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If there’s one thing marketers can’t measure with any statistics package, it’s emotion. Often the web teaches us that online businesses should concentrate on conversions, shaping and twisting our web pages until they provide the fastest experience possible through task orientated goals.
I subscribe to that philosophy, it makes complete sense to maximise the traffic that you do receive through testing versions of a site design to improve the conversion rate.
However one important value we often miss when examining business metrics is emotion.
You can’t see it, you can’t test for it, but its holy grail for brands. If you can evoke a positive emotional connection from your visitors, you win. Both repeat visitors and word of mouth marketing explode if you can create something that people respect.
It should be every business goal to become something that people would miss if it wasn’t there.
Apple is the archetypal emotional brand, they aren’t just intimate with their customers but are truly loved. If you want to study the power of brands, you’d could do worse than examining Apple. One of their greatest strengths has always been their brand values.
They committed to always doing great work, and built products they were proud of. They build a community around their products with passion. They have always been a people company, with their products always having a human focus and element to them, despite being of a technical nature.
I find it interesting to watch Google in their move towards a more social experience. Traditionally Google have been a company built around the core value of data first, and visual design second. Former head designer at Google Doug Bowman commented on his time there when he left for Twitter a few years back.
“When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.”
Things have changed however. There has been a rapid change in philosophy at Google to roll out changes that we’ve seen in the past few months across the board.
They have also made moves towards getting up close and personal with their users. Matt Cutts frequently does Webmaster Videos on YouTube following questions from the crowd. There are also frequent Webmaster chats and Google+ hangouts to discuss the product now inside the Google+ platform.
The people element and garnering user feedback has now become part of their inner workings.
The move isn’t just about presenting itself to the world more professionally either. They too have realised that to truly become a brand that people feel comfortable socialising around, they need to present a united front, an emotional connection across all Google properties, and a consistent experience so the social element can be introduced.
Andy Hertzfeld was the man tasked with bringing that new design and ethos forward. Hertzfeld joined Apple in 1979 and was instrumental in the design of the Macintosh’s graphical user interface. After leaving in 1984, he co-founded several companies and founded Mac history website folklore.org, before starting work at Google in 2005. A conscious decision by Google to infect their apps with the Apple ethos and emotional values? Perhaps.
Consistency in presentation is an important component of building trust, familiarity, comfort and retention with your audience, and Google are well aware of it.
Sometimes, with data though – it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.
You need both hard and soft metrics
There are plenty of situations I’ve encountered where over optimisation of the amount of copy on a page has increased the conversion rate on a site but declared it void of voice and emotion. Or situations where the removal of images has sped up the page, negatively impacting the aesthetics, yet resulted in a faster goal completion.
What impact has that had on the brand, and indeed repeat custom?
How much identity will you erode if you solely rely on statistics to drive decisions?
In most case, the solution is to take a step back, examining the bigger picture, and involve customers in your testing to truly understand when to make a particular decision. Asking them what is driving them to action, and keeping them returning can be invaluable in understanding the full conversion path.
Just as Google are now embracing user feedback and communication in their understanding of their audience , its time we all started talking to our customers.
To truly understand your visitors, you have to combine both qualitative and quantitive techniques to reach the middle ground, and to make the right decision for both your brand and visitors.