Does your brand or business have an emotional connection with at least some of its customers? If so, that’s a very good thing. A new study of retail chains showed that while just one in five consumers felt they had an emotional connection to a retailer, those that did were far more valuable as customers and as brand evangelists.

Emotionally Connected vs. Satisfied Customer Behavior

The study, conducted by market research firm Motista, surveyed a large sample of U.S. consumers and asked them about major online and brick and mortar retail brands like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Gap, Crate & Barrel, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Walmart, and others. The survey revealed that only 18% of consumers reported an emotional connection to a retailer.

These emotionally connected customers were highly desirable from the retailers’ standpoint. Compared to customers who were merely familiar with a retailer and “satisfied,” they were four times as likely to shop first at their preferred retailer. They were twice as likely to respond to direct mail. Significantly, nearly four out of five became evangelists, and were 50% more likely to push the brand to their friends and family.

Social and Mobile Connection. The most striking differences were seen in the social media and mobile spheres. Emotionally connected customers were four times as likely to follow their brands on Facebook and Twitter, and an amazing ten times as likely to shop their retailer’s website on a mobile device.

How to Build the Emotional Connection

There’s no single way to build that connection with consumers. Zappos did it by surprising their customers with shipping upgrades while at the same time making the ordering and return process painless. I’d say I have an emotional connection to Amazon, and it’s not due to brilliant branding but rather superb execution: their website has lots of helpful information, the ordering process is simple, delivery is fast, and problems are rare. Apple has build strong emotional connections with its customers with a combination of innovative design and working to convince its customers they are a special group (see Revealed: How Steve Jobs Turns Customers into Fanatics).

Reader Participation. Do you have an emotional connection with a brand or retailer? What helped build that connection? And have you seen examples of brands doing this successfully, even if you aren’t yet a convert? Leave a comment!

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