This article on emotional connections was originally written by Cybba's President of the Board, Andy Frawley, and appeared in CEO Forum Magazine.
In today’s digital and consumer-driven world, the notion of laying out a customer journey that progresses in known steps over time, controlled by a brand, is obsolete. Consumers are now in charge of when, where and how they identify themselves, interact, provide feedback and buy. And it’s not a step-by-step process.
This requires companies to identify each moment that they want to capture the consumer’s attention and draw them to action in a non-linear way.
What makes this particularly challenging?
Imagine an environment where a company is working through 8 different channels, has 200 products, each of which has 5 different price points, 10 creative treatments and 20 customer segments.
As a result, there are 1.6 million options to construct the right message for a consumer in a single moment of interaction, yet none of these permutations are truly personal. Many companies today face this complexity. Instead of focusing on 1.6 million permutations, they need to focus on just the 50 things that matter, which differ for every brand, to enrich the customer experience through truly personalized marketing.
Effectively identifying these critical moments enables a company to interact with a consumer in the moment that matters in a personalized manner that can forge an emotional connection. And that combination of engagement and emotion is powerful. The ability for a company to develop an emotional connection, across time and in the moment, is what will drive a consumer to action.
There are a number of elements that can inform and impact a moment and its overall importance to a brand including:
Life stage of the consumer
Context of the interaction
Customer current and potential value
Level of engagement
Level of emotion towards the brand
Brand’s inventory or capacity
As an example, in the travel industry, hotel companies don’t just want consumers to stay at their property. They want them eating in their restaurants, using their spa facilities, recommending the hotel to their friends, engaging on social media, and more.
Therefore, the critical moments may include the time when a customer makes a reservation, a month prior to her trip when she’s planning what she’s going to do, when she arrives or if she has a service problem. A hotel company can identify where and when these moments are happening, intercept them and use all of the elements about that individual consumer to make the experience in those moments meaningful. They can know if she is high value or high potential value and provide different incentives and a different level of service based on that information. In the end, that will impact how she feels towards the brand.
In my book, Igniting Customer Connections, we conducted proprietary research that explored how customers feel about a brand (experience or emotion) and how they interact with a brand (engagement) in real-time via various channels. Some of the most compelling findings showed that when a company consistently delivers positive engagement and experiences and better connects with customers emotionally, it will realize sustainable business growth. Once engaged, it’s emotions that give meaning to each interaction, or moment, and ultimately reinforce customer perceptions—and passion—for the brand.
In fact, our research revealed that in the absence of an emotional connection, highly engaged customers provided no incremental benefit to business outcomes. However, the pace at which customers increase their share-of-wallet intent is dramatically increased when there’s an emotional connection. For instance, when we looked at the travel and hospitality industry, highly engaged, high-emotion customers (32 percent of the research sample) were twice as likely as highly engaged, low-emotion customers (16 percent of the research sample) to report that they intended to increase their future share-of-wallet with their most frequented brand of hotel. By contrast, there was no difference between highly engaged, low-emotion customers and the average respondent regarding future intent. The same holds true for brand commitment, likelihood to recommend, and likelihood to return. What this tells us is that engagement derives much of its value from the emotion created by a positive experience with a brand.
So how can a company achieve an emotional connection and deep engagement? To capitalize on moments to both engage and connect emotionally with a consumer, companies need to achieve personalized marketing by optimizing identification, real-time recognition, content and omnichannel deployment.
Consumers and brands interact in anonymous channels, such as digitally whereby a consumer browses a website on their desktop or via their mobile device, and in an identified manner like email, direct mail or in-store, where they are recognized by name or other identifiers. The ability to link a holistic consumer profile across these anonymous and identified channels is critical to deliver a seamless and personalized experience in the moments that matter.
When linked, you can know the consumer and understand them across the various elements mentioned earlier that impact a moment. This information must be available, and actionable, in real-time because moments are happening 24/7/365 and are primarily driven by the consumer, not the brand.
It’s then critical that you develop content based on emotional and rational factors that matter to the individual. This includes messages, photos, video and offers, available in a moment in time, catered to a consumer, to drive a deep connection.
And ultimately, it takes technology enablement to then deploy the personalized content to the individual in the channel in which they’re engaged to create an emotional response.
By capitalizing on moments and introducing the ability to intercept them across the enterprise, you can begin to interact on an emotional level with consumers in the manner and sequence that the consumer lives and operates. It begins with figuring out the critical moments that matter and focusing your resources accordingly.