Building Heart Connections: Understanding Consumers’ Emotional Landscapes

The ability to measure emotional responses is creating cutting-edge data sets for more intimate personalization.

A rising heartbeat, a change in body temperature, and other minor physical shifts can signal an important consumer reaction to an ad, a product, or an experience. We’re talking about emotional data, and it’s destined to play an integral role in an experience-era economy.

For many marketers, stepping into a world built on emotional data is a revolutionary concept. While emotional data may seem like an abstract idea, marketers who embrace this next iteration of customer experience feedback can position themselves as thought leaders in the realm of emotional-data marketing.

The key is knowing where to start. Many brands lack the analytics platform to gather and centralize data from a wide variety of future technologies, such as wearables and facial-recognition tools. Additionally, businesses that are considering the benefits of emotional data may be unsure which emotional reactions should be tested in order to reach their marketing goals.

In the experience era, customers expect all brands to participate in the experience business. Enterprises that cannot measure and optimize offerings and campaigns around key CX performance indicators — like customer emotions — are missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with customers on an emotional level.

Defining emotional data.** **

Building heart connections — using emotion and real-world connections to engage audiences on a personal level — starts with an understanding of emotional data. Think about the last advertisement to cross your social media newsfeed — how did it make you feel? Were you pleased to see an ad promoting something you were interested in, or agitated when another advertiser stopped you mid-scroll to pitch a product you didn’t care about?

Whether your reaction was positive or negative, the fact that you had a reaction indicates that the marketing message elicited an emotional response — and where there is an emotional response, there is emotional data.

But exactly what this data looks like, and how brands can best access and use it to their advantage is the big question. John Mellor, vice president of strategy, alliances, and marketing at Adobe, emphasizes that “emotion is the currency of experience, and is an absolute necessity when creating great experiences.”

The value of this currency was demonstrated with the Adobe Emotion Chamber powered by Lightwave — a literal mirror-lined hallway outfitted with biometric sensors designed to detect the slightest emotional reactions from visitors. Hundreds of Adobe Summit attendees took a short walk through the chamber, allowing their heart rates, pupils, and even skin temperature to be monitored while being exposed to a dozen or more different scenarios. The physical responses demonstrated how different experiences can produce datasets that track emotional responses — and how brands can learn from each interaction.

The Emotion Chamber proves that marketing experiences affect customers on a physical level. If there’s one thing marketers should learn from emotional data, it’s that each and every engagement will affect the way customers feel. If you make customers feel good, they’ll hold your brand in a high regard. On the other hand, a customer might abandon your brand entirely if they have an unpleasant experience. In an experience-based economy, such insight into customer emotions can make or break your next marketing campaign.

How emotional data is collected.

Wearables, smart speakers, and facial recognition software are all technologies that can collect emotional data.

Historically, emotional reactions could only be measured through focus groups, questionnaires, customer service calls, or in-person interactions. Now science and technology have introduced new ways marketers can measure emotional responses without ever having to ask a customer to fill out a survey.

Here are a few ways emotional data may be collected through emerging technology:

Every channel is an opportunity to connect emotionally.

These burgeoning channels may be fresh and exciting, but they aren’t the only means to collect emotional data. “I don’t think that we need to imagine there’s a whole new state of technology that is going to allow us to provide emotional experiences,” says Adam Justis, director of product marketing for the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Instead, Adam believes brands should be asking themselves how they can leverage existing channels and technology to connect with consumers, because any channel can evoke an emotional response.

While the opportunity to make emotional connections lies in every channel, that’s not to say that all channels were created equal. According to Adam, the likelihood of someone having an emotional experience with direct mail doesn’t hold a candle to the immersive environment a consumer may experience riding in a luxury automobile or wearing a VR headset. Still, even the most mundane channels cannot be ruled out, and often make excellent and affordable starting points for brands interested in improving emotional connections with their customers.

High-end emotional data solutions redefine experience design.

One company set on mastering the emotional-data experience is Lightwave, an interactive, biometric data platform company. Led by CEO Rana June, Lightwave has designed high-end solutions that enable a wide variety of brands to measure, analyze, and use emotion in ways never before seen.

Bioanalytics technology helps marketers understand how experiences affect consumers by collecting emotional data.

“Emotion tech is the collection of biofeedback and the analysis of that data in support of a metric around experience. If emotion is the currency of experience, then there needs to be a way to describe that and to validate that we are being effective in creating that,” says Rana.

Lightwave’s bioanalytics technology helps their clients facilitate the use of emotional data to craft mind-blowing customer experiences that are contextual and personalized, while solving for business needs and creative objectives along the way. The company is at the forefront of the emotional-data business, with a resounding conviction that emotional data is the last great obstacle for digital marketers to conquer.

“We’ve never been able to know at scale about emotion and impact of experience,” says Rana. “[Emotional data] will be the next shift forward, both in integration of technology, but also for marketers to create that truly contextualized and personalized future that they always imagined.”

Getting creative with emotional data.

Finding new ways to use biofeedback is certainly a hot topic among today’s most tech-savvy marketers, but it’s still in its infancy. Many brands aren’t sure where the boundaries between actionable data and respecting consumer privacy lie, while others simply aren’t sure how to effectively use the data. This is why the best approach to new data integration is usually the simplest one.

One brand putting emotional data into action is Jaguar. As the official car partner of The Championships at Wimbledon, the luxury automaker measured the emotional responses of spectators at one of the most prestigious sporting events of the year. Lightwave pioneered the initiative that provided biometric cuffs to a select number of Wimbledon attendees. As a result, Jaguar was able to measure heart rates, motion, and audio levels within the stadium, painting an emotional picture of the crowd’s response before broadcasting reactions to a network of video screens across the U.K.

Jaguar used technology from Lightwave to track the emotional responses of spectators at the Championships at Wimbledon.

Identifying the data that matters to your brand.

Understanding how emotional data can benefit your brand is one thing. Knowing which data matters most is another. That’s because emotional data — like all metrics collected for marketing purposes — only tell part of the customer story. The key is determining what type of emotional data will help round out the data story told by conversion rates, click-throughs, and other KPIs. This means making sense of this new data set in respect to other data points, and then integrating this data into customer profiles. Being able to track customer heartbeats per minute is exciting, but if you can’t make sense of a heartbeat increase alongside click-through rates, then the data has little insight to offer.

As a result, developing a set of standardized metrics is necessary to help frame comprehensive and rich customer profiles. Any business set on diving into emotional data collection needs to ask itself which data will best serve future campaigns, and how that data can contribute to the depth of the customer story. A brand must determine the best data sets to capture while making sure the data can be measured in a way to standardize it across technology vendors and experiences.

Emotional data: A new frontier.

If you’re worried your company is late to the party, don’t fret. The concept of collecting, analyzing, and using emotional data is in its early stages, and is a concept even the most innovative companies in the world are just now beginning to experiment with using. In fact, Rana believes all companies should be encouraged to embrace this exciting new metric in data collection.

“The number one thing I tell people is ‘you’re not late.’ This is a very new field … and now we can get to the heart — literally and figuratively — of these questions we want to answer, “ says Rana.

Rana also believes that best practices have not been established yet, because the concept of using emotional data is so new. As a result, it will be today’s marketers who lay the foundation.

The more marketers who consider what those emotionally driven questions are, the closer the technology can get to defining them. There’s also no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Every successful brand will have to define what emotions matter most to them, and how those emotions will affect business outcomes.

Take small steps now to get your organization ready to capture emotional data, then lay out a framework to deliver based on customers’ experience expectations. Prepare to embark on a new journey of emotional data collection and you’ll be sure to win the hearts and minds of your customers.

“Emotional data is the last frontier of human data. It’s the most personal and most direct. I believe this is going to be as impactful as Google indexing the web,” says Rana.

Learn more about creating an emotional data campaign and the impact that it can have on your brand, and read more about the future of immersive experiences in our Beyond the Screen collection.