The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.

Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:

Just as social media facilitates succinct, rapid-fire conversations online, individuals who engage with brands on social platforms also experience multiple fleeting emotions. But when they do it right, brands can trigger moments of happiness, delight, amusement, and confidence via social media, and can build a positive brand impression that lasts well beyond the holiday season.

What does this mean for you? While consumers may be driven to share extreme emotional reactions on social channels in the heat of the moment, brands that respond with speed and relevance have the opportunity to change an intense, negative emotional experience into an intense, positive one before undesirable sentiments linger and spread.

Ultimately, retailers that appeal to customer emotions on social channels reap financial benefits. Our previous research has shown that the most sophisticated social media users are also more receptive to brand messages than the average consumer, and are higher spenders.

As the year comes to a close with your own mix of excitement, tension, and nostalgia, be sure to consider your customers’ emotions in every phase of their experience with you — and set the stage for emotionally and financially profitable customer relationships in 2017.

PS. In my next report, I explore how different channels impact customers’ emotional experiences… Stay tuned!