Digital Transformation Brand

Emotions take center stage for the future of CX

By Niki Hall | Chief Marketer

March 17, 2022 | 7 min read

For all of the technical aspects that can be leveraged to create a stellar customer experience, it’s what the person actually feels as a result of any brand interaction that really matters. As part of the Drum’s Deep Dive into The New Customer Experience Economy, Contentsquare’s Niki Hall discusses the values need to achieve digital humanism.

The average person spends 23% of their week online and texting. You’ve glanced at your screen time tracker and, shockingly, more time than you thought has been spent browsing, reading and absorbing content online. It’s an open secret that the internet and social media were designed to keep us online, but what was meant to connect us – via social platforms, games, apps, calls – has left us feeling isolated.

A 2021 Harvard study stated that 36% of all Americans – including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children – feel serious loneliness. Because the pandemic pushed nearly every interaction away from face-to-face and toward digital, marketers shifted towards making those digital connections seamless and convenient.

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/ Adobe Stock

A pivotal shift in behaviors and marketing’s response

Now that people aren’t forced to stay inside and find ways to entertain themselves, marketers clearly understand that consumers will favor the ’more in less’ strategy: accomplish more, in less time. That means marketers will need to focus on quality over quantity and find better ways to connect with audiences in a way that values their time. How do we give people what they need, and not much more, so they can *gasp* spend less time down the rabbit hole and more time connecting with people IRL? How can we as marketers affect change by increasing happiness while decreasing loneliness on the internet, and what role does authenticity and emotions play?

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Emotions and digital humanism

Because human relationships are anchored in registering human response and reaction in real-time, we need to take that approach to marketing too. Emotion-led marketing will begin to drive greater customer response and guide the CX strategies of the future. How we connect with friends and family is exactly how we should connect with our followers and customers.

Here are four such emotional values to consider when designing CX that delivers value as your brand evolves for the future:

1. Patience. Do away with the hyper-focus on conversion and have patience with the customer’s journey. Less pressure to convert and more effort to nurture will allow customers to dictate the pace at which their relationship grows with a brand. Brand-customer relationships are a long runway and will require brands to be patient with the process. What awaits is real, long-term brand loyalty and connection.

2. Kindness. Leaning into your brand’s values, like kindness, impact, equality and inclusion, translates to stronger customer relationships that are built to last. Despite recent events, there’s a lot to still celebrate, as evidenced by the many instances of kindness that go viral online. Bringing kindness into a brand’s identity is core to connecting with employees, customers and the industry at large. For example, brands have banded together to support a worthy cause or to surprise employees. When Spanx founder Sara Blakely signed a deal with private equity firm Blackstone in October 2021, she surprised the entire Spanx team with $10,000 each and two first-class plane tickets to show appreciation. The kindness she showed her team served as an example of a founder’s recognition of what her team had been through together. Brands can also look for ways to pay it forward to their employees and customers.

3. Joy. Making people laugh and leaving them feeling happy does a lot for both brands and their fans. Admittedly, the last two-plus years have been heavy, and it continues to be, so levity and humor go a long way for people. Digital has proven to be a bit of an escape for people, where they lean into connecting with people and filling time with things that can lighten their mood when feeling especially down. It’s important for brands to build that into their online strategies, and to aim to become a destination that brings some joy.

4. Empathy. At the heart of connecting is empathy and active listening. This isn’t a new concept for marketers, but it’s time we rethink why we as brands listen. Is it to sell more or to understand people better so you know when to give customers what they need and also when it’s time to back off a bit? Empathetic marketing considers how the recipient of your message feels and to respond accordingly. A great example is popular pet e-commerce service Chewy. Its customer service is unrivaled and much of its growth can be traced back to happy customers and strong word-of-mouth marketing. Not only is the brand responsive to questions and concerns, but it takes the time to acknowledge big changes in its customers. For example, if a pet passes on and a customer cancels an order or subscription citing the reason, customers will receive a hand-written card and bouquet of flowers. And, if an order has already shipped, Chewy often refunds the customer and sends them a note encouraging them to donate their shipment to a local animal shelter. These activities are all rooted in emotionally-driven, empathetic marketing.

The value of the emotionally connected customer and the marketer who can connect on that level is invaluable. It evolves CX to be something more central to the relationship between brand and customer, thereby making the brand more valuable. As marketers, we can strengthen those bonds; sometimes by doing more, and sometimes by doing (a lot) less. But in the end, leading your brand marketing by treating customer relationships as relationship first, and customer second, allows us to be more human and more effective in the long run.

Niki Hall is chief marketer at Contentsquare.

For more on The New Customer Experience Economy, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive.

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