At the outset I probably need to issue a rather large disclaimer. There is an inherent danger in boiling down big, gnarly, and complex topics like consumer psychology and behavioral economics into a sub-1000-word article. You just can’t do justice to the great and innovative work being done in that space.
On the other hand, maybe we can break off a tiny chunk of the geode and examine it as a small part of a much bigger whole. Deloitte Digital’s just-released “Exploring the Value of Emotion-Driven Engagement” is a wide ranging exploration of some of the psychology behind brand loyalty. The report itself is only 16 pages but they are very well-packed – I highly recommend reading it for yourself.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to cherry-pick the report and focus on 4 key findings:
- Emotional factors inspire brand loyalty, while rational influences play a key role at the beginning and end of relationships.
- Emotional loyalty requires developing two-way relationships between brands and customers that mirror human relationships.
- Knowing what (and when) data is okay to use is vital to building and maintaining trust with customers.
- Customers expect a consistent, contextually appropriate experience of brands across all interactions.
Key finding number 1 has more to do with the timing of influences rather than the value of the influences themselves. As Deloitte puts it, “When consumers first engage with brands, it is rational considerations that dominate—think price, promotions, or loyalty programs. These influences can also trigger the end of a brand relationship, if a brand fails to deliver on the emotional connection and promise it has built. Nearly 70 percent of people who leave while using or receiving service on a product leave for rational reasons such as high prices, faulty products or wrong orders. Only 18 percent cited emotional reasons, such as feeling rudely spoken to by an employee or unfairly treated in a dispute, for leaving a brand.”
Takeaway: Applying the right mix of reward, recognition, and messaging at the right points in the customer journey can affect the quality of brand affinity.
Key finding number 2 tells us that brand loyalty is a two-way street. With all due respect to the researchers at Deloitte, that same quote appeared no less than twice in this week’s Loyalty Newswire. Perhaps the more useful aspect of this finding is this nugget: “Seventy percent of consumers say that a brand relationship includes providing feedback - and most expect that feedback to drive brands to responsive action.”
Takeaway: Mirroring real human communication patterns and expectations can enhance brand loyalty.
Deloitte’s key finding number 3 tells us that navigating the very thin and hard-to-find line between personalization and privacy is a significant challenge for brands today – and its complicated by the fact that the line is constantly shifting. It’s very, very difficult to know when you’ve stepped over it. Deloitte’s study offers us a useful guideline: “Customers understand that brands collect a wide array of data about them. Where they draw the line is generally with the collection of data that isn’t intentionally shared with the brand.”
Takeaway: Finding the balance between responsive and invasive is a complex and full-time, and very necessary effort.
Deloitte's key finding number 4 is perhaps best-articulated here: “… emotional connection is vital to customer loyalty and lifetime value. In brand relationships as in personal relationships, the foundation of emotional connection is trust; and the foundation of trust is consistency. Achieve that and brands stand to deepen their connections, gain forgiveness when they do make a mistake, and build stronger loyalty, customer by customer.”
Takeaway: To err is human, to forgive is meaningful brand loyalty.
There have been several other reports released recently that delve into aspects of consumer psychology as it relates to customer loyalty. We will be examining those in upcoming posts on The Wise Marketer.
Mike Giambattista edits The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).