Every company wants a slew of loyal customers who are excited about new products, features, and offerings. Indeed, there are many brands with cult-like followings. Customers will drop everything to attend a sale, try out a new feature, or write a positive review. But why isn’t this level of fandom a reality for every brand?

According to Exploring the Value of Emotion-driven Engagement, a new report from Deloitte Digital, brands can build impressive levels of customer loyalty by connecting emotionally with their audiences. But this does not need to be done on an individual level with each customer. Rather, today’s platforms can help brands leverage emotional data to support these connections.

The ability to leverage emotionally intelligent platforms to recognize and use emotional data at scale is one of the biggest, most important opportunities for companies going forward.

In this article, we’re sharing the four key findings from Deloitte’s report to help you understand how you might use emotional connections to drive loyalty for your brand. Deloitte’s study integrated data from 800 consumers, a 12-person online panel, and analyzed 91 million social media posts as well as 2,090 completed Voice of the Customer surveys.

1. Brand loyalty is driven by emotional connections

It’s tempting to think that if you can relate to a customer on an emotional level, your work is done. However, Deloitte found that consumers usually use an overarching cycle to establish their feelings about a brand. Customers first use rational considerations such as price, promotions, and loyalty programs to consider if a product is right for them. They also use these rational considerations when they choose to leave–70% of people leave for rational reasons such as high prices or incorrect orders.

Although relationships may start and end with rational considerations, emotional connection drives nearly everything in between. According to Deloitte, emotional attachment takes over as a relationship progresses, making rational considerations less and less important. Furthermore, these emotional relationships are not simply driven by shared values. Deloitte found that a mere 3% of consumers would recommend a company based on their values or principles, whereas 44% would recommend it based on emotional criteria.

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2. Sustaining these connections goes both ways

Today’s customers are well-informed and have a wide array of options when it comes to choosing which companies they want to invest in. More than ever before, customers expect companies to treat them with care and be as responsive as possible. In short, customers expect that brands will act like friends.

According to Deloitte 70% of consumers believe that a brand relationship includes providing feedback. Not only that, but this feedback is expected to drive responsive action. Nearly half of consumers say they love it when companies bring up their last interaction, while two-thirds expect brands to integrate their feedback into future products and services.

This suggests that consumers want to feel as though they’re in a reciprocal relationship where they are heard and seen. As a result, mirroring positive human relationships and real-life friendships can help a brand create brand loyalists.

3. Companies need to toe the line between responsive and invasive

If a brand acts as a friend, then surely there is a point where they cross the line into being too responsive. Suddenly, customers no longer perceive the brand as helpful. Instead, the brand is seen as invasive (at best) or creepy (at worst). Although consumers want a deep relationship with brands, they aren’t comfortable with companies knowing everything about them.

Even so, customers expect that their favorite brands understand why they purchased products, as well as how satisfied they were. They also expect brands to respond within 24 hours if they register a complaint.

According to Deloitte, consumers believe that trust is the most important emotional metric that influences their connection to a favorite brand. While brands can do a lot to generate trust, it can also easily be broken.

Companies need to toe the line–they should be responsive to customer needs and personalize their efforts without going overboard.

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4. Consistent reliable branding and voice matter to customers

According to Deloitte’s report, trust is built because people know what to expect from someone else. The same rings true for when a brand builds relationships with customers. When customers know what to expect and receive consistent, predictable, positive experiences, they’re more likely to develop brand loyalty.

Customer service is paramount here, as 70% of customers believe that “reliable, great customer service” contributes to making a brand their favorite place to shop. When brands can’t deliver in this arena, emotional bonds will be broken. Rational considerations are likely to take over and brands may be in danger of losing loyal customers.

This is why it’s essential that branding and voice are kept consistent through every stage in the customer journey. When customers know what to expect and the brand meets their expectations, they’re likely to remain happy and loyal.

Conclusion on customer loyalty

When your customers interact with your brand, they’re looking for more than a transaction. It may be rational considerations that cause them to choose your product or service in the first place. However, once they’ve made a commitment, it’s on the brand to begin to foster an emotional relationship so that the customer wants to stick around. If trust is broken, rational considerations will kick in again, and brands are in danger of losing their customers.

As a brand that wants to improve the overall customer experience, it’s beneficial to consider what you’re doing to foster and sustain emotional relationships with your customers. These emotional connections can make a dramatic difference in customer retention over time.

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