A Better Way To Drive Growth And Profitability Through Customer Emotions

A Better Way to Drive Growth and Profitability Through Customer Emotions
A Better Way to Drive Growth and Profitability Through Customer Emotions

When businesses connect with their consumers’ emotions, the payback may be enormous. Consider the following examples: Following the introduction of a credit card designed specifically for Millennials, utilisation increased by 70%, and new account growth increased by 40%. A prominent home cleaner transformed market share losses into double-digit growth within a year of releasing products and messages designed to boost emotional connection. When a national garment retailer refocused its marketing and customer experience on its most emotionally engaged client groups, same-store sales growth more than tripled.

Companies should explore emotional connections as a science – and a strategy – given the immense chance to generate new value. However, for most people, making these links is more guesswork than science. At the end of the day, they have no notion of what works or if their efforts have yielded the intended outcomes.

Our research across hundreds of businesses in dozens of categories demonstrates that the emotions that drive consumer behaviour can be systematically measured and effectively targeted. They are considered “emotional motivators.” They are a stronger predictor of a company’s future worth to its consumers than any other statistic, including brand recognition and customer happiness, and may be a significant new source of growth and profitability.

At the most fundamental level, every organisation may begin a disciplined process of learning about its consumers’ emotional motivators and undertaking experiments to exploit them, eventually scaling up from there. Firms on the opposite end of the scale may invest in extensive research and big data analytics, or they can hire consultants with particular skills. Financial services, retail, health care, and technology companies are increasingly leveraging a thorough knowledge of emotional connection to recruit and keep the most valuable consumers. The most advanced companies are incorporating emotional connection into a comprehensive strategy that spans the whole value chain, from product development and marketing to sales and service.

Motivators With High Impact

 Consumer behaviour is influenced by hundreds of “emotional motivators.” The following are ten factors that have a substantial impact on customer value across all categories investigated.

Set yourself apart from the crowdBe perceived as exceptional by projecting a distinct social identity.
Have faith in the future.Consider the future to be better than the past; have an optimistic mental image of what is to come.
Enjoy a feeling of well-being.Feel like your life is living up to your hopes and that you’ve found a good balance. You want a stress-free situation with no fights or dangers.
Feelings of freedomAct autonomously, with no commitments or constraints.
Feel a sense of excitement.Take part in thrilling, pleasurable activities and experience visceral, overwhelming pleasure and excitement.
Feel a sense of being part of something.Have a bond with people they identify with or aspire to be like; feel a part of a group
Save the environmentMaintain their conviction in the sacredness of the environment and take action to enhance their surroundings.
Be the person I desire to be.Satisfy their need for continuous self-improvement; live up to their ideal self-image.
Feel safeBelieve that what they have now will still be there tomorrow; pursue ambitions and desires without fear of failure.
Succeed in lifeBelieve that they live meaningful lives; discover value that extends beyond financial or socioeconomic measurements.

 In what follows, we will discuss our study and work with firms – the first to reveal direct, solid correlations between particular emotional motivators, a firm’s activities to harness them, customer behaviour, and commercial results, to the best of our knowledge.

Emotional Motivators Defined

Our study arose from our dissatisfaction with firms that understood consumer emotions were essential but couldn’t find a consistent approach to describe, interact with, and relate them to outcomes. We quickly learned that there was no standard language of emotions, so we set out to build one eight years ago, working with specialists and reviewing anthropological and social scientific studies. We eventually compiled a list of over 300 emotional motivators. Customers are considered emotionally connected to a company when it aligns with their motivations and assists them in achieving deep, sometimes unconscious goals, desires to “stand out from the crowd,” “have faith in the future,” and “enjoy a feeling of well-being,” to mention a few important emotional motivators.

Identifying and quantifying emotional motivators is difficult since consumers may be unaware of them. These feelings are often distinct from the reasons people choose brands and the language they use to express their emotional reactions to specific brands. Furthermore, as we’ll see, emotional ties to goods differ by industry, brand, touchpoint, and the customer’s location in the decision path.

Why Are Emotional Connections Important?

While companies may be loved or trusted, the majority of them fail to match the emotions that drive their consumers’ most lucrative actions. Some companies are born with a stronger emotional DNA than others, but a firm does not have to be born with the emotional DNA of Disney or Apple to prosper. Even cleaning products and canned food can form strong bonds.

Starting Over

There are three stages to identifying and using consumers’ emotional motivators.

To begin, take stock of your current market research and consumer intelligence data. You are likely to uncover qualitative descriptions of your consumers’ driving feelings, such as what areas of life they value most (family, community, independence, security), and what they aspire to on a daily and long-term basis. Then, do more study to supplement your knowledge of those feelings. Define a collection of emotional motivators to investigate; the list in the exhibit “High-Impact Motivators,” as well as your qualitative study, will give suggestions. Individual motivators may be quantified via online questionnaires. Are your consumers motivated by the now or by the future? Do they value social approval more than individuality? Don’t assume that since you know who they are, you know what inspires them. Young parents may be driven by a desire to provide stability for their family or by a desire to go away and have some fun (you will probably find both types in your customer base). Also, don’t jeopardise your grasp of consumers’ emotions by concentrating on how people feel about your brand or how they claim it makes them feel. Separate from your brand, you must grasp their core reasons.

Second, examine your top clients – those who purchase and advocate the most, are least price-sensitive, and are most loyal. Identify individuals that are really pleased with your brand, regardless of their emotional connection, and split them into quartiles based on yearly sales, advocacy, and so on. Examine the top quartile to determine how your best customers’ traits and behaviour differ from those of the other quartiles. Consider demographics: whether consumers purchase in person or online; how much they spend with your competition; and where they learn about your business (traditional media, social networks, and so on). Compare the emotional motivators of your most valuable customers to those of your entire customer base and determine which are unique or more essential to the high-value group. Find two or three major motivators that are strongly associated with your brand. They will serve as a first guide to the emotions you must connect with in order to increase your company’s most important client group, as well as the marketing strategies and customer experience approaches that will give the most connection chances.

Third, make the organization’s dedication to emotional connection a critical development lever. When discussing your consumers, use emotional connection language – not just in the marketing department but across the company. In our experience, good emotional connection tactics need top-level support and must be adopted across departments. For example, if product development personnel are working on an easier-to-use version, they should identify which emotional motivators it resonates with and how it will enhance emotional connections rather than just asking whether consumers would be pleased with it.

In summary, the procedure is as follows: We begin by identifying the emotional motivators for a category’s most valuable consumers using big data analytics on extensive customer data sets. Customers who purchase high-value automobiles, for example, may desire to “feel a sense of belonging” and “a sense of independence.” Following that, we use statistical modelling to examine a huge number of consumers and brands, comparing survey answers about people’s emotional motivators with their purchase behaviour and detecting spikes in purchasing that are connected with various motivators. This demonstrates which motivators in the category drive the most lucrative customer actions. We then assess the existing and prospective worth of motivators for a certain brand and assist in the development of strategies to capitalise on them.

The approach also enables us to compare the value of generating strong emotional connections against the value of doing well on conventional consumer metrics like satisfaction and brand distinction, demonstrating the potential benefits of going beyond traditional measurements. Customers gain more value as they progress from being (1) disconnected to being (2) very satisfied, from sensing brand distinction to being (4) completely connected, according to our findings.

Although consumers’ connections improve with each level, their worth skyrockets when they reach the fourth: fully connected customers are 52% more valuable on average than extremely happy customers. In fact, their relative value can be seen in a number of ways, such as how often they are bought or used.

The route is a key indication of where businesses should invest, and it demonstrates that they often spend in the wrong locations. Many businesses concentrate on converting disgruntled consumers into pleased ones in order to boost revenue and market share. However, our research indicates that shifting clients from extremely pleased to completely connected may result in a threefold increase in return over bringing them from disconnected to highly happy. And the best results have come from concentrating on clients who are already completely invested in the category, maximising their value, and recruiting more of them to your brand.

Four of our study’s findings are especially important for businesses that want to get closer to their customers on an emotional level.

Emotional Motivators Vary Depending On Category And Brand

Of the 300-plus motivators discovered, 25 have a substantial impact on customer value across all categories studied. In each particular category, five to fifteen extra motivators are crucial. For example, the perception that a home furnishings business “allows me to be creative” motivates customers to purchase there more often. The need to “feel revitalised and renewed” motivates fast-food restaurant loyalty. Emotional motivators differ within categories as well, based on the preferences of a brand’s most important clients. Because businesses vary in how well they fit with their consumers’ motivators, each may have a distinct beginning point in any endeavour to enhance emotional connections, and that starting point may or may not be related to traditional measurements of brand image.

Emotional Motivators Differ Between Customer Segments

Remember the credit card made just for millennials? Our model identified “environmental protection” and “becoming the person I want to be” as important motivators in the banking category for that age group. (Older groups are more likely to have traditional industrial motivators such as a desire to “feel secure” and “succeed in life.” The bank developed messages and features to appeal to those feelings, resulting in its fastest-growing new credit card.

The Emotional Motivators For A Given Brand Or Industry Differ Depending On Where A Person Is In The Customer Journey

When it comes to recruiting and maintaining clients, the need to “feel safe” is a crucial incentive in banking. Later on, while cross-selling things, the desire to “succeed in life” becomes increasingly crucial. Companies must link their emotional-connection tactics with their unique customer engagement goals – acquisition, retention, cross-selling, and so on – to optimise outcomes.

Emotional Connection-Driven Development: There Are Opportunities Throughout The Customer Journey, Not Only In Traditional Brand Positioning And Advertising

Social media, for example, may have a significant influence on emotional connection. One condiments company discovered that 60% of its social network-affiliated clients (particularly followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) were emotionally linked, compared to 21% of other customers. It increased growth in a couple of months by focusing more on social media, building an online customer community, and directing visitors to the website for recipes and promotions.

Putting Emotional Bonds To Use

Consider how a big fashion shop benefited from an emotional connection approach. The firm was dealing with standard industry issues. Despite having a well-known brand and a strong market presence, same-store sales were stagnant, and promotional pricing was reducing profitability. As a result, it concentrated on cost control, logistical efficiency, and simplifying goods and shop mix, with mixed results. We collaborated with the store on a four-part plan to discover, analyse, and measure the worth of the most emotionally attached consumers over the last two years. This revealed enormous, untapped prospects and enabled the retailer to better allocate investments throughout the organisation.

Customers Who Are Connected

We went out to address two fundamental questions: What was the worth of the retailer’s completely connected consumers, and could the firm attract more of them? We employed statistical tools to assess the emotional ties that consumers have with the shop and its rivals. Surveys were used to determine how customers responded to key motivators in the category, followed by analysis to determine which motivators best predicted purchase behavior. The financial benefit of developing emotional connections with clients at each stage of the journey from disconnected to completely connected was then modelled.

Our investigation revealed that, while accounting for just 22% of consumers in the category, totally connected customers accounted for 37% of revenue and spent twice as much yearly ($400) as highly happy customers. Improving emotional connection might be a realistic growth strategy if the company can acquire completely connected consumers from rivals, convert pleased customers to fully connected customers, or do both.

Additional segmentation showed a group of really valued clients. We dubbed them “fashion flourishers” because clothing appeals to their profound yearning for adventure, social approval, and self-expression. Flourishers are by far the most emotionally involved section; 50% are already totally engaged with the category. When the expenditure ratios of different emotion-based segments are compared to the size of those segments, astonishing disparities in value emerge. Flourishers have a ratio of 1.9, which is about double the market average and more than nine times that of the least-connected group (dubbed Can’t Please Them, with a ratio of 0.2). Given the essentially fixed cost structure of retail, attracting and retaining Flourishers provided an opportunity to increase revenue and profits.

A comprehensive profile of Flourishers highlighted their desirability and revealed opportunities for the shop to approach them. Customers in this segment:

  • have a high lifetime value, spending on average $468 per year in the category, compared to $235 for other customers.
  • Shop more often and advocate more: Compared to 21% of all customers, 46% of flourishers browse important fashion categories at least monthly. Flourishers are 1.4 times more likely to suggest merchants to their friends and family members than other consumers.
  • have lower price sensitivity: They are 2.3 times more likely to claim they are “ready to spend extra for the greatest fashion items” than other consumers. 1.7 times less likely to make fashion purchases based on price, and 1.3 times less likely to search for the lowest costs.
  • They are more likely than other consumers to be women, younger, from more than one ethnic group, and live in cities.
  • They have a higher level of digital engagement than other segments: they are 2.3 times more likely to do online research on a fashion store, 2.9 times more likely to shop for fashion goods on mobile devices, and 3.7 times more likely to follow a business on social media.

The store developed a strategy for chasing the most valuable customer possibilities based on this and other information. It determined the financial value and behaviours of its own Flourishers by applying the category segmentation scheme to the more than 25 million people in its customer database, confirming that they spent significantly more than other customers and had the highest lifetime value and the lowest attrition and price sensitivity of any segment. Moving pleased Flourishers along the emotional connection route might raise yearly sales by 3% to 5%, while attracting Flourishers away from rivals could increase revenue by 5% to 8%. The research expected gains in operating margins and returns on capital since members of this group spend more per capita than other consumers and flip less often.

Key Motivators Must Be Quantified

Following that, we measured the influence of more than 40 motivators on the group’s buying, spending, loyalty, and advocacy by examining tens of thousands of Flourishers throughout the category. We determined the most critical category motivators – those with the greatest association with purchases – and evaluated the retailer’s competitive position in each. Further investments to strengthen the customer experience around the desires to “feel a sense of belonging,” “feel a sense of thrill,” and “feel a sense of freedom” – the motivators driving category purchase behaviour and for which the retailer already had the strongest position – were likely to yield the highest ROI, according to the financial analysis and modelling. As a result, such motivators became the subject of specialised customer experience initiatives.

Streamlining Investments Across Functions

Companies must go outside the marketing department to leverage the potential of emotional connections. The shop investigated every function and consumer touchpoint in search of methods to improve high-ROI emotional motivators. This focused attention on four primary investment areas: retail, online and omnichannel experiences, merchandising, and message targeting.


To determine which of the retailer’s over 700 locations had the most Flourisher consumers, we rated each one based on the prevalence of this sector in the store’s trading area. We discovered that shops with a high score produced up to 25% more income than others. Their same-store sales increased twice as fast, and their operating profit increased by 30%. Their profit margins increased by 10% as inventory turnover increased and, as expected, coupon utilisation decreased. (Flourishers don’t just claim they want to pay more; they really do.)

The retailer’s shop placement plan was altered as a result of these statistics. We plotted Flourisher concentrations in all U.S. markets and submarkets, as well as the segment’s proclivity to purchase at more than 150 other merchants. The company’s real estate team now uses predictive technology to locate spaces near Flourishers as well as other stores that customers visit.

The modification is working. New shops in flower-heavy trade districts have first-year sales that are 20% higher than historical norms, resulting in quicker break-even timeframes and greater returns on capital. Further investigation has shown chances to establish hundreds of businesses serving underserved Florida groups. The business is closing outlets in low-flooding regions to free up funds for new ones.

Emotional-connection analytics have also helped the company learn which components of the in-store shopping experience are most significant to Flourishers. Because such characteristics are often overlooked by consumers, they have not influenced shop design. Flourishers emphasise the importance of easy access to sales staff, easy access to discounted products, and free Wi-Fi in shops. However, research has revealed that these are not the factors that drive their visits and purchases.

Based on its modelling, the shop projected that the ability to order online and pick up in-store, which few consumers think is significant and is only accessible on a limited basis, would be a major driver of emotional connection (it speaks to Flourishers’ need to “experience a feeling of freedom”). It tried targeted communication and in-store advertising of the option and saw a significant increase in sales; it has now committed funds to statewide implementation of the capability.Similarly, the shop expected that viewing photos of “people like you” in-store would increase emotional connection and purchase among Flourishers (although they say that this factor is unimportant). It boosted its profile on photo-sharing social media platforms as a test and invited users to post selfies of their favourite clothes and trends. Selfie slide presentations are projected on giant screens in test shops (with respondents’ agreement), satisfying Flourishers’ desire to “feel a sense of belonging.” According to research, the sector has reacted to this inducement by increasing purchasing intent.

The business is currently building and testing shop experiences to capitalise on roughly a dozen more emotional connection factors.

Omnichannel And Online Experiences

Online and omnichannel experiences, like individual shop locations, may be enhanced for emotional connection. To achieve that goal, the store analysed the effect of more than 100 omnichannel touchpoints on consumer emotional attachment and purchasing. These included exploring and downloading mobile apps, visiting the retailer’s social media accounts, navigating e-commerce sites, and returning products purchased online in-store. Each touchpoint was graded based on its ability to influence emotional connection and expenditure. The most potent combinations of touchpoints at each step of the customer experience were then identified using statistical models, enabling the company to fine-tune its omnichannel strategy and prioritise investments.

Flourishers, for example, believe that using a computer to buy online via an easy-to-use site is vital in making purchase selections. The convenience and appeal of the mobile site, as well as the availability of services such as ApplePay, have a considerably bigger influence on emotional attachment and spending levels. Such insights are being used by the store to develop initiatives in e-commerce, mobile, and social media that will foster emotional ties with Flourishers. For example, it created many proposals for the navigational layout and cosmetic reskin of its mobile app, assessed how well each one boosted sensations of “freedom,” “belonging,” and “thrill” and drove sales, and then put out the best one.


Merchandise selection may be improved to promote emotional connection, from the broad category level to particular brands. The store currently follows Flourishers’ purchase behaviour throughout the country using point-of-sale data acquired from hundreds of merchants by independent research firms. By applying the Flourisher segmentation to these POS records, it was able to model the segment’s buying behaviour over more than 20 product categories and 100 labels, as well as learn which of the roughly ten rival merchants these customers patronise. The ensuing insights have shown gaps in crucial Flourishers items, and the company is working with its producers to rebalance its assortment.

Message Personalization

With its Flourisher customers identified, the company can now send them tailored communications that are meant to connect with the emotional motivators that drive action at each point of the customer journey. For example, “having fun” when shopping is important to Flourishers when they first investigate the business. At the time of purchase, the phrase “helps me feel creative” emerges as crucial. Based on these data, the shop has created a series of communications aimed at Flourishers and scheduled them according to their stage in the journey: A rules engine generates e-mails that are personalised for browsing, transacting, and servicing activities. This direct-marketing campaign’s response rates are 40% to 210% greater than historical norms.

About The Study

We found 300 universal driving emotions during the course of a two-year study endeavour that included a literature analysis and social science specialists. To assess their impact on consumer behaviour, we conducted intercept surveys of over one million US consumers via thousands of websites, collecting data from 30 industries and 400+ brands on brand consideration, trial, repurchase, advocacy, customer satisfaction, brand differentiation, and emotional connection. Over the next six years, we gathered more than one billion data points, including demographic and real-world transaction information. Using analytical techniques such as multivariate regression and structural equation modelling, we determined which emotional motivators are most strongly associated with customer behaviour and customer value by category and brand, as well as the extent to which connecting to those motivators influences customer behaviour, both in absolute and relative terms to more commonly measured drivers of behaviour.

The selection of media may also be fine-tuned to increase emotional connection. We examined Flourishers’ media consumption across 500 TV series, 100 websites and social networks, 50 kinds of mobile applications, 80 print magazines, and 20 radio programs. The store is implementing emotional-connection-based media campaigns in collaboration with its advertising agency. For example, knowing that Flourishers are avid users of Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, it has enhanced its marketing ROI by scaling up its programmes on these channels.

Measure, Systematise, And Learn

Using emotional connection does not require flipping your company’s operations upside down; instead, applicable tactics may be embedded into current work streams. Making emotional connection a critical performance indicator and incorporating it on the cross-functional senior management dashboard is the most effective way to do this.

The store created a scorecard that provides the CEO and executive team with a single-page picture of consumers’ advancement on the emotional-connection pathway, as well as the company’s and its main rivals’ rise or decline in linked customers. The scorecard illustrates the relationship between consumers’ emotional-connection ratings and lifetime value indicators, including yearly expenditure, turnover, and tenure. It also demonstrates how the commercial consequences of certain emotions are changing, as well as how Flourishers interact with critical in-store and omnichannel touchpoints that promote emotional engagement. Furthermore, emotional-connection indicators are included in the retailer’s constant testing of media messaging, store designs, and digital and mobile experiences.

These strategic and operational adjustments have had unexpected outcomes. Same-store sales at retailers servicing Flourishers increased by 3.5% in the last year, when annual same-store growth in the previous five years averaged just 1%. The inventory turnover rate grew by more than 25%. Market share and customer advocacy have also increased (the number of consumers recommending the store has increased by 20% year on year), contributing to record-high customer lifetime values. All of these improvements are supported by a 20% increase in the company’s emotional-connection score, which is essentially the effect of pushing happy consumers to complete emotional connection.

Management’s Imperative

Adopting an emotional-connection approach throughout the business requires in-depth consumer insights, analytical skills, and, most importantly, a management commitment to aligning the organisation with the new way of thinking. It is critical that marketing does not monopolise the strategy as “its” area (although the function can and should use emotional connection to demonstrate the direct financial impact of its spending). Instead, marketing must collaborate with other activities in order to educate and socialise emotional connections. Emotional connection is now used to create alignment across the operations management team, the C-suite, and the boardroom at the store we highlighted. The CEO selected emotional connection as a method to reestablish profitable growth from the start. The CFO and CSO then “sized the financial prize,” prompting the heads of marketing, stores, customer experience, and merchandising to work on an integrated plan.

With the advent of big data analytics, corporations’ long-held ambition to connect with consumer emotions that genuinely count gains clarity, discipline, and rigor. Emotional connections are no longer a mystery; they may be a new source of genuine competitive advantage and development.