How Emojis, GIFs, and Other Visuals Can Boost the Customer Experience

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Since Apple released the official emoji keyboard in 2011, communicating using such visuals has become increasingly important in both personal life and business as a way to express emotions and gauge tone in a clear manner. In fact, since 2015 there has been a 50 percent year-over-year increase in emoji use when talking about companies on Twitter alone. Companies like Domino’s are even using emojis to create a faster path to purchase for customers, allowing them to buy a pizza with a simple pizza emoji. 

So why are visuals such as emojis, GIFs, and memes creating an emotional relationship that resonates so well with consumers? And how can companies best implement a strategy for emojis and additional visuals into their external communications and customer experience (CX) programs?  

Emojis Are Resonating with Consumer Emotions

As we've seen through the past two decades, technology has completely changed the way that people interact and communicate, and this extends to how consumers engage with companies. However, parts of this technology can also make it difficult to fully understand the emotion behind language—for example, one can't always be sure if the tone of a text message, instant message, or an email is meant how they perceive it. For companies, this has made customer service more difficult, as the tone of the consumer is not always readable. However, emojis, GIFs, memes, and other visual aids have created a new language that provides a clearer messaging when consumers engage with companies.

Emojis and similar visuals are a more impactful way to show emotion and sentiment. They create a new universal standardized language that both customers and companies can easily interpret. This translatable message can be used for various areas of CX, including customer service and customer feedback, decreasing the likelihood that the message will be misconstrued. If a customer shares a sad face or a happy face, there's little room for error in interpretation. Additionally, given emojis are a consumer-friendly communication tactic that most people use in their daily lives, it creates an easy transition into communication with companies.

Tactics for Implementing Visual Feedback 

The most critical starting point with implementing visual feedback in your companies' CX strategy is to understand your audience. While this might seem like an obvious step, as it aligns with the priority of most other marketing tactics, the importance cannot be overstated. Understanding which messages will resonate with your target audience is crucial to a successful visual CX strategy. If your audience is females between 24 and 35, your strategy will obviously be quite a bit different than if your audience is males between 45 and 55.

Breaking down your audience by digital platform is equally important to refining your strategy. While Instagram might be the best social channel to attract the Gen Z audience, Gen Xers might be more likely to engage with the company on Facebook; therefore, your Facebook and Instagram strategies should not look the same.

After you've defined your target audience, segmenting the strategy by channel, you can improve your visual strategy by creating a clear correlation between your name or mission and an emoji or visual. Pushing a symbol that represents a brand (for example, a doughnut for Dunkin' Donuts or a pizza for Domino's) creates a direct and immediate connection between the symbol and the brand. This will also typically create a more positive association with the company. Companies also have the opportunity to be more creative by designing their own visuals or emojis for customers, as Dunkin' Donuts did during World Emoji Day this year. Another example of creativity is when Taco Bell used its Twitter account to petition both iOS and Android to create a taco emoji, which led to more than 33,000 online petition signatures and, ultimately, a taco emoji on every mobile device running iOS or Android.

Every company's CX strategy has strengths and weaknesses, and for visual feedback to be successful, it's important for companies to understand where their weaknesses lie  to implement emojis or other visual aids in the most impactful way possible.

The Importance of Data in Interpreting Emojis and Visual Feedback

One of the biggest benefits of adding emojis to your CX strategy is that it increases the company's dataset, enabling you to form a more accurate data strategy. This is particularly true when the strategy includes a text-graphic combination. Text-graphic data is very much like multi-sense data combinations—like seeing a photo (sight) of a lion, but also hearing the lion's roar. Duo-sense combinations can elevate the dataset to provide a new dimension of meaning, which is extremely important in marketing personalization. However, analyzing emojis is a specific science, as the same emoji used in different contexts could have different meanings. For example, an eye emoji can be used to represent seeing/watching, eye, or the letter I. For a data strategy that includes emojis to truly beneficial, you must be able to interpret the correct context to gain real insights from the outcome. When companies implement their strategies well, it allows them to better identify where improvements are needed in their customer experience and where they might need more data.

More companies should consider feedback through emojis and other visual aids to improve their customer  experience. By more easily identifying emotions, creating a top-notch visual strategy, and correctly interpreting the visual data, companies can set themselves apart in customer experience, gaining customer loyalty and shaping their perception for future customers.

James Lee is the head of digital strategy at Sitel Group, where he oversees all management responsibilities and new business development initiatives; focuses on organization building and leadership development; and executes Sitel Group’s digital strategy for the Americas. Lee has 20 years of experience in executive consulting and operations leadership in the contact center industry. Prior to his role at Sitel Group, Lee consulted for Oracle, served as senior vice president at Blackstone and served as a director at Cognizant.

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