Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Emotion Carries: Forge Meaningful Customer Relationships By Building Emotional Loyalty

Stephanie Bannos, Head of Customer Experience Strategic Solutions
Strategy / Innovation

When a major national retailer wanted to grow its e-commerce presence without losing the joy of shopping in-store, it made sense to craft an experience that reached customers on an emotional level. We explored what current customers love most and how the online shopper resembles and differs from the in-store audience. With that insight, we built a digital experience that elevates the most meaningful elements of the physical experience while catering to the expectations of the savvy online shopper. 

 

Our client loved the thoughtfulness of our approach and the agility with which we execute, but what really stood out was the feedback they received directly from customers on Twitter. Among the chorus was a post noting that our client’s virtual shopping experience was, “…the 2020 gift I never knew I needed,” while another shopper “freaking loved it.”

 

Emotional Loyalty, in and of itself, cannot be measured purely on a quantitative level: While the results of strong Emotional Loyalty can certainly be seen in repeat sales and number of customer referrals, the core of the concept speaks to customers forming a personal connection with your brand.

 

The concept of Emotional Loyalty is particularly prescient during this pandemic, as consumers are still mostly separated from their loved ones and starved for human connection. This affords brands the opportunity to accelerate digital engagement, whether it’s connecting with customers on a one-on-one basis or getting creative in what it means to do business online.

 

Here’s everything you need to know about Emotional Loyalty.

What is Emotional Loyalty?

In general, Emotional Loyalty is achieved when four overlapping factors are present:

1. Affinity 

This requires a focus how customers feel about the sale or service interaction itself. Exceptional product and service offerings are only the beginning: Customers build true affinity when they receive personal attention while shopping, such as working with a dedicated and informed service rep before and after a purchase. Or if customers choose to engage online, they’ll feel great about your brand if you offer an easy-to-navigate e-commerce experience that fluidly serves the information they need, when they need it in a way that’s more interesting than standard navigations and product information pages. While in-person acts to drive affinity, such as being greeted by name, are certainly the most human, brands that win appeal to the same emotions through creative uses of personalization and ‘surprise and delight’ tactics in their digital experiences. 

2. Attachment

When customers are celebrated for their loyalty, they begin to feel attached to your brand. You’ve seen this concept in action in airline loyalty programs and punch cards handed out in sandwich shops. Being authentically recognized for repeat business shows customers you’re paying attention—and yes, they take notice. Content also plays a sizable role: It attracts customers and serves as a light-touch interaction means. When customers feel like content is consistently suited to their questions and needs, they’ll etch that brand into their daily routine. Attachment is the gold standard for loyalty; of these principles, attachment-based bonds remain the strongest. 

3. Trust

For the most part, this boils down to demonstrating respect for customers’ privacy and time as well as reliably delivering against your product or service promise. Privacy has become a hot button topic, as consumers are noting the real-world ramifications of sharing personal data whether they want to or not. Trust requires offering transparency on how data is used, along with the option to opt-out of sharing—same goes for e-newsletters and other forms of unsolicited email. Delivering against your promise includes developing a plan to regain trust and empathize with situations if something goes awry—because, let’s face it, something is bound to go wrong at some point and how you handle it is the real test.  

4. Advocacy

This concept best equates to word-of-mouth (WoM). These referrals are invaluable and viewed as the most authentic: Recent data compiled by HubSpot found that 81 percent of customers listen to advice from their family and friends over anything shared from a brand. Customer advocates will also defend brands online and become first adopters of new brand products. We’ve seen the shifts: first celebrity influencers, then individuals, now everyone’s an influencer. Driving advocacy and good old-fashioned WoM is essential to your brand’s CX strategy. 

 

It’s not one team’s responsibility to address all four of these concepts: The process requires commitment and a shared vision for customer experience across sales, merchandising, marketing, operations and technology. Brands that win don’t do so by accident. These coordinated efforts are sponsored by the CEO or encouraged by a governing body of cross-functional leaders.

Why is Emotional Loyalty Important?

For one thing, Emotional Loyalty, an integral portion of our Customer Experience solution, has been empirically proven to increase sales and referrals. In the aforementioned study, HubSpot discovered that 93 percent of consumers are likely to offer a brand repeat business if it provided exceptional customer service, and 90 percent say they would share their experience with others.

 

Sales are likely to increase as well. InMoment discovered that 60 percent of customers shop more frequently with their preferred brands, and 50 percent will spend more money on them. A white paper by Motista added that customers spend, on average, more than 150 percent annually on brands to which they are emotionally loyal versus those they are not.

 

One of our clients, Hulu, uses the service experience as a way to drive Emotional Loyalty. Early reads on our service innovations indicate 82.4 percent of viewers have a propensity to leverage them, which can translate to a 50 percent reduction in weekly active support hours and the associated operating costs. 

 

Other metrics to watch include Frequency of Visit, Customer Lifetime Value and Cross-Sell Rate.

What Actions Improve Emotional Loyalty?

1. The Marketing Approach

The path to Emotional Loyalty begins with a robust content plan: blog posts, social media interaction, short YouTube videos and more. Each piece of content must be concise, relevant and actionable; customers have little patience for endless blocks of text or glaringly outdated pieces. A multi-channel approach ensures that customers keep your brand top-of-mind regardless of how they stay connected and presents a variety of content options.

 

To further elevate, establish a Loyalty and Engagement Plan. This may include offering customers both tangible and intangible benefits for their continued business—discounts, early access and concierge services are effective, but so are personalized, hand-written notes on their birthdays. A great plan finds the intersection of what your customers care about most and what you’re most uniquely positioned to offer. And don’t let fear of scaling stop you – even micro experiences have the potential to go viral and become an amazing story for your brand. 

2. The Data & Technology Approach

Invest in your Data Strategy and Audience Segmentation Strategy. Personalization takes many forms and is fueled by your data assets. Individual messaging, or hyper-personalization, requires a robust eco-system of data and content management powered by AI and machine-learning algorithms. “One-to-many” messaging can be achieved with a well-defined segmentation strategy and audience planning. No matter where your brand is in its data and technology journey, there’s always more opportunity to harness these strategies.  

 

And remember the importance of employee enablement. Too often technology and data investments fall short on their ROI promise due to lack of adoption (or understanding) of the modern tools in the toolkit. Have an enablement plan – and change management plan when there’s resistance – should be part of the business case and ‘I’ in ROI. 

3. The Community and Public Relations Approach

In today’s economic, social and political climate, the winners are brands that engage in philanthropy. In its 2020 “Strength of Purpose” study, Zeno Group found that customers were four times more likely to patronize brands that share their same morals and stood by them by running charitable campaigns. These customers were also six times more likely to stick with a brand during trying times.

 

Strengthen your fund-raising campaigns by communicating how the cause itself was chosen. Customers prefer to engage in campaigns that they perceive as particularly relevant to your values, such as a food service company offering meals to underserved communities or a company supporting breast cancer awareness should the CEO receive that diagnosis. Thank customers and employees for their support and offer specific benchmarks for donors to reach—in the earlier example, it’s communicating that a donation of 25 dollars could be used to purchase a full meal kit. Don’t forget to match donations, which is considered a given these days.

 

In Rightpoint’s relentless pursuit to make everything work better, we love partnering with our clients to tackle the challenges of building Emotional Loyalty. From our strategists and analysts to our researchers and technologists, we put ourselves in your customers’ shoes to critically and creatively discover the solution.

 

Get in touch with Rightpoint today to learn more about how Emotional Loyalty can help forge deeper connections with your customers!