Big data has started to shift from marketing hype to serious discipline, as businesses find new ways to use the vast amounts of customer data available to them. At the same time, customer experience has become a key focus and source of competitive advantage – based entirely on how individual customers feel about their engagement with a business.

At first, these two disciplines might seemed fundamentally opposite. Can the cold, hard facts of big data really be used to create emotionally engaging experiences and warm, fuzzy feelings about your brand?

We think so… in fact, data is the essential first step in creating emotional experiences that drive loyalty. Once that raw data is compiled into customer insight, you’ll have the information you need to appeal to customers emotions at every touchpoint and build long-term loyalty.

You’ll need to understand what connects with your customers, what motivates them to buy and what inspires them to become advocates. Customer insight helps you answer these questions based on actual data rather than speculation. To this end, the insight you gather should be:

  • Behavioural
  • Contextual
  • Real-time

Behavioural insight

To create emotionally engaging experiences you’ll need more than simple demographic data. This information is useful for personalising interactions, but doesn’t necessarily tell you why customers buy or what motivates them.

To respond on the right channels and with the right information, you need to understand:

  • How customers buy from you – online, in-store, through a mobile device
  • Their process or journey – do they research first? Do they subscribe to your marketing comms before making a purchase or after? How many times do they browse your site before they convert?

These factors may differ for different types of customers, which is why it’s important to have customer personas. Segment your customer base into personas based on this insight, and design your marketing comms, customer journeys, etc. to fit the needs of each group.
 

Contextual insight

To get to the “why” behind customer behaviour, it’s important to understand the context in which they’re interacting with your brand. Are they calling your support team for the first time in months or the third time this week? Their feeling toward your brand may depend on the answer, so knowing this should change the way you interact with them.

Context helps you say the right thing at the right time, based on the customer’s emotions, goals and needs in the moment. It’s not just about the details though – contextual insight can also help you see the big picture.

Has a particularly influential customer voiced a complaint on your Twitter stream? Knowing they’ve got a strong social following should impact the way your team responds.

Or maybe a high-value customer enrolls in your loyalty programme – you’ll want to make sure you get them engaged and earning points quickly to keep them satisfied and increase their lifetime value.
 

Real-time insight (and action)

Marketers love the phrase “real-time”. In a culture of instant gratification, we love to imagine reacting to every change in the market immediately, as it happens – in the style of Oreo’s renowned Super Bowl blackout tweet:

Thanks to a lot of hype – not to mention the difficulties of execution – “real-time” is often written off as a marketing buzzword. But sometimes it really is an essential piece of the puzzle.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to emotionally engaging experiences. Emotions generally happen in real-time, in response to some sort of stimulus. To capitalise on these emotions and respond in the right way, marketers need access to the relevant insight before the moment has passed.

But having the insight you need in the moment is pointless if it takes two days – or two hours – to react. Take the now-famous tweet above – its success was a result of the Oreo team’s ability to turn that information into a relevant piece of marketing as events unfolded.

Of course, things are different for major, scheduled events, when it’s easy to have a team at the ready. But what about everyday, one-to-one interactions – the sort that build real loyalty? This comes down to having the right software. To handle one-to-one interactions at scale, in real-time, you’ll need automation – plus advanced rules to trigger the right response based on the insight available.
 

Applying insight to create emotional experiences

So once you’ve got the insight you need, and the technology to make use of it in real-time, how do you apply it to an actual customer interaction?

Let’s look at an example – a high-value customer, James, has just joined the loyalty programme of his favourite fashion brand. He’s made a large purchase at the same time he enrolled, and he completed the whole transaction on a mobile device.

Based on this information, an email is triggered thanking him for signing up and informing him that he’s already been upgraded to the “VIP” membership tier within the programme based on his spend. He’s invited to download the brand’s mobile loyalty app and see what rewards he’s already unlocked.

This capitalises on James’ positive sentiment towards the brand at sign-up, and uses insight to deliver a “welcome” experience tailored to him.
 

Steps to emotional loyalty

Gathering and applying insight is an essential step towards creating emotional loyalty among your customers – but it’s part of a process. Find out more about how to appeal to customers’ emotions, create engaging experiences and measure success in our latest ebook. Download it here →