How Emotions Guide The Decisions Of Your Customers

You're standing in line at the local ice cream shop, getting ready to place your order. This being 2015, the shop has 31 flavors of ice cream, 31 flavors of fat-free frozen yogurt, and 31 flavors of vegan "ice cream." You know the frozen yogurt is better for you, and the vegan stuff is better for the environment (or something), but which one are you going to choose?

According to scientific research, you'll choose whichever one you're most emotionally attached to. For the majority of us, that would probably be the classic ice cream. Our minds tell us what's the best objective choice, while our emotions tell us what we really want, and we tend to listen to our emotions before our brains. That's why it's so hard to stick to a diet.

When applied to customers, the developing science of decision making is profound. Just think: you know it's objectively advantageous to purchase the cheaper of two laptops with the same basic functionality, but you'll probably buy from the company you like more, even if their laptop is more expensive. (I'm looking at you, Apple). 

But don't take my word for it. There are some very intelligent people saying the same thing. Here are three insightful videos looking into the science and emotional process of decision making, and what they tell us about customers.

Emotions guide our decisions

In "Heart over Head: Recognizing Emotion in Decision Making," Rebecca Stephens talks about how we often make decisions we know are objectively foolhardy, because we really want to achieve the outcome. The first British woman to climb Mount Everest, Stephens reveals how she knowingly gave up her job and many attachments to reach the goal she was obsessed with. When we're emotionally attached to our desires, we make decisions to achieve them, regardless of the consequences. 

What it means for customers: Appealing to the logic of your customers is like trying to teach a cat to juggle. People make decisions based on emotion, not intellect, so brands should try to surprise and delight their customers, sparking positive emotions and associations. When a customer feels good about your brand, they're more likely to choose you instead of your competition, regardless of price. 

...and sometimes help us make the right choice

A Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, Antonio Damasio is one of the world's foremost experts on the science of decision making. In his lecture "When Emotions Make Better Decisions," he reveals the fact that our analysis of a situation is far less important than our emotional attachment to a situation's outcome. It's this attachment that helps us choose. What we think is wisdom is the cultivation of our feelings about outcomes in a variety of situations. So as much as we'd like to think that we're analytical, it's our feelings that are guiding us.  

What it means for customers: Without emotion to provoke us, we might never make a decision at all. When customers choose one brand over another because of how they feel about the brand, they might occasionally end up with the best product. But that outcome is irrelevent to the decision-making process. So, focusing on the experience the customer has with your product is a key way to differentiate yourself from competition. In fact, customers are willing to pay more for a positive experience.

...which we choose because it "feels right."

Dan Gilbert, in his talk "Why We Make Bad Decisions," shows how we often make poor decisions because we are not very good at judging the odds and value of success. When we're making a decision, we compare the present with past outcomes rather than with future possibilities. Essentially, we choose what feels right. That's because our brains were evolved in a very different world than the one we live in today. 

What it means for customers: Customers are bad decision makers, just like the rest of us. We choose what feels right in the moment, and that means given two products, we go for the one we feel better about. Traditional differentiators such as price become less important when deals are everywhere. Appealing to your customers' emotions is a more effective way to guide their decisions, and creating delightful customer experiences is the best way to achieve that. 

Great customer experience creates positive associations

When customers feel good about your brand, they're more likely to choose you over your competition. Great customer experience creates positive associations, which means that customers are more likely to remain loyal to brands they really like. Price is becoming increasingly irrelevant where competition is concerned, and savvy brands are already beginning to use customer experience as a key differentiator, a paradigm shift that is supported by science. 

Brand Embassy helps you create positive customer experiences by telling you more about your customers, from their preferences to their backgrounds and interests. You'll know what customers need more quickly, and you'll build up relationships with them over time. All that positive sentiment will lead to more sales and increased customer loyalty. 

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