Building emotional connections with customers

Last updated
Dec 18, 2023
Did you know that an emotionally connected customer is worth 306% in lifetime value than a merely satisfied one?

In today's crowded marketplace, brands that move beyond transactions and build emotional connections with customers could see 306% higher lifetime value than merely satisfied customers. 

A 2019 study by Motista found that emotionally connected customers are more loyal, willing to pay more, and likely to recommend you to others: 

  • Spend up to 2x or more with their preferred brand
  • Have 306% higher lifetime value (LTV)
  • Stay with a brand for an average of 5.1 years vs. 3.4 years
  • Recommend brands at much higher rates: 30.2% vs. 7.6%

It looks like

What would you classify as an emotional connection, anyway? We’re not saying you need to go to your customers’ kid’s birthday party and bring a gift (but if you’re invited and that’s your thing, go for it!). An emotional connection with a customer is built on truly understanding and relating to their core needs and desires.

It's about seeing past transactions and demographics to appreciate that each customer is a whole, unique, person who is just trying to live their best life. An emotional connection means intuitively knowing their motivations and aspirations, remembering personal details, and nurturing a relationship of openness and trust. Meeting customers where they are so they feel genuinely seen, heard, and cared for, that's when you’ve made an authentic emotional connection.


“While most marketers agree that activating emotional connection is important, it remains a largely untapped opportunity for driving growth. But this study shows emotional connection can be identified, measured, and quantified, and used to drive customer acquisition, increase the share of wallet, achieve higher lifetime value, build stronger loyalty, and influence brand advocacy.” - Michael Mathias, then president of Motista


What are you doing to create emotional connections with your customers?

It might be the difference between long-term loyalty or... indifference.

Customers who feel emotionally connected to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value. Square image of quote inside an orange quote bubble, with a small megaphone icon and the Paylode logo at the bottom.

10+ strategies for fostering deeper customer connections

Get personal. 

  1. Know your customers deeply. Truly understand your customers' hopes, dreams, and pain points. Go beyond demographics and conduct empathy interviews to uncover what really matters to them. Identify their core emotional motivation. It’s easy to assume and generalize, but you’d be surprised what you may find out about what they need. 
  2. Make it personal. Personalization shows customers that you understand their needs. Always follow privacy laws, then tailor messages, offers, content, and experiences where you can for your audiences. Appreciate loyalty through customized rewards and perks.
  3. Facilitate peer connections. People connect with people. Foster communities where customers interact, share, and form bonds. Hashtag campaigns, user-generated content, and events get people relating.

Strengthen your brand.

  1. Reflect their values. Customers are drawn to brands that align with their self-image. Ensure your messaging and experiences reinforce the identity your customers want to project. Support their values and causes. Let them demonstrate belongingness to your brand community.
  2. Cultivate your brand personality. It sounds weird, but you can give your brand human traits like humor, empathy, and warmth. Share customer stories that spark emotion. Use a consistent tone across touchpoints, so your brand becomes distinct and memorable.
  3. Clarify your mission and who you serve. Every business’ goal is to increase profits. But the difference between a business that puts their customers at the center, is that their mission is a rallying point. For example, you can measure Spotify’s success by new artists launched, independent artists paid, number of songs listened to. How do you measure success in terms of your customers?
  4. Measure what you can. Track indicators like net promoter score (NPS), customer retention, and social engagement to optimize your strategies. Design individual tactics that could move these metrics. 

Not surprisingly, surprises work.

  1. Deliver unexpected delight. “Delight your customers” is a common phrase shared amongst marketers, but what does that really mean? According to Michael Rousell, author of The Power of Surprise, surprise acts as a mechanism to abruptly alter beliefs.

    Startling events create invisible influence by prompting unconscious belief changes without warning. This opens a window for beliefs to transform rapidly, without conscious thought. Using surprise gives you an opportunity to reshape mindsets and maximize positive impacts through subtle influence.

    Identify key moments to exceed expectations – perhaps with a free gift, an upgrade, or an extra effort to delight them. Make it memorable and shareable. Empathize, don't pity.
  1. Meet them where they are. This might not always mean that they’re in dire straits. They might be excited but stressed about moving into a new home; they have just bought their dream car and might be wanting to protect their new asset. Consider where they are when you are crafting your messaging, so you can adjust your tone accordingly. 

What not to do:

  • Avoid superficial, disingenuous, or fake gestures. Connecting emotionally requires brand authenticity, understanding, and care for the customer's world. Don't force it.
  • Use technology as a tool, not a replacement for human connection. Digital systems enable you to incredible things, like aid conversion, offer perks and discounts to your customers as a thank-you, and track and measure tons of datapoints. Just remember that it doesn't replace connecting with the real human in your customer base. Talk to them.
  • Be tactful. Be mindful of what's in the national news, what people might be going through, and that every customer is different and going on their own journey.

If you can start to incorporate these principles and tactics in small ways into your marketing, you'll start to snowball every small, positive interaction into more and more loyalty, leading to more than just customer satisfaction – but customer delight.

If you need help bringing technology into your loyalty plan, view the perks platform features that can help you get there.


About the author
Adrienne Kmetz
Adrienne is a marketing expert with a career history of working in startups of all sizes, from early stage to series A. She has 17+ years of experience writing about business, finance, and entrepreneurship. She went to Colorado College where she majored in skiing.
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