In today’s ultra-connected consumer landscape, building a business goes beyond simply selling a product. It’s no secret that many consumers now seek to build relationships with brands and serve as important conduits for new business by referring friends and family. According to a study by Motista, consumers that have an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value to that brand, purchasing from them for an average of 5.1 years over the average purchasing lifetime of 3.4 years, and will recommend the brand they have the feels for 71% of the time, over the average recommendation rate of 45%.

But knowing that emotionally-engaged consumers are a net positive for business and building a plan that effectively emotionally engages them are two very different things. How does a brand create and nurture that all-important emotional connection with a consumer base?

Think of your brand as a person

Think about a person in your life that you admire and respect. What qualities do they have? Chances are, this person is reliable, has strong values and makes efforts to adhere to them, treats others well, admits when they make mistakes and tries to make amends when possible. All of these qualities make for good people, and they also make for good brands.

Today’s consumers look for brands that align with their own values, and brands that know this and act accordingly are the ones that ultimately take a customer from a one-time shopper to a lifelong convert. According to Sprout Social, two-thirds of consumers think it’s important for brands to take a public stance on social issues. Consider how your brand operates publicly as its personality. The better the personality, the more popular the brand and the higher the levels of customer engagement.

Share your origin story and company vision

When first forging a relationship with a new friend or acquaintance, one of the first things that people do is share information about themselves, helping to establish a base for the friendship by giving context to themselves and what has made them into the person they are today. Things like hometown, school experiences, and travel experiences are more than just polite small talk — what you choose to share with your new acquaintance helps paint a picture of who you are and why they should like you. These topics are social signifiers, and also can give a sense of your values and personal choices. People will choose whether or not to further pursue a relationship of any kind with a person depending on what they learn from them in the initial stages of the relationship.

Brands are no different. People connect with narratives and stories as these aid both in memory and in understanding and context. A brand’s origin story can be a powerful emotional driver that helps people engage emotionally with your brand. Merkle and Levo report that 47% of millennial women know their favorite brand’s origin story, 41% know who founded the brand, and 40% follow the founder or someone affiliated with the brand on social media. Consider the origin story of legendary companies such as Apple, and how they underscore certain values that the company holds. What values does your brand origin story highlight?

Having a distinct company vision and a set of ethical guidelines or a powerful motto will also serve you well when establishing a real emotional connection with consumers. In today’s environment, when people are feeling like they have less control over the systemic and political elements that govern their lives, taking back some semblance of control by putting their dollars into a company that reflects what they themselves believe is a powerful motivator.

Treat your employees well

Today’s world is hyper-connected, and you should assume at least some of your employees discuss their work lives online. Brands that treat their employees dishonorably by underpaying or overworking them, or engaging in other kinds of toxic behavior, can expect these experiences to be reflected online. And this can have a potentially detrimental effect on brand loyalty, and ultimately sales.

People today care about how companies treat the people that work for them. A study from Morning Consult concluded that 70% of millennials would buy less from a brand they are loyal to if they found out the brand doesn’t pay employees well, while 69% would buy less if they learned the brand relies on unethical labor practices. In order to build brand loyalty with a consumer base, treating employees fairly is key.

Be open and transparent

Running a successful company means hitting some bumps and snags along the way. Just as no person is perfect, neither is any company. Consumers understand this.

While it may be instinctual to be tight-lipped about company processes, supply chains, and mishaps, it can pay to be open and honest instead. According to Sprout Social, when brands develop a history of transparency, about 90% of consumers said they are more willing to give brands a second chance after a bad experience, and 85% say they will stick with brands during a crisis when they are more transparent overall. Being upfront with consumers may feel risky, but this vulnerability can build increased loyalty when handled the right way.

Building brand loyalty is a process that takes time, but also intention. It’s not something that just happens. Especially in today’s business environment, when information is just a few clicks away, a brand’s actions matter more than ever. By consciously creating a company with solid values, is open, transparent, and treats its employees and business partners fairly, it’s possible to build feelings of emotional connection and loyalty that will both bolster the bottom line and create a company to be proud of.

Cover image source: Fachry Zella Devandra