Customer loyalty over a decade later

The story of how becoming a new parent reminded me how powerful UX can be


  • There’s so many bags you need for a newborn
  • 54% of shoppers “would stop using a brand after just one bad experience.”
  • Evoke emotions and improve UX through emotional design


Customer loyalty over a decade later

My wife and I are expecting our first child soon and we’re finally starting to feel like we’re prepared. We have more wipes than you can count, a bunch of little gadgets that I still need to learn, the nursery is coming along, and we have a name picked out: ……… …..

Ope. Consider that redacted. Our family doesn’t even know the name yet, do you really think I’m telling you?

What does this have to do with UX and customer loyalty, you ask? It’s a journey, we’ll get there.

One thing has become clear since we began down this path into parenthood: we will never need to buy another bag in our lifetimes. We are now proud owners of a hospital bag and a diaper bag, we have a bag for the stroller and one for the car. One for this and one for that.


illustration of bird flying

What’s wrong with this one?

I didn’t understand at first. After all, I’ve been using the same North Face backpack since sophomore year of college. I’ve used it for everything. It’s carried textbooks, clothes, food, the occasional case of beer, you name it. I used it on my wedding day, for overnight hospital stays, road trips, hiking national parks. It’s done everything I ever needed it to and I still use it more than a decade later.

What does this have to do with UX and customer loyalty?

I couldn’t help but be reminded of my trusty backpack during this baby frenzy and it got me thinking: why am I advocating for it so badly?

This was the first North Face product I ever purchased and it wasn’t practical.

  • Same size as every other backpack on the shelf
  • No fancy features or gadgets
  • Wasn’t flashy – it’s all black
  • More expensive than others ($90+ at the time, to be exact)


The brand got me in the door but the experience made me a lifer.

Despite everything I’ve put this backpack through, it still functions at 100%. Every zipper is still intact, no rips or tears, not a single phone call to customer service. It’s simple, efficient, and does what I need it to.

Aaron Walter helped establish the UX and design practice at Mailchimp and in his book, Designing for Emotion, he makes the case that user expectations for a product can be summarized into four elements: how functional, reliable, usable and pleasurable a product is.

This backpack checks all the marks:

  • Functionality: It still works like the day I got it and does everything I need it to. My wife didn’t believe me, but I think it could handle all the baby duties just fine, too.
  • Reliability: Its nickname is Mr. Reliable. Some of the best $90 I’ve ever spent.
  • Usability: Easy peasy.
  • Pleasurability: Nothing special initially, but it definitely evokes an emotional response from me today.

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy for being so emotionally attached to a stupid backpack, and basically anthropomorphizing it, but this is a normal phenomenon. Can you name a product that has captured you emotionally in this way, outside of family heirlooms?

I was converted into a lifetime customer all because of one great experience.


That’s the power of UX.


Image if it were the opposite. One bad experience, especially if its the fist, and you might lose that customer for ever. According to a study from Propel Software, 54% of shoppers “would stop using a brand after just one bad experience.”

You only get one first impression, so get it right the first time. If your product stumbles out of the gate and the UX is just “good enough”, you’ve missed a golden opportunity. One way to take your user experience to the next level is through emotional design.


Emotional Design

This phenomenon is not exclusive to physical products. My story is mirrored everyday by customers in the digital space, too. Emotional design is the concept of how to create designs that evoke emotions which result in positive user experiences.

You can do this too. Start by making sure you have a solid foundation to build from.

1. Ensure your design is rock solid. Leverage a design system to make sure your design is functional, consistent, and can be quickly recognized by your customers across all platforms. This includes components, interactions, color, typography, imagery, and much more.

2. Research is your best friend. Before you can start applying emotional design, you need a deep understanding of your users. How are you going to evoke emotions and make sound decisions if you can’t see the whole picture?

3. Build trust and credibility. Take your product to the next level by creating standout moments. Surprise and delight them, make the journey seamless and intuitive. Design for them. Think back to Aaron Walter’s four elements mentioned above: how functional, reliable, usable and pleasurable is your product?

Now you can start looking at even more ways to bring in emotional design. Maybe it’s in the form of a microgesture to make a connection. Or some witty microcopy that feels relatable. Personalize the experience, make a bad situation better (errors & 404 pages)–these are just a few examples. We’re experimenting with custom emojis for a client right now to achieve something similar.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go impress your customers so much that ten years from now they all write an article about their amazing experience with you. You got this.


What’s next?

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Eric Trimble