By Becky Wu

Quantitative analysis is one of the most useful tools a company can use. By tracking measurable units such as sales and conversions, companies are able to make sound business decisions. Yet as valuable as quantitative data is, qualitative research should not be overlooked. Consumer emotions fall under the qualitative category and can be instrumental in your business strategy. By taking the time to think about how customers feel about your brand, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of your company’s status. And while emotional data may be difficult to collect, it should not be ignored. Let’s dive deeper into what we mean by “customer feelings” and how you can use those insights to your advantage.

Why Do Feelings Matter?

Considering the emotional motivations of shoppers provides an additional factor to help guide your business plans. Even though customers will claim that logic and rational thinking is what guides their choices, evidence suggests that emotional responses are a much greater influence. The role of emotions explains why customers have a preference between brands or projects that provide identical services or features. Another important issue to remember is that customers cannot turn off their emotions. Emotions are the background noise that persuades customers to make a certain selection, even if that choice is made subconsciously.

What Kinds of Feelings Are There?

When considering the possible emotions of customers, there are many to choose from – and they often exist in groups. However, certain groups value some feelings more than others. For example, research shows that men and women can have different values when it comes to products. Likewise, age groups have different needs they are looking to fill with products. For example, young adult males tend to value feelings such as status and belonging to a “cool” group. Women usually value issues such as security and safety.

One of the more common company strategies is to create a space where customers can feel as if they belong to something. This idea can go in a few directions. For example, if companies use testimonials, this lets customers know that other people are using and are happy with the product or service. The customer thinks something like, “that person is like me, and they are doing well with the item, so maybe it would work for me.” Another way to use belonging is to create a sense of a “club” that only certain people can be in. The Mac/PC commercials are a good example of this idea — here, the product is tied to how the customer thinks of themselves and how they think about others.

A second feeling companies think of is the customer’s need to feel like a significant individual instead of an insignificant part of an entity. This can sometimes go with the sense of belonging. If we go back to the examples of the Mac/PC ads, someone who self-identifies as more artistic or hip wants a product that reflects that. This aim works even if the trait isn’t actually part of the customer — if the customer wants to think of themselves in a certain way, they will look for the products that reflect their ideal self.  Essentially, a customer wants to feel as if the company cares about them as a person instead of just another potential sale.

Another common emotion to consider is the need to feel secure. As stated above, women tend to value this idea more, but security and safety are important across several groups. When customers buy something, they want to make sure they are making the right choice and not a choice they will regret later. Some companies take advantage of this by offering additional guarantees and protection policies with products.

How to Use This Information

Generally, the emotional state of a customer can go in one of two directions. The first direction an emotional state can go in is maintaining the current status. If a customer is feeling good, they want to continue feeling good. This is where some tactile goods can shine — soft items like clothes, or pleasant scents, for example. Generally, it’s easier to keep a good mood going than it is to change a mood.  Having pleasant experiences with a product and the environment of the business sticks in the consumer’s mind — sometimes, this emotional connection is more ready to remember than the logical evaluation of the product. If the customer remembers a company being nice and pleasant to work with, the customer wants that experience again, and is therefore more likely to come back.

The second direction an emotion can go in is to change the current status – for marketing purposes, getting a customer to go from a bad mood to a good mood. There is evidence that suggests consumers in a bad mood pay more attention to details than those in a good mood. Larger purchases, such as cars and jewelry, are especially prone to this kind of inspection. Having negative emotions is also important to consider when thinking about the environment of the product in addition to the product itself. If a customer feels a store is dirty and disorganized or if a page does not load, that customer is going to be less receptive to the product.

For most products, customers want to feel a connection between what they buy and how they envision their lives. By considering customers’ emotions, you can create a more effective campaign and strategy, and your business to the next level.

Becky Wu, Ph.D.  is a senior executive and vice president of Luth Research. Stay connected at @luthresearch.