Let’s face it; using the term “customer experience” can be like opening up a can of worms in retail. For some, it’s simple – for others, it’s incredibly complicated. Since psychology is all about understanding how people behave, feel and think, it’s a great place to turn when delivering the best experience for our beloved customers.


  1. Follow Your Compass in Archetypes 

Throughout history, the same types of characters have consistently shown up in myths, in art and even blockbuster movies. Like a secret compass, these familiar characters give us a shared meaning and understanding of each other.

So, when it comes to the mystery of customer experience and how we can ‘up our game’, let the secret ‘compass’ of characters or archetypes guide your way.

According to psychologist Carl Jung (1947), 12 archetypes or character’s have served as a compass to understand human behaviour and are imprinted psychologically in each of us.

When someone presents as “The Hero” (one of the 12-archetypes) in a movie like Wonder Woman, for instance, we understand her character and what she represents. Because of our inbuilt compass, we expect her to behave in a certain way and can typically anticipate her intentions in overcoming evil to prevail.

You see, each of us craves a connection with people – not products or services – so when your brand adopts a clear and consistent archetype, it becomes familiar, more human-like and trustworthy. In short, we recognise it, and it makes sense to us.

While brands like; Nike (Hero), Apple (Creator) and Disney (Innocent), have used archetypes for some time now in branding, translation into customer experience has been slow and lagging. This lagging has led to customer disappointment in our retail experiences for customers.

Think about a time when you’re the customer. I’m sure you’ve struggled through confusing experiences from a beloved brand. We know the experience isn’t quite right, but we’re not sure why it was disappointing? Typically, this is due to incongruence with your beloved brands’ archetype.

Here’s what I mean, let’s say a retail brand is “The Hero” archetype. Our internal compass picks up the visual signs in the store and previous advertising we’ve seen – innately we realise they are the Hero, even if we are unaware of the title.

As an example, if we walked into their store while they were running an experience or campaign that is more suited to a “Caregiver” (another archetype, known for caring, gentle and selfless behaviour) archetype, we might think – “hmmm, that’s so lovely.” While, you may FEEL like it’s a warm and fuzzy campaign, inside your confused. It doesn’t add to their experience – it’s not negative either – but it’s certainly not congruent with their Hero persona.

Next, imagine if that same ‘Hero’ retailer ran an experience or in-store event that brought-out the Hero inside their customers. While they may not be aware that this is the precise attribute they like, trust and associate with the brand. Now, they’ve experienced the Hero feeling first hand.

This personal transformation and bespoke experience will not only have significance to the customer but also to the retail brand it has now brought to life. The truth is, when the experience matches our inbuilt Hero compass, it drives home value, trust and ultimately loyalty and sales.

Having a deep understanding of not only your archetype but also how they would act is a great way to dispel the mysteries of customer experience. Learn your archetype as well as what experiences are best suited to your unique brand.

2. Value emotion over function in experience

Since every experience involves your customer to sense, recall and perceive what they’ve just participated in, then understanding why they feel that way through psychology is also critical.

In my experience (creating over 300+ psychology-driven experiences), events that produce a more profound emotional response get the best positive feedback from customers.

When our clients perform Voice of the Customer research and ask customers to prioritise functional and emotional expectations, the functional expectations always come out on top. No surprise there really, as we expect as a bare minimum for products and services to function.

However, does this mean that retailers should prioritise functional experiences over emotional – my data says no. Most firms assume value comes as an additional function when it comes to customer journey mapping. While new “functions” along the journey are sometimes necessary, don’t displace the importance of mood, memory and emotions on the customer journey.

We remember emotionally charged events better than functional additions. Also, they form closer bonds with our customers and can be more cost-effective than developing new apps, digital displays and other functional technologies that can sometimes be forgotten 48hrs after the launch.

“Emotionally charged events are remembered better” — The role of emotion in memory by Pr. McPherson

Why? One cause is that customers who have a strong emotional connection with a brand have 25% to 100% more value, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review. So, prioritising positive emotional connections delivers financial rewards.

3. Prioritise Community and Human Connection

We were facing an isolation dilemma well before COVID19 hit. In 2018, my book The Retail Experiment, devoted a whole chapter to how this trend towards isolation was already impacting how we shop and buy and why stores needed to adapt to meet this new trend.

We’re hard-wired for connection, our need to belong and connect is rooted in our very survival instincts. However, while we are predisposed to connection, we’re awkwardly finding ourselves surviving alone.

So when delivering experiences to make our customers lives easier (think apps for colour matching foundation, augmented reality, etc.) its great to leverage technology as a tool for delivery. However, ensure you’re using it as a tool and not expecting it to be a connected or emotional experience. People today, even more so since COVID19 are craving connection with other people and communities.

Daring retail brands are innovating customer experience by building healthy customer communities that facilitate not only engagement by the brand but also between the customers themselves. Utilising customer communities to grow and deepen relationships can foster belonging, emotions, and inform new and innovative future experiences too.

While humankind loves to specialise and break everything down to its finite niches and details, retail has always been straightforward when it comes to impressing a customer. Connect with them, show them you are listening and that you care.

In summary, by utilising your archetype to inform your experiences. Prioritising emotions over new gimmicky functions and listening to customers through engaging communities, we can simplify and create customer experiences that your customers will love.