Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Let's Talk About Feelings

The ARF and the purchase process
Creating an emotional attachment to a product is only one way to build brand loyalty; trust is another way.

On May 8, 2012, we listened to a webcast from The Advertising Research Foundation (The ARF). This webcast, titled “Digital Influence on Purchase Decisions,” examined the ways consumers go through the buying process, and how digital innovations can accommodate and influence this process. The ARF discussed three major states that play into the consumer’s purchasing process: the consumer is always on, the consumer is emotional and the consumer is everywhere. While digital implementation can accommodate these states, it can also improve the buying process for consumers by taking into account things that they want and also things they may not know they want.

In this article, I will cover the emotional aspect of the buying process to help illustrate how a consumer’s emotional state, as well as their perception of other consumers’ emotional states, can greatly influence their purchase decisions.

The purchasing process is frustrating and can often be confusing. Thus, consumers can feel imprisoned, causing them to make poor decisions or avoid recreational shopping whenever possible. Consumers also find that making purchases can often be a power struggle between themselves and the brands they buy from. Since not all purchases are straightforward, when companies throw in extras fees or unwanted offers, consumers feel put off, but also unable to walk away from the frustrating exchange.

Consumers want the purchasing process to be easy, unfettered with confusing miscellany. Jasper Snyder, who was on The ARF’s panel, explained that consumers not only want to feel relaxed when shopping, they want to feel as though they have some control over their decisions and purchases. By facilitating this desire for control, companies can help their customers make purchases that leave them feeling triumphant and also foster an emotional attachment to a brand, resulting in brand loyalty.

Creating an emotional attachment to a product is only one way to build brand loyalty; trust is another way. Social media can be used to expand a trust network when other consumers microblog their emotional responses to a product or buying process. Many consumers will share how they feel about a purchase, to both reveal their own emotions and to help enlighten others. Strong emotions translate well in social media and Snyder states that joy is the predominant emotion that people respond to on social networks. Real excitement and triumph mirrors the desirable experience many shoppers want when they begin the purchase process.

As a sales rep, and also someone who will be helping clients establish customer brand loyalty , you’ll want to share this information with your clients. By understanding the emotional aspect of the buying process, brands can begin to change the process consumers use to purchase their products, or change their products to help meet the consumers’ needs. Think for a moment about how changing the process slightly can help a consumer feel a sense of relaxation and joy after a shopping experience. For example, many companies have service fees that the consumer is unaware of, thus causing frustration and confusion on the part of the consumer. Although this tactic was used to make prices appear lower than they really are, consumers are catching on and would rather see the full expense instead of being surprised at the end.  In this example, a simple solution would be bundle everything into the original cost of a product or service, and then advertise that the price is “set in stone,” and that there are no service or hidden fees. By doing so, not only would your clients allow the consumer more control in the purchase process, but also show more transparency and trustworthiness than other brands that hide fees. Your clients may actually find that their consumers are happy to be free of expected, yet hidden, fees, which will reflect in their positive reviews!

The bottom line is that consumers will be more inclined to buy something if it meets their emotional desires when shopping. If a company can offer a relaxed feeling, a transparent process and a solid product, consumers will likely flock to the brand offering it. Advise your clients to get behind the consumer, and tweak their product or service to reflect that.