The Missing Ingredient for a Knockout Customer Experience? Emotional Data

How CIOs can deliver the data their business really needs.

Every brand wants to know how its customers feel. But capturing the information that helps you understand your customers’ emotions — and how those emotions affect interactions with your brand — is no easy task.

“Feelings that create lasting memories build affinity and keep us chasing that experience,” says Adobe President and CEO Shantanu Narayen. “These feelings influence the choices we make, the way we spend our money, where we spend our time, and who we give our loyalty to.”

Emotional data, also called customer sentiment data, is as important as customer contact info, click histories, and contextual information.

But successfully capturing emotional data may still be for naught if the technological infrastructure and experience platform your company uses to obtain that data doesn’t break through the silos of information collected at different touchpoints, and puts that information to work creating a customer-centric culture and delivering knockout customer experiences.

This is the struggle many companies still face, according to recent research. Forrester’s U.S. 2018 Customer Experience Index reveals no customer experience leaders among U.S. brands for the third consecutive year.

“If you want to be as effective as possible in presenting meaningful, personalized experiences to consumers,” says Adam Justis, senior manager of product marketing for Adobe Marketing Cloud, “you need to recognize that 1) emotion is at play in every experience, and 2) that you need to find a way to measure and capture that emotional response if you hope for your brand to remain relevant to that consumer. If you haven’t been thinking about it, it’s certainly time to start.”

More than any other role in the C-suite, the CIO is well-positioned to advance how their companies use emotional data to drive their customer experience (CX) strategy. They can take the lead in developing a technology stack that will creatively apply sentiment data to improve customer engagement, propelling their businesses to succeed when it comes to competing on experiences.

Emotion is a valuable metric for customer experience

“It’s very clear that ‘click metrics,’ which were the cutting edge 20 years ago, are becoming a secondary metric,” says Rana June, CEO of Lightwave, a company that specializes in bioanalytics and emotion technology. “Emotions are inevitably the metric that will be used.”

Thanks to technologies like facial recognition, haptic touch, and wearables, companies can capture biofeedback data to understand their customers’ emotions better. There’s a variety of emotional data available across touchpoints — a customer’s reaction to an in-store display, biofeedback from a travel experience, or what they felt when watching a film, for example.

Tools like sentiment analysis, also called “opinion mining,” allow companies to make sense of all their customer data and yield actionable insights. Such tools help brands tap into what their customers felt when they made a purchase or interacted with a brand online, in person, or via social media.

Some brands gathering emotional data include Showtime and Stolichnaya Vodka (haptic ads), Disney (sentiment analysis and facial recognition technology), and Conduent, which uses facial recognition technology to measure shopper satisfaction.

“Emotion is the currency of experience, and is an absolute necessity when creating great experiences,” says John Mellor, vice president of strategy, alliances, and marketing at Adobe.

The technological infrastructure you need to capture emotional data

However, the key to having any kind of data is using technology that bridges the gap between data collected from various channels and bringing them together to produce a complete view of the customer, answer specific business questions about how customers interact with the brand, and inform machine-learning models that improve future campaign execution. Companies can’t make such emotional data actionable if they don’t have a data platform that allows them to gather and bring together all their disparate data sources.

This is where CIOs play a pivotal role. Data is the key to improved customer experience management, but companies need to pinpoint what type of emotional data to capture in addition to employing an analytics platform that can centralize and standardize their data and deploy it across different experience delivery systems.

CIOs can spearhead efforts to establish a technological infrastructure that can take action on different types of data. That infrastructure should allow you to centralize data from all sources — your CRM, ERP, online and offline customer interactions, and more — which makes a unified customer profile possible. It also should empower data scientists to build machine-learning models that can be the basis for more real-time, personalized customer interactions.

At the same time, your tech stack needs to allow your data teams to build their own custom applications, since the reality of today’s experience market is that out-of-the-box solutions often don’t meet every need. And all of this means you need data governance mechanisms that are built in to be privacy-first, allowing your company to improve its experience design while also driving value for customers and compelling them to share their data, instead of restricting its use.

Propelling digital transformation in your organization

In a world where companies want to exercise more ownership of their data, emotional data gives them a valuable new stream of primary data about their customers that they entirely own.

As a CIO, emotional data and other cross-channel data present a significant opportunity for you to address your company’s unique business challenges and improve customer understanding across the enterprise, says Jim Rivera, head of product for the Adobe Experience Platform.

“The big opportunity is moving from a snapshot of data — where you have a somewhat fuzzy view of who this person is — into leveraging behavioral data and understanding what the user is feeling at any given point in time. [In this way,] you know what you can provide to them in terms of an experience, an offer, or personalization that is really relevant for the moment.”

For strategic customer intelligence solutions, learn more about the Adobe Experience Platform and the Open Data Initiative.

Learn more about CIOs as architects of the possible, and how they help you get a holistic view of your customers.