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Gucci Gives Consumers All the Feels, New Research Finds

Gucci’s at the head of the class yet again.

The red-hot Italian luxury label that’s riding a tsunami of millennial-driven popularity nabbed a leading 44 percent emotional connection score in a ranking that’s designed to indicate how strongly U.S. consumers feel about the retailers they shop. The Leveraging Emotional Connection for Retailers report by Motista leans on the San Francisco-based firm’s proprietary scoring mechanism as a predictive key performance indicator to reveal how many of a retailer’s customers achieve an emotional connection with that brand. Motista evaluates both mono-brand and multi-brand retailers, leading to uneven comparisons in many cases.

The purchasing behavior and lifetime value of a shopper can vary widely depending on whether she’s merely “satisfied” with a retailer or “emotionally connected.” According to Motista’s data, apparel shoppers who are deeply connected with a retail brand outspend satisfied customers $675 versus $299, a differential of 2.5x—the highest of any of the verticals scrutinized, including department stores, luxury, homes goods, shoe stores, big-box discounters and office supply outlets.

Luxury retailers secured all of the top three highest emotional connection scores, with the No. 2 spot going to British favorite Burberry at 42 percent, while Neiman Marcus followed closely with 37 percent. That’s not much of surprise, given luxury’s long and established history as a highly emotional purchasing decision. As Psychology Today wrote in a 2016 blog post, “Luxury brand truth is a visceral connection between consumer and brand.

“While this truth arises from a product’s design and features, it is primarily brought about by a deeper understanding of a brand’s essence,” Psychology Today continued. “Truth is expressed in narrative and other communication which breathes life into the brand, evoking perceptions of authenticity and timelessness.”

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Neiman’s position near the top of Motista’s list is compelling, in light of competitor Nordstrom’s comparatively middling score of 26 percent. It’s perhaps a surprising result considering Nordstrom’s legendary customer service.

“As Nordstrom’s service advantage wanes and its competitive challenges intensify, it might want to get more focused on emotional connection to drive customer value,” the report noted.

Further down the list, Amazon’s decidedly mediocre emotional connection score of 18 percent belies the fact that it commands nearly half of all sales that flow through domestic digital commerce.

Equally puzzling, Target’s lowly 17 percent score flies in the face of the myriad memes and YouTube shopping haul videos celebrating its reputation as the store you visit to pick up a pack of toilet paper and mysteriously manage to emerge hours later and hundreds of dollars poorer.

Beyond spending double or more with their favorite retailers versus other merchants, emotionally connected shoppers tend to stick with a brand longer, 5.1 years versus 3.4 years. These brand enthusiasts are more likely (30.2%) to spread the word about a preferred retailer than other customers (7.6%). Retailers would be wise to embrace this elite group of customers, whose lifetime value averages 306 percent higher than non-engaged consumers.

“In addition to higher spending, emotional connection translates into greater share of wallet and longer tenures for retailers,” the report said. “As a result, emotional connection has an outsized impact on customer lifetime value when compared to the satisfied customer metric.”

Motista’s president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.