What Aussie brands are doing to build an emotional connection with customers

We ask three of Australia’s leading consumer marketers to share how they’re bringing personalisation, marketing automation and digital capability together in order to better engage with customers.

  • Anna Samkova, The PAS Group
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According to Forrester, emotion trumps ease and effectiveness when it comes to positive experiences.

Specifically, making customer feel valued, appreciated and confident drives loyalty, the analyst group’s research into customer experience suggests. For example, 88 per cent of respondents to a 2016 survey on the hotel industry that felt valued will advocate for the hotel brand, and more than three-quarters will keep their existing business with that company.

Further, annoyance, disappointment and frustration can weaken that loyalty.

“Companies too often shy away from focusing on the emotional dimension of CX because emotions seem abstract, intangible and irrational,” Forrester’s Megan Burns wrote when the initial research into the impact of the ‘three Es’ across 45,000 global consumers was released in 2015. “What they don’t realise is that emotions are actually quite predictable, they just follow a different set of rules than rational thought.”

So how can marketers and their brand put emotion back into customer experiences? We asked three of Australia’s leading consumer marketers to share how they’re bringing personalisation, marketing automation and digital capability together in order to better engage with customers.

Anna Samkova

Head of digital and loyalty, The PAS Group

To quote Steve Jobs: “You have to get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.” This is what represents an emotional connection from my point of view.

Anna Samkova, The PAS Group
Anna Samkova, The PAS Group


The role of personalised messaging is huge. We no longer send ‘spray and pray’ communication and have moved from top-down conversion to personalised engagement.  We use the Oracle Marketing Cloud platform, Responsys, to deliver highly personalised messages to customers in near real-time. With the help of LiveClicker software, we also took our ability to personalise engagement to the next level and now include a dynamic content into our email communication, allowing us to gets us even closer customers.

Our customers expect us to deliver continuous personal experiences that connect their mobile Web interactions with the brick-and-mortar ones and improve both, fast. We’ve integrated our IT platforms and created a central repository for our customer data which helps us to easily access and understand our data. We use technology such as live chat, Zendesk for customer service, and analytics around Net Promoter Score (NPS) comments, and our help centre, to learn more about our customers and make decisions that help us create great moments for them.

We then often start our team meetings with customer pain points. The customer is at the centre what the business does. Sales and profit are the outcome of this centricity. We use analytics from our Marketing Cloud to create unique user experiences. We do this by working to predict the best offer, product or content for each individual customer based on user profile, browsing activity, or number of interactions with our brand across all channels – automatically through predictive intelligence.

We know exceptional service and relevancy drives brand advocacy and establishes a strong emotional connection with the brand. In the years to come, technology is likely to play an even greater role in the retail environment. However, it is a safe assumption that most customers will continue to prefer being served by humans when buying everything from shoes to their morning cup of coffee.

One of our brands, Review, offers a personalised shopping experience which is very popular, even though customers can view any outfit ideas online and social media. We get a consistent feedback from NPS comments on how exceptional our customer service is.  

As an omni-channel retailer, we want to ensure a seamless customer journey from the online channel to the store by tailoring live offers and promotions. I’d like to get to the point where for example, a customer using our mobile app could receive predictive shopping list or dynamic discounts while in store, in the form of push notification as they pass a particular store section. It would make it hard to resist a timely and relevant offer. With each swipe on a mobile app, chatbot conversation, social media post or webpage click, every customer leaves a data trail that can be captured and used to deliver highly personalised service.

As marketers, it’s our job is to see around corners and think about what’s next.

Mohit Bhargava

GM sales and marketing, Village Cinemas

Our business is within the discretionary subset of the customer, and with several other ways to consume content, emotion and customer experience must underpin our brand and business proposition.


Early last year, and following an extensive brand study, we relaunched our brand position to being ‘where movies mean more’ as this was a proposition that our customers told us we could authentically own. There was clear evidence to suggest a emotive brand positioning was far more compelling in all our testing.

Frankly, we are not always a rational choice but we are a superior choice. We needed to accept and own this both at a customer and operational level. 

Further, this positioning offers multiple dimensions to create meaningful experiences for our guests, whether it be meaningful interaction with film makers for film buffs, all the way through to more intimate experiences for communities at the movies, and richer than home movie experiences for families and couples. 

We work in close collaboration with our customers to enrich this proposition on an ongoing basis via our voice of customer program. This helps us identify key customer pain points and recommendations that have successfully informed initiatives designed to mitigate pain points for guests. These stretch from tackling dwell time in lines through to introducing entirely new products such as dedicated kids cinemas. All are aimed at providing a more meaningful entertainment experience. 

As a customer journey, we have identified 33 touchpoints in a single journey and have been working on understanding which of these are most critical in enhancing the guest experience and delivering on our brands emotional proposition, and the key learning here is that it really does vary for each segment.

For instance, a welcome email prior to guests in our premium gold class theatres to help them make the most of their upcoming experience has shown great success in improving NPS. In the family segment, shortening the pre-show prior to films has had a profound impact. Both initiatives are subliminal proof points to our guests that we understand their needs intimately. 

All this is enabled via the right technology and data sets that power our communication efforts. Pairing the right channel with right messaging with the help of technology can truly deliver an emotionally relevant experience. 

In the end, a true emotional brand position can only be executed effectively if the position is embraced and embodied by all verticals within the business, most especially across front-line teams who interface with our guests. For this, we specifically have developed an internalised iteration of our consumer brand position that is ingested and disseminated organisation wide through staff training and induction collateral and KPIs. 

Vladka Kazda
Chief customer officer, Carsales

Building an emotional connection with our customers starts with one simple, yet critical step: Listening. It lets customers know that they are important. When followed up with action, trust is created and authentic relationships form.

At carsales, we aim to connect the customer experience dots at every opportunity. My team’s remit is to build and leverage our consumer data to improve personalisation capability and CX across all our direct-to-consumer channels.

Carsales chief customer officer, Vladka Kazda
Carsales chief customer officer, Vladka Kazda


Customers share important insights with us every day; be it implicitly through their online behaviour or explicitly through a multitude of feedback channels available to them – it’s all customer data. The challenge is knowing how to apply it for maximum customer impact. Our Voice of Customer function is critical to this. We listen to what our customers are saying (across call reason codes, social media and CSAT/NPS survey, and so on) to interpret trends and opportunities to act on. We then work with the wider business to drive change and monitor impact.

Galvanising action isn’t always easy, however, we’ve found the best way is to humanise the problem. We often leverage customer verbatims and voice grabs to bring our stories to life and prioritise business investment in fixing customer pain points.

The final, important step is taking the time to close the loop with those that took the time to provide feedback. We make the effort to contact detractors, thank advocates and come back to customers (even if it's months later) with a ‘thought you’d like to know we’ve finally fixed that thing’ message. The first time we did this, we were nervous customers would be ambivalent due to the long delay, however, we found customers were so appreciative of not being forgotten.

In November, we take this a leap further, launching our first insights community, the ‘carsales Loop’. This sees us invite our customers to participate in regular activities and conversations that will help shape our products and experience. The community’s first task was to judge this year’s Hackathon ‘Customer Love’ award – after all, who better to judge what customers want than our own customers?  

Read more: How more brands are tackling the emotional heart of customer experience

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

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