Consumers Value Personal Touch In Less Commoditized Industries

85% of consumers say it is important or very important to them to do business with a company for which they have strong emotions, per survey results [download page] released in November 2012 by rbb Public Relations. But that connection is more important in some industries than others, and appears to matter more in industries where products are more complex and less of a commoditized.

For example, 76% of respondents say that an emotional connection is important from healthcare providers, with that connection built upon personal and proactive communications from the provider. Banking (63%) was next, followed by professional services (62%). A high proportion also value emotional connections when it comes to travel (56%), insurance (55%), auto (52%), technology (44%) and food (also 44%).

Consumers require less of an emotional connection from providers of apparel (18%) and beauty (19%) products. This suggests that whatever emotional connection they have with brands in this category is self-driven, and that differentiators for brands in these areas are more price- or value-driven.

Fully 83% of respondents said they would pay more for a product or service from a company they feel puts them first, and almost 20% claim they would pay a 50% premium or more for such a product or service.

Apple Leads Among “Breakout Brands”

Of the companies that have the best relationships with customers based on communication, products and services, Apple takes the #1 spot among these “Breakout Brands” (as the researchers call them). Amazon.com follows, ahead of Walmart, Costco, Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, Toyota, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Ford. Nordstrom is new to this once-yearly roster, while Apple took the #1 spot in 2011 as well. Apple’s #1 ranking compared to makers of less costly laptops, smartphones and music players suggests that consumers are indeed willing to pay premiums to companies they feel put them first.

While Walmart is #3 on the list, frequent Walmart shoppers are less inclined to say that strong positive emotions about a business are very important (33%) than are those who never shop at Walmart (46%). This suggests that what makes Walmart a Breakout Brand is knowing its customers’ values, which in this case is likely low prices.

Interestingly, far higher percentages of respondents from the South and Central US (64% and 61% respectively) said that personal interest from a brand was important to them than respondents from the Northeast and West Coast (each at 49%).

Other Findings:

  • Millennials (aged 18-24) were the most likely age group to say that emotional connections with brands matter to them.
  • Although no B2B companies made the top 10 list of Breakout Brands, certain insurers and banks did score well with consumers.

About The Data: The rbb data is based on an online survey of more than 2,000 US adults, conducted August 2012. Commissioned by rbb Public Relations, the survey was conducted by IBOPE Inteligência.