5 ways your website can create an emotional bond with your customer

A love heart drawn on a window.

Hugo Lesser is the founder of Oxford Digital Communications, which offers marketing strategies, consulting and audits.

Numerous studies have shown that emotions and instinct, rather than rational thought, are more often the driving forces behind consumer behavior and purchasing decisions.

When customers feel a deep emotional bond with a brand, it is known as ‘brand intimacy’.

Brand Intimacy agency MBLM’s annual study of US consumers’ emotional connections with the brands that they use confirms that the brands that create the most brand intimacy are also the fastest growing brands.

This means that all companies and brands can benefit from marketing that creates emotional bonds with their customers, in turn, ideally, to create a sense of brand intimacy.

Here are five strategies companies can draw on to achieve this.

1 – Humanize your brand

It’s much easier to feel an emotional connection with a person than with a concept, so it’s always worth humanizing your brand by showcasing the people behind the brand on your website.

This is true for large businesses just as much as for startups (if not more so). The way Apple marketed Steve Jobs as the personality that encapsulated the brand ethos in the years when they first launched their revolutionary iPod, Iphone, and iPad products is a good example of this in a larger company.

For smaller companies, showcasing the founder(s) on the website, and potentially the whole team (or the executive team, or those team members who interact with customers, depending on each company) is always going to be helpful in terms of cultivating an emotional bond.

Equally important is the information that you provide about your team. Rather than their qualifications, it’s preferable to humanize them by including details about their lives or interests. For example, you can provide a ‘Meet the Team’ page.

2 – Build trust through authenticity

Trust is integral to all emotional relationships, including between consumers and brands.

For a customer to trust a brand, it’s important that they feel that it is authentic and trustworthy. There are several ways to help achieve this.

Providing real customer reviews (including videos)  is a great way to help new customers to trust a brand.

It can also be helpful to provide a glimpse of ‘behind the scenes’, perhaps by creating a ‘meet the team’ video, or a video of a manufacturing process, or a tour of a workshop or company premises, including who does what and a bit about them.

Engaging with customers is another way to build trust, such as by providing quick, accurate responses to customer queries.

Lastly, making sure that you ‘walk the walk’, by consistently providing what you promise to, is crucial to building brand trust and so meaningful, lasting emotional bonds with your customers.

3 – Develop two-way empathy

Two-way empathy is an important aspect of every emotional relationship, and the onus is on the brand to develop it.

Start by gaining a clear and detailed understanding of your customers’ characteristics, needs, and frustrations.

With this understanding, you can communicate with them in a way that they can relate to, so using a language and communication style that they’re familiar and comfortable with, and by letting them feel that you understand them, and that you are like them. It can also be helpful to cultivate communities of like-minded people that your customers can join, whether in-person or online.

Finally, build and nurture relationships with your customers. Keep records of their communication preferences and purchase history so you can communicate with them appropriately. Depending on your business type, this might include additional meaningful communications that address their needs and interests, or you might go the extra mile and keep records of and reference their family details when you speak to them, or send them a happy birthday message.

You should personalize your customer relationships as much as possible, too. As an example, Netflix has created an algorithm that personalizes viewing recommendations rather than using demographic profiles or location.

4 – Employ emotional triggers

Utilizing emotional triggers in your website messaging can be a powerful way to develop an emotional bond and drive sales.

Consumer psychologists have identified hundreds of emotional triggers that drive purchasing decisions, depending on the particular brand and product.

Some of the most common, compelling emotional triggers are:

– Fear. A good example of this is when marketing insurance. Or, it might be fear of missing out on an offer or opportunity. Be careful before playing on negative emotions though when seeking to develop positive feelings about your brand.

– Guilt. Many people feel guilty about the impact our lifestyles have on the environment, or charities sometimes employ challenging images to invoke guilt to incentivize donations.

– Belonging. The feeling of wanting to belong to a particular movement or social group can be powerful. It might be Mac owners, or a particular car brand drivers, or young or healthy people, for example.

– Aspiration. This often relates to aspiring to a better or type of lifestyle, which buying a certain product or brand can allude to.

– Instant gratification. Chocolate, alcohol, and lottery tickets are among the many products and services that tempt consumer with the allure of instant gratification.

– Liberation, or well-being. These are some of the more positive emotions marketers can appeal to.

The key to employing emotional triggers is to let your understanding of your customers’ buying motivations inform which trigger you use, and then customize your messaging and images (or videos) accordingly and effectively.

5 – Storytelling

Storytelling has facilitated human bonding since time immemorial, and telling stories with an emotional aspect can allow firms or brands to draw consumers in and create an emotional bond.

This might mean telling the brand story, or the founder story or team members’ stories, or customer success stories, or creating a video that tells a story that illustrates the lifestyle associated with your brand, for example.

Incorporating emotional triggers into brand storytelling can create a particularly compelling purchase motivation and emotional bond.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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