The decision making process behind making a purchase is not based on logic or rational thinking, it is far more deeply rooted in emotions and feelings. The Emotional Customer Journey helps to trace the phases of experience that the user goes through from the first moment in which they enter into contact with the brand right through to the final purchase (or not). Imagine a journey in stages, which the as-yet-unknown potential customer travels to purchase a product and what happens afterwards. During this journey, they will perform different actions and, most importantly, experience different emotions.
Moving the focus from the product to the client
If, until the 1970s, traditional economic theory excluded the emotional sphere from the buying process, today’s marketing must leverage the ability to inspire and communicate perceptions. It is no longer just the technical characteristics of the product that make the difference, which undoubtedly must be of quality, but rather the perception and value that customers are able to attribute to it.
This is where Brands need change their approach, from product-orientated to customer-orientated, that is, shifting their focus from the product to the person. How? By identifying those emotional, as well as rational, pathways that intervene in the Brand-customer relationship and characterise the online user’s decision-making process. This is where the Emotional Customer Journey comes in, a model that not surprisingly comes from the field of Neuromarketing. The Emotional Customer Journey represents, quite literally, “an emotional journey,” or rather the experience that the customer has from the very first moment they come into contact with the Brand. It is described as emotional, because during its journey the user will not only perform mechanical actions, but will experience a succession of different emotional sensations.
The Emotional Customer Journey model is based on 5 micro-moments. Let’s look at them now.
The phases of the Emotional Customer Journey
The first step is to catch the customer’s attention with content that is able to stand out amid the vast amount of information surrounding it. The shapes, colours, positions and dimensions of the message are all elements that come into play at this stage, which is characterised by a low level of emotion and a high level of logic.
The moment of attraction often occurs together with the moment of attention, however, it is characterised by a high level of emotion and low level of logic. Attraction is mostly based on irrational criteria, such as curiosity, affiliation, identity or another specific feeling. It is a phase that generates positive impressions in the mind of the potential client, but time is of the essence because of this. It is always a good idea to have a strong Brand Identity making you instantly recognisable.
After arousing curiosity, it will now be necessary to stimulate an interest that leads to a small commitment to investigate the Brand’s offerings. This is a delicate phase, because rationality and emotions are in conflict with each other. The message that the Brand conveys must be clear, as must the strengths of its offering. It is, therefore, essential to structure clear, precisely written text. Speaking in the same language and with the same code of values as the customer is the key to success.
The analysis stage is all about rationality. The customer seeks logical confirmation of what emotions were suggested to them in the previous moment. This is the best stage to focus on tangible, concrete and transparent data. This will enable the user to make a deeper analysis and finally trust the Brand. Feedback and reviews are especially helpful.
We are at the last stage, the moment when the customer makes a decision. A high level of emotion returns, that of logic, on the other hand, is variable. All the emotions felt in the analysis phase, such as anxiety, uncertainty and doubt resurface, and therefore the consumer needs to feel reassured and enticed to act. Invitations to action must be clear and explicit, free of deception and trickery, and give a taste of desire fulfilment.
Why is it important to identify the individual stages of the buying process? To know what the customer’s needs will be at each stage of their journey and to find the most appropriate way to meet them. This will enable us to offer better service.
Also, let us remember that this journey does not simply end with the purchase, but goes beyond. It is important that the Brand continues to offer a positive experience afterwards, “nurturing” the customer with valuable content to create a lasting and trusting relationship.
Imagining the customer’s Emotional Journey means putting oneself in their shoes, anticipating all of their needs and envisioning the processes needed to meet them. With this in mind, each Brand’s goal will be to make their customer’s journey as easy as possible, without difficulty or deception. Here are some examples of questions to ask yourself, Brand side, to make sure you are giving your target customer a positive experience:
Is the content I offer valuable and in line with my target audience’s interests? Am I able to grab their attention?
Is my website fast and easy to use? Is it rich in relevant data and clear text? Can the customer find all the information needed to rationally analyse the offer? Do we speak the same language?
Do my sponsorships reach my target audience or random people? Do I manage to stand out among a lot of other content?
Am I able to handle customer care properly? Can I respond to all inquiries, without excessive wait times?
And so on.
Being able to recognise the emotional pathways, even before the rational ones, that occur in the relationship between customer and Brand is the key to being able to interact in a fluid and constructive way. By knowing the emotional states that characterise the online consumer’s decision-making process, Brands can put in place all the necessary actions to offer their target audience a positive experience. This will trigger a virtuous circle, because a satisfied customer will likely buy again in the future and speak well of the Brand, thus attracting new customers.