We chat to Oscar Cerezales, Chief Strategy Officer at MCI, about the role of emotional data in the events industry, the challenges of collecting and interpreting this data, as well as the many benefits of using it to measure the ROI of events.
It's every marketer's dream to have an open window into how a customer feels when they interact with a product or service the marketer is promoting. And while marketing strategists can gain deep insight into consumer demographics and online behaviours, customer emotions remain the only component of purchasing decisions that is difficult to measure.
Emotional data, also known as “customer sentiment data”, allows brands to get a better idea of their customer data and gain actionable insights.
Is it possible to collect such information? As is often the case, technology comes to our aid. Thanks to facial recognition, haptic touch and wearable devices, biofeedback data can be collected to analyse and interpret the emotions of consumers at a given moment. (The term “haptic” designates the science of touch, by analogy with acoustics – hearing, and optics – sight.)
For marketers, it's a great opportunity to tap into customers' emotional state across different touchpoints, when they make a purchase or interact with a brand online, in person or on social media.
We asked Oscar Cerezales about measuring emotions and the importance of this data in the engagement marketing industry.
Emotional data and events: why the hype?
One of the biggest challenges for event strategists is measuring the return on experience and understanding how attendees feel and interact with the different components of a live event, be it a session, an activation, a networking moment , etc. Emotional data can be an effective way to overcome this obstacle, but it is not easy to decipher.
Traditionally, companies have been concerned with collecting numerical data about their customers. Now, many marketers are advocating for a better understanding of the emotional context around that data. What do you think the added value could be?
Cerezales: The ultimate goal of salespeople is lead generation and ultimately sales. What is happening now is a hyper fragmentation of omnichannel spending sellers. In the old days, salespeople could spend on television, radio, print, maybe a trade show. Now, there are over 150 different channels to choose from.
Emotional data is great for taking a sniper focus on each channel and collecting often hard-to-measure sentiment and engagement data. But you can't successfully capture that data and gain insights into performance unless organisations consider the data collected at different touchpoints in their entirety across channels and have a robust technology infrastructure to help.
Collecting emotional data at events: why and how should it be done?
Cerezales: If you think about why the events take place. Typically, there is an organisation that needs to activate its community around a product or service. Especially on the corporate side, we are seeing a lot of behavioural changes. Brands want to see how an event impacts a participant, whether they were inspired, influenced in their purchasing decisions, or experienced a sense of community. In this sense, events are popular because they offer a positive ROI. The problem is that this ROI is difficult to track.
This is also true, especially for emotional data. To track emotional data at events, you need touchpoints and data points with the audience. You need data analysts, facial recognition cameras all over the place, artificial intelligence software to process the information, basically an entire infrastructure. I know of events that have successfully implemented facial recognition, but it is still in its infancy. Not to mention the privacy issue that could arise... as an industry, we're not there yet.
What is the main problem when it comes to measuring the ROI of an event?
Cerezales: There are many moving parts to an event, and brand marketing is highly fragmented. Brands invest in events, but also in social networks, advertising, etc. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why a consumer decides to buy. You know that events were important in the marketing mix, but you don't know if they were 20% or 50% important. That's also why the possibility in the future of optimising the tracking and measurement of attendee satisfaction and engagement through real-time emotional data is definitely one to keep an eye on.
What is the role of technology in collecting and interpreting emotional data?
Cerezales: It is essential, of course. Advanced technology like AI, machine learning and facial recognition are needed to create a customer-centric marketing strategy and deliver world-class customer experiences. However, it's not just about the technology itself. You need the right professionals, who know the right questions to ask, who know the right time to capture that data based, not only on how the technology works but also on their knowledge of human behaviours.
What are the essential qualities that a team must have to achieve that?
Cerezales: You need data scientists, analysts and a whole set of people who are on the rational and technical side of the strategy. But you also need the human side, those who can interpret the data to help brands extract meaningful, actionable insights. I'm talking about anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists. Both are required to reach a complete final solution.
John Mellor, vice president of strategy and marketing at Adobe, stated that "emotion is the currency of experience and is an absolute necessity when creating great experiences." Do you agree?
Cerezales: If you want to create a lasting impact on participants – so that they feel connected to the brand and keep coming back to that experience – emotions are a powerful and important component. It is very clear that click rates or traffic are becoming less and less significant compared to what marketers want to achieve and the possibilities that technology gives us. Emotions are one of the metrics of the future.
Watch Oscar and other MCI thought leaders discuss AI as a tool for enhancing marketing and customer engagement.