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How an “Emotional Connection” with Customers is Helping Companies Win the Battle for Organic Growth

While CEOs of S&P 500 companies are overwhelmingly seeing tepid revenue growth and declining profits, a few highly innovative companies are successfully accelerating organic growth by building emotional connections with customers.

In consumer industries, including retail, packaged goods, financial services, consumer electronics, hospitality, healthcare and technology, growing an emotional connection with customers is driving 30%-100% gains in customer value, and is the key input to accelerating revenue profitably.

To achieve meaningful growth, the C-suite must go beyond traditional tactics, adopt emotional metrics as a growth strategy, and translate the emotional connection factor into measurable action that drives customer value and sustainable competitive differentiation.

Emotional connections happen when your brand—including your products, services and customer experience—taps into the emotions most motivating your customers to buy: when you help customers feel confident about their futures, or improve life for their families, or help them achieve social acceptance. Brands that build an emotional connection across the customer experience develop more valuable customer relationships.

This chart shows how emotional connections would grow customer value for brands across a variety of categories.

Customer Value Comparison: Emotionally Connected and Satisfied Customers

Category Business Result Average Satisfied Customer of Brands in Industry Average Emotionally Connected Customer of Brands in Industry Emotional Connection Multiplier
Mass Online Retail Purchases per year 16.5 25.1 1.5
Department Store Spend per year $471 $683 1.5
Athletic Apparel Spend per year $158 $277 1.8
Retail Banking Number of products 3.1 4.3 1.3
Credit Card Card used most often 37% 73% 2.0
CPG Cleaning product purchases per year 9.4 19.1 2.0
CPG Frozen food purchases per year 22.5 31.2 1.4
Casino Gaming per year $238 $897 3.7
Hotels Room nights per year 2.4 3.5 1.4
Quick Service Restaurants Spend per year $134 $200 1.5
Tablets Annual App Store Purchases 64.3 117.1 1.8


To capture these gains in customer value, adoption of emotional metrics—and taking decisive action on those metrics—needs to start with the executive staff, and include support and buy-in across the company. Senior leaders can take the following 4 steps to grow an emotional connection:

1. Determine the emotions creating customer value for your business. Tapping into specific emotions can motivate your customers to buy, remain loyal and grow share-of-wallet with you. Through predictive intelligence, these critical emotions can be identified for any brand, and their impact on financial results can be quantified.

A $1B quick-serve restaurant brand learned that when customers connect specific emotions to its brand—including Escaping Everyday Life and Reconnecting With Friends and Family—profitable behaviors, including visits and purchases, increased in lockstep. Senior leadership used this insight to align the executive and operating team around an emotional connection growth strategy. The firm proceeded to activate these emotions through its in-store experience, advertising campaign, and digital and social media, contributing to a 30% increase in its annual same-store-sales growth rate.

“The more often a firm taps into its customers’ emotions, the greater the increase in value.”

2. Apply emotion to the customer experience. The more often a firm taps into its customers’ emotions, the greater the increase in value. Using predictive intelligence, specific customer experience touchpoints most growing Emotional Connection can be prioritized. In addition, customer experiences—in-store and online—can be designed and tested to deliver on the critical emotions for your business.

A national bank grew an emotional connection with millennials, leading to gains in retention, cross-sell and lifetime value. The bank used big data to evaluate the impact of over 100 touch points within the millennial customer journey, resulting in less than 10 critical experiences—the moments that matter the most—for growing an emotional connection with the segment.

The bank discovered that while millennials are heavy users of online and mobile banking, they still prefer in-person interactions when they need certain financial products. Learning that Simplify My Life was a key emotion driving these customers, the bank released an interactive mobile calendar for scheduling branch and live video appointments. In addition, branch teams began using simple questionnaires to hone the needs of millennials, while product collateral was streamlined. Using a test population, the bank saw significant increases in cross-sell account openings, including savings, credit and brokerage products among millennials having these experiences.

Reducing attrition with millennial credit card holders was also a priority. The bank learned that Protect the Environment was a powerful emotion driving retention for millennials, and that the rewards program could be used to connect emotionally with them. Credit card rewards were evolved to include environmental charity contributions and a large selection of environmentally conscious products and services.

Activating emotions with millennials resulted in customer lifetime value increasing by 15% with this segment—through greater cross-sell penetration and retention.

3. Target the consumers who will show the most return from this effort. In each industry, some consumers are more emotionally connected than others. Targeting and engaging these consumers can yield significant gains in ROI on acquisition investments.

A $2B fashion retailer struggling to grow successfully acquired and monetized emotionally connected consumers, leading to advances in traffic, conversion rates and same-store-sales. Using big data, the retailer segmented consumers in its category and identified two segments most likely to be emotionally connected. These segments, while accounting for 27% of the consumer population, represented 43% of the category spend. For these consumers, an emotional connection resulted in their spending more discretionary income in the category.

The retailer identified these emotionally connected consumers on national direct mail, digital advertising and social media databases, as well as through its CRM database. The brand executed integrated marketing campaigns to these consumers, emphasizing emotional messages and featured merchandise. By using emotion to prioritize segments, the retailer reversed traffic declines (-5% to 1% annual traffic change) and increased the same-store-sales growth rate by 100%, all contributing to significantly higher ROI on acquisition investments.

4. Measure the value of the emotional connection. Leading brands measure their emotional connection with customers as a KPI.  The critical emotions for your brand – identified through predictive intelligence – can be measured through ongoing surveys and consistently tied back to customer value metrics.

A $10B healthcare company began measuring its emotional connection with customers monthly as part of its engagement strategy. Through measurement, senior leaders set goals for emotional connection and continuously test, learn and optimize investments. Measuring emotional connection has contributed to gains in customer engagement and retention.

With top-line growth waning and traditional strategies now being relegated to costs-of-entry tactics, it’s time to drive growth through new types of data-driven customer strategies—and finally put meaning to the imperative “know thy customer” by understanding the emotions that drive their decisions.



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