Marketing CX Customer Experience

CX and mental health: 3 keys to emotionally appropriate experiences

By Louis Sheppard | Experience Director



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March 18, 2022 | 5 min read

Covid-19 created a global mental health pandemic while simultaneously increasing the amount of time we all spend online. Louis Sheppard, Unrvld's experience director, shares three key tactics for brands who want to consider the role that their digital products play in shaping emotionally beneficial experiences for customers.

UNRVLD on the importance of prioritising customer's mental health.

UNRVLD on the importance of prioritising customer's mental health.

People’s lives have become more digital-centric over the last two years, while instances of anxiety and mental health disorders have risen. In this context, brands must start to carefully consider the emotional quality of the digital experiences they offer and the role these play within the day-to-day of people's lives.

The emotional quality of your service is the next layer of this relationship, where brands can encourage customers to return to them by delivering experiences that feel good to use and are remembered as positive experiences.

When starting to think about the emotional qualities of an experience, we find it useful to use the ‘three levels of design’ as defined by Don Norman: visceral, behavioral and reflective.


This refers to consumers’ first impression when interacting with your site or app. In creating an instantly positive, visceral experience, you are laying the foundations for a deeper positive emotional connection.

Ask yourself: is the instant impression of your site or app designed to trigger this type of feeling? Does it look good and attractive? These things can become triggers for taking action, using emotional impact to drive a behavioral decision.


Behavioral is how customers feel when interacting with your products online. Does it feel good? Is this an easy product to use and is it accessible? Design decisions can have a big impact on this.

Headspace is an excellent use case, showing visceral and behavioral elements in action. Headspace offers mental health services and the end goal is to make the consumer feel happier. You can see how this is inherent in all aspects of the experience from the interaction layer, to copy, illustration - everything is mentally easy.


The final element is reflective; how your consumer remembers the experience. People can have many frustrations and at times it seems like some websites are designed to create feelings of stress or anxiety. This can create a thin layer of stress, which adds to an already busy day, leaving a bad memory for the customer that they just ‘have to get through it’ rather than enjoy it.

You can play a more creative role in affecting your customers' mood, for example elements of surprise can make for a positively memorable experience. A personal message of thanks or a moment of humor in an otherwise dry sign-up form are unexpected and could mean a customer walks away with a positive feeling.

Emotionally-sensitive CX in action

At Unrvld, we've been working with recruitment specialists Manpower Group to design a service that helps people move through redundancy, an already stressful experience.

It was essential that we designed with a strong awareness of the visceral, behavioral and reflective aspects of the experience and the effect these could have on customers. We had to think carefully on establishing design principles that would mean every detail of the interface was creating a restful and measured atmosphere and where possible using positivity to balance out the stressful sentiment of redundancy.

Beyond transactionality

Much of the perceived business value of customer relationships focuses on transactional aspects, with digital success frameworks and KPIs typically focusing on things like spend or sign-ups. These are critical to business performance, however they can create a narrow conversion focus, and lead to experiences that push customers towards a desired goal, rather than give them time and space to consider.

When it comes to investing in digital products and services, not only does there need to be a return on value for the customer but also that these products must drive commercial growth.

The key is building lasting relationships with customers, built on a deep understanding of what they need not just in a commercial sense, but also an emotional one. We have a range of methods to deliver on this more intangible goal, using research and consultation to build qualitative understanding of the emotional needs of the people we are designing for.

As instances of mental health issues increase we should ask ourselves whether we are helping our customers live happy digital lives or if we are creating stressful ones. Making your product or service easier, more attractive, accessible, empowering and positively memorable, you can enhance customers' online emotive experience, ensuring better engagement, longer-term commercial growth and better mental health.

Marketing CX Customer Experience

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