The Role of Emotions in Customer Experience

6 January 2021


In the last decades, scholars have researched the nature of emotions and their impact on individuals. From previous studies, it has been shown that human beings are profoundly emotional. In fact, they experience at least one emotion 90% of the time (Trampe et al., 2015). In this context, emotions play a fundamental role as they have a great impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing in addition to everyday behaviour (Kuppens et al., 2008). For instance, negative emotions, such as anger, inhibit prosocial behaviour and are strong predictors of physical and verbal aggression (Mesurado et al., 2018). In addition to this, in the academic field, negative emotions are detrimental to motivation, performance and learning (Rowe & Fitness, 2018). 

Emotions have been researched in different fields and have been the centre of focus also in consumer psychology. Emotions play a fundamental role in shaping the success of service outcome, such as purchase intention, word-of-mouth and shopping satisfaction. In fact, emotions arouse, sustain and direct the activities of the customers while shopping. These emotions are the result of an evaluation of the situation and the environment that surround the customers (Choraria, 2013). Such evaluation and the emotions experienced strongly influence the judgments about the customer experience.

Negative emotions are strong predictors of consumer behaviour. In fact, they may reduce purchase intentions, inspire negative word-of-mouth and induce consumers to switch between brands (Guido et al., 2018). Moreover, it has been shown that emotions, such as anger or frustration, can lead to a specific form of aggressive behaviour: complaining (Tronvoll, 2016).  Consumers’ anger toward a brand is likely to influence the decision to complain directly to the company but also to participate in campaigns against the company itself. Fear is also strong predictor for complaining and it may also predict, alongside with worry, an unwillingness to try the brand or to switch to a competing brand (Romani et al., 2011).

Perhaps counterintuitive, brands should actually induce customer’s intention to complain to the organisations. In fact, when the complaint is properly channelized, the effect of the negative emotions is subdued (Choraria, 2013).

Negative emotions have been extensively utilised in advertising, above all in social campaigns. A social campaign is a persuasive message that aims to change people’s attitudes or behaviour in order to improve both individuals and society (Missaglia et al., 2017). To create an effective social campaign and enhance social change, it is important to boost attention and one way to do so is to utilise emotions. Due to this reason, negative emotions have been employed in order to grab people’s attention and persuade them to change attitudes and behaviour (Witte et al., 2000). However, it should be argued that it is better to refrain from shocking content to avoid an activation of any defence mechanism. Moreover, strong negative emotions have been found to not particularly evoke positive changes in attitudes. 

In this context, it is important to consider also the role of positive emotions and their influence on consumers’ behaviour. Positive emotions, that arise from a positive shopping experience, have been linked to customer satisfaction. More specifically, feelings of happiness and delight have been generally associated with higher levels of satisfaction (Westbrook, 1991). Consumers generally desire an environment that is both arousing and pleasant and such type of environment enhance a positive experience that could lead to an increase of purchase intent and therefore, the probability of buying (Vijay et al., 2019). Moreover, the experience of positive emotions is essential to increase customer satisfaction as it subsequently enhances customer loyalty. 

As we’ve shown by this brief review, emotions are crucial to creating engaging and successful customer experience across all channels. In our work, we are always encouraging our clients to identify a set of emotions they would like to evoke at every touchpoint and step of a customer journey. We also ask them to pinpoint those emotions that should become signature to their brand, basically becoming the main reason their customers come back to them, e.g. to feel empowered, relaxed, inspired…

The smaller emotions at every touchpoint should be building up to the Signature Brand Emotions. They should also act as triggers for specific desired behaviours and decision, e.g. pick up a product from a shelf, scan a QR code to find out more about the products…

The next stage is to identify the Emotional Intensity Wave – how intensive should emotions be at various touchpoints and steps of customer journey. The intensity should vary to help manage customers’ cognitive resources, especially attention, and leave a customer fulfilled yet wanting more. 

The last but not least, we need to identify what specific combination of sensory stimuli in the design of a store, restaurant, product packaging, website or any other brand collateral, is most likely to lead to the unique chosen mix of emotions. 

Ask yourself then these questions:

What are your Signature Brand Emotions?

What are key emotions you want to evoke at each touchpoint and customer journey step?

Why? What behaviours and decisions should these emotions lead to?


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