The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.
Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:
Here in Boston, we are at a precious moment in the year: The early onset of cool, dark evenings sets the stage for the imminent holiday season — but doesn’t eclipse the warmth of the autumn sun quite yet. As the seasons change, we have a few rare days of mild weather that I can’t pass up, so, like my fellow city-dwellers, I make a little extra time to walk and window-shop.
Except — I hardly ever return with empty hands. Especially when I spot a sale at my favorite clothing retailer, it doesn’t take long before my intended walk turns into a shopping spree. Fortunately, our data shows that I’m not the only one who falls for the spontaneous clothing purchase. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that women in particular buy apparel on impulse:
In fact, our data shows that 43% of women don’t research clothing at all prior to making a purchase, compared with only 36% of men. And those women who do research apparel predominantly count the in-store browsing experience as their product research, while men often use both online and offline tools.
Emotions are at the basis of how customers perceive experiences – and why they choose to stay loyal to certain brands. But, not all emotions are equal: Different emotions lead to unique behavioral outcomes depending on context, emotional intensity, and even industry.
For example, in our latest study, my colleague Tom McCann and I measured the emotional impact of CX among banks and retailers in Australia. We discovered that feeling valued is one of the most powerful emotions driving loyalty toward a bank: Australian customers who feel that their bank puts them first are willing to pay a premium for the bank’s experience and are more forgiving when something goes wrong. However, among retail customers, valued is good – but happy is better. Australian retailers that leave customers in a cheery mood are more likely to retain their shoppers and turn their customers into advocates.
And what makes Australian shoppers happy? Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data shows that details in the experience go a long way. For instance, customers are pleased with perceptibly low prices or special deals, stocked inventory, and pleasant customer service reps.
I always love this time of year. Here in Cambridge, Mass., we’re at a turning point: With the close of the World Series and the start of daylight savings, we face the reality that evenings are colder, nights come faster, and the holidays are imminent. With summer escapes behind us and holiday shopping ahead of us, recent media stories made me think about one phenomenon that does not change with the seasons: the relentless efficacy of advertising.
For example, REI’s latest ad, which urges consumers to forego Black Friday, may look like commercial suicide at first glance, but don’t underestimate the effects of an unexpected message. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while ads may not directly spark a purchase, they immediately enhance awareness and can spark consumer behavior that subsequently drives consumption:
And this data only quantifies the advertising effects of which consumers are aware; more often than not, advertising has a deeper, subconscious impact on consumer behavior and attitudes.
Ever since Forrester began conducting its Customer Experience Index study, retailers have topped all other industries. They not only have the highest average scores (as rated by their own customers), they comprise the majority of the companies in the “excellent” category. In fact, the only other industry that comes close to retailers is hotels.
That’s one reason why we’re delighted to have Jo Moran, head of customer service for iconic retailer Marks and Spencer, speak at our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on November 19th and 20th.
The other reason is that Jo has been on a journey to boost Marks and Spencer to a higher level of customer experience maturity — which is exactly what our forum is about.
In the run-up to the event, Jo graciously agreed to answer our questions about what she’s done so far and what she’d do differently if she had it to do over again. Her answers appear below.
I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!
Q. When Marks and Spencer (M&S) first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?