Consumer confidence is a critical to the economy. For the past five years, consumer confidence hasn’t exactly been at an all-time high. But according to Nielsen’s Global Survey of Consumer Confidence, we may be slowly bouncing back from the last financial crisis. This could mean great things for everyone in 2014.
According to the survey results, the US and Western Europe are up 8 points to an index of 98 from this same time last year. This represents the highest score in the US for the past six years and was the biggest increase against the previous quarter for Europe since January 2010. While the global consumer confidence numbers were flat when compared with Q2 2013, these increases definitely show that the consumer is starting to believe again… at least in the US and Western Europe.
Why We Trust Intangible Things
This is a season where the word “Believe” is bandied about with a certain amount mystical and emotional manipulation. Whether it’s your religious affiliation, or your belief in a magical chap that will bring you gifts down a chimney to reward your good behavior, we are all asked to believe in something that is intangible and impossible to prove. But despite these qualities and facts, we still believe completely irrationally and emotionally in a concept. This is one of the nice things about humans being irrational.
Just take this clip from the popular Rankin Bass stop animation classic, “I Believe in Santa Claus” that plays on our emotions about why we believe in Santa Claus:
The truth is that most decisions we make are at least 50% based on emotion. At Beyond Philosophy, we believe that humans have a combination of rational cues and irrational cues that are based on the subconscious and emotional reactions that make up the reasons for their behavior. This concept translates into all our choices, including the ones that define which organizations we trust. In this case, it looks like consumers in the US and Europe are starting to trust the economy again.
My colleague and author Michael Lowenstein recently posted an article on our blog titled, “Is Trust Really an Emotion?” His conclusion is that trust is not an emotion but instead a feeder of emotion. He goes on to explain that lack of confidence or confidence in an idea is driven by other emotions. For example, lack of confidence is driven by insecurity and confidence is driven by feelings of safety and acceptance. His conclusion is that when organizations are optimizing relationships with consumers, that focusing on creating confidence in them by presenting a positive image and reputation in our branding will promote safety and acceptance while downplaying feelings of insecurity.
How You Can Use Consumer Confidence to Make Them Believe
Consumer confidence has been low for the past five years and that has definitely played out in their spending habits, although likely at a subconscious level. A consumer may have still had an emotional reason for wanting to buy something, and maybe even a rational reason why they should, but decided against it instead. Why? Subconsciously they knew that they should hold on to their money instead of letting it go because the economy was set to take a nose dive at any second. Who wants a new Plasma TV when you don’t have money to turn on the electricity next month to watch it because you got downsized?
Even today in spite of the uptick in consumer confidence, consumers are still more conditioned to save money and pay down their debt than to spend on discretionary items. According to Nielsen, while optimism is returning, saving and debt elimination are still the consumer’s priority this past quarter. So what is a retailer to do to pry open those wallets?
The answer is simple: make them believe. We know that believing requires emotional engagement, based on the whole Santa concept. It stands to reason that you must be sure that your experience has a positive emotional component to it since over 50% of a customer’s experience is about how they feel. When your customers feel that positive emotion connected to your business, you will create an emotional signature, which is part of your emotional brand image.
Make sure that your organization is clear on what your emotional brand image is. Usually we try to have our clients narrow this down into one word and then focus on how to make the word translate into the customer experience. For example, if your organization’s word is trust-worthy, make sure that your customer experience instills a lot of confidence in your ability to meet customers’ expectations (i.e. if you say you’ll do something by a date, it is done by that date, and so on). My third book, “DNA of Customer Experience: How Emotions Drive Value” covers this topic in much more detail. By engaging your customers’ emotions, you can create a belief that it is time to spend again.
As we approach a new year, perhaps it is time to use your brand messaging to communicate stability and inclusiveness, playing on Lowenstein’s theory that trust is a feeder of emotion. The truth is that most of us want the economy to work, to thrive, and to return to pre-recession levels. It was a happier time, for consumers and retailers alike. The survey shows that we are trending that way anyway. So play into that and help the consumer believe that it is true and that your product or service is one they can trust.
Who do you think does a good job of building this emotional relationship with their customers to make them believe? Who needs some work on it? I’d be interested to hear your comments below.
|Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world. He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX