Interpreting the Emotions Behind Consumer Engagement

What role exactly does emotion play in consumer behaviour? And how does it influence engagement and purchasing decisions? Those are the questions brands have been wrestling with when considering their customer experience. Because, as explained here by Liraz Margalit, PhD, head of digital behavioural research, Clicktale, in the digital era, understanding how customers feel is as important as anticipating what they want and when they want it.

It’s almost impossible for brands to build a profile of their customers without understanding their emotions. While it’s possible to infer behavioural patterns through quantitative data, it doesn’t provide brands with the intent that prompts engagement or action. Understanding the cause means you understand the effect.

As consumers, emotions drive our decisions, underpin our relationships, and affect our behaviours. They’re the bridge between what we say and what we do. But while there is a greater understanding of the importance of consumer emotions, many brands still fall short when attempting to apply emotion to their customer experience. And the main reason behind this is a failure of brands to consider the full range of emotions that impact engagement.

The emotions behind engagement

Today, customers are influenced by everything from hunger and boredom, to tiredness and stress. To cite a recent example, Clicktale’s research report revealed that 40% of shoppers indulge in ‘retail therapy’ as a method of relaxation. But it also found that stress is rising among those who shop online – with 12% of respondents considering online and mobile shopping to be a stressful process, and 15% having lost their temper with an app or site.

Some of the most significant stressors for customers come at the checkout stage, with failing voucher codes (83%), apps freezing prior to purchase (77%), and slow loading pages (81%) being among the biggest issues.

What’s interesting to consider here is the emotion behind the customer’s engagement and the impact of the brand’s customer experience in either exacerbating or reducing that response. If a consumer is looking to alleviate stress, but finds interacting with your brand only serves to increase those stress levels, then your website or app is flawed. And a stressful customer experience is the fastest route to losing business. So, when it comes to removing potential stressors and delivering a first-class customer experience, its essential that brands employ psychological analytics.

Analysing digital body language

While brands may know a lot about their customers (demographics, attitudes, and general behaviour) it’s become clear that they still understand little about their emotional state. This is because there’s only so much that can be answered through the use of most common analytics tools – and none of them consider emotion.

While it’s useful to know that a visitor bounced off a page after a short time, brands also need to know their intent. Was it because they were bored, irritated, or confused? And while longer browsing sessions are clearly better, you also can’t know what precisely made that session more successful than others. And these are the questions to which brands need answers.

There are a lot of analytics tools that can help brands understand various parts of their websites and apps. But when it comes to the customer experience, most tools lack insight into emotions, which brands need to make the best decisions. However, we’ve now entered a new era of ‘experience analytics’, where technology can measure interactions and provide intelligent insights into how visitors are engaging with a brand’s website and apps.  

To improve the customer experience – so that they can build better relationships and reach audiences in a more authentic way – brands need to consider not only the typical digital interactions (clicks, drop-offs) but the smallest behavioural signals (yes, even those that are barely registered in a traditional analytics platform).

These interactions come in the form of micro-signals, such as extended hovering, screen taps, scrolls, mouse movements, and ‘rage clicks’. By analysing these signals – indicators of a customer’s digital body language – brands can uncover customer intent and identify where there is confusion, frustration, or stress building up.

In regard to CX strategies, this is prompting brands to have a major rethink about the experience they’re currently delivering and the experience they want to deliver. Where solutions once only measured basic figures, such as click-throughs and conversion rates, this new generation of analytics solutions is helping to apply an emotional lens to customer journey data.

By implementing this additional layer of experience analytics, it is possible for brands to develop more meaningful insights into their customers, such as their behaviour, mindset, shopping moods, and emotions. Taking these into account, as well as removing sources of stress and frustration from the digital experience, will put a brand in a much stronger position to earn customer loyalty and improve retention rates.