitness regime, track my individual work outs and my weight, as well as logging my daily food intake and hydration levels no less. This level of online personalisation makes for a great customer experience and emotional buy-in.

While personalisation is a key aspect to delivering an emotional experience so is ‘making it social’. The group app we used did just that allowing us to share our experiences. You can imagine the banter between a group of friends trying to get fit together, the cruel jokes, the close to the mark observations around fitness gear and body image as well as the occasional motivational comments. The best emotional digital experiences understand a customer’s desire to share, review and comment and sees the power of building a community of like-minded people and building trust.

With one eye on the leader board and another on our goals, we’ve all taken advice from the app and each other, buying the ‘right’ fitness shoes and gear, food and drink as we all got closer to the time we measured how well we have done.

The whole exercise has reminded me that all consumers are hardwired to think emotionally first and then rationalise. This is all to do with how our brain works and despite the advent of digital, this hasn’t changed in millions of years. Put simply, if a thought and a feeling are travelling on the same neuropathway, it is the feeling that has the pre-emptive right of way.

Considering customer emotions when building your digital experience therefore makes eminent business sense. This is supported by customer experience thought leader, Bruce Temkin, who recently carried out a detailed study of multiple sectors that proved positive emotional experiences are the most important element in driving customer loyalty.

So, to deliver great emotional digital experiences, companies need to take three key steps:

  1. Assess the principle emotions that their customers feel during their current digital experience. How does the experience itself make them feel when they complete it? What do the different emotions do to their bottom line – retention, recommendation, repurchase intention.
  2. Identify what emotions they need to eliminate and accentuate as part of the experience. Don’t forget to use all the key insights from those channels that are now considered to be rather old fashioned but have worked so well and driven loyalty in the past – face to face, retail outlets and contact centres. 
  3. Develop their new customer journey to ensure it elicits the emotions that they want to generate – ones that inspire loyalty and strong repurchase intentions. Using virtual and augmented reality, nudges and immersive / 360 content will further enhance the experience.

Very soon ease and simplicity will be ubiquitous - by bringing emotion to the fore, businesses can make their digital proposition distinctive and hence retain their competitive edge.

Tim Hughes is head of customer experience at HSBC

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