There are many reasons for an emotional bond with a product. But one stands out in particular: the desire to design, personalize, individualize something or - in other words - the desire to own something unique and feel unique as a result. Product configurators are excellent tools for establishing a lasting connection with customers on an emotional level.
The study ““Emotional bonding with personalised products” examines the importance of emotional effects in connection with the efforts made to personalise a product's appearance. Dutch students who all owned a bicycle were interviewed. Some had individualized their bikes, painted them conspicuously, provided them with a pattern, bright colors or a name. The reason: a bicycle that stands out visually on a campus full of bicycles is easier to locate and it is less likely to be stolen. And very important: a unique bike underlines your own personality.
In fact, the customized bicycles had a higher emotional value for their owners. Furthermore the study showed that more effortful product personalisation results in stronger emotional bonds.
The question for many companies at this point is: Why is this important for my business?
What about uniqueness?
The dynamics of a free, global market, technological progress and digitization brings a huge selection of equivalent, standardized, interchangeable products. Often these products cannot even be differentiated by price. Therefore it is obvious for customers to look for other indications and values for their purchase decisions. And this is when the emotional dimension of product customization described above comes into play. Because companies as well are constantly looking for new ways to emotionally involve, bind and make customers loyal.
It is important to understand that for companies loyal and emotionally bound customers cause fewer costs in maintaining relationships. They are not as sensitive to price fluctuations, buy more and more often, and are better brand ambassadors. Even small improvements in customer loyalty have a massive impact on a company's total revenue. And that's why customer satisfaction is essential for every company.
Emotions and Mass Customization: product configurators are excellent customer loyalty tools
Thanks to powerful product configurators as highly efficient customer touchpoints, the range of customizable products has increased massively in recent years. This trend affects both B2C and B2B markets. Customers want to buy products that satisfy their striving for uniqueness or that correspond to their ideas in terms of “function, fit and form” (or in the B2B context, a company's specifications). Product configurators enable exactly that. They are the interface between product and buyer. If the customization process is implemented in a user-friendly and professional manner, it offers enormous potential to affect the user emotionally.
How does customization influence our emotions?
"I did it myself, it's mine and it's great!"
The possibility of influencing the shape, appearance and texture of an object creates an emotional bond due to an unconsciously experienced ownership claim. This phenomenon is known as the endowment effect:
- If I can influence the end result of a product, it gives me the feeling that it belongs to "me" even without legal ownership.
- I am in control of the final look of a product and that strengthens my ownership.
- The interaction with the product during my customization the realistic visualization of the product give me the illusion of being able to touch it. This signals to my brain how nice it would be if the product actually was “mine”.
- The very feeling that something belongs to me increases my appreciation for this product.
So customers customize a product and unconsciously develop feelings of ownership, which lead to the fact that they ultimately buy the product even if they did not initially intend to. The key point: it all happens unconsciously on an emotional level. The customers do not have any negative "regret" feelings - on the contrary, a positive emotional relationship is created with the product.
"I'm in the flow, I'm having fun, I want more!"
Another psychological effect is triggered by the creative process during configuration: to express yourself, to accomplish something, to find a solution to a task, conveys fun, joy, pride and satisfaction.
Science describes this state as a flow experience: A flow describes the feeling of happiness, experienced as a mental state of complete immersion (concentration) and complete absorption in an activity that happens by itself.
This definition makes you probably think of an addiction problem and in fact there are similarities. The state of a flow also happens intrinsically, i.e. from the inside and is conditioned by incentives lying in the task that you actually have to cope with. In order to trigger a flow experience the task you have to accomplish must roughly correspond to your capabilities. If the challenge is too great it can quickly lead to frustration, if it is too low you can feel bored.
In this context pride also plays a role: Mastering a system and designing the best or most suitable product can create a positive feeling. The success (a product is fully customized and fits perfectly) in turn leads to deeper satisfaction.
Warning: fun is not the same for everybody
There is no question about the fact that configurators trigger emotions. However, they are influenced by the usability and quality of the configurator as the interaction platform. When implementing configurator projects, companies often tend to offer a too big range of customization variables. The problem: a high number of variants does not provoke positive emotions for every user. To find an accurate dimension for the solution space and the number of customization options it helps to look at the Paradox of Choice concept.
Once feelings are involved, you should not generalize. People are different and don't react uniformly. An activity perceived as challenging and that makes fun for one person could be boring or even unconsciously provoke fear to another person.
A detailed analysis of your target group and your buyer personas is therefore absolutely crucial for the positive response to your configurator. In practice it’s a good approach to publish a "light version" of the configurator and gradually implement more customization options. In that way it’s easier to determine their acceptance.
How emotional are B2B customers?
While the general opinion prevails that B2C customers decide emotionally and justify decisions with logic afterwards, it seems to be different for B2B purchasers. The procurement process between companies is complex, characterized by a lot of specifications, dependencies, longer time periods and by teams rather than one single person. Therefore everybody assumes that B2B decision making processes are rationally, based on facts.
But in the end, we are talking about human beings. Even in a business environment, the emotional system is an essential driving force. When we start our day-to-day work, we do not put this system off. Rather, it influences our behaviour in the B2B context as well. In fact the “State of B2B Study 2019” comes to the conclusion that 56% of the final B2B purchase decision is influenced by emotional criteria.