Impact of Emoticons on Commerce

Emoticons the essential tool for emotion in commerce

Emojis serve a very particular role in business communication and therefore need to be employed for specific situations where a sense of connection between the communicating parties is required to boost the outcome of an organisation. Emoticons, another word for emojis, are a set of symbols that have begun to replace words in messaging services and are being slowly implemented in written business communication methods. Whilst they were once simply child’s play, a newfound purpose has surfaced and their introduction into the commercial world has seen an increase of success, despite their initial unprofessionalism. They can provide the lacking emotional connection in written business communications, which involve that between internal and external parties for purposes such as marketing and leadership, management and knowledge transfer, in electronic forms of verbal messaging. Hence there is definitive time and place for emoticon use in written business communication.

Before the surge of social media, businesses looked down upon technological communication, leading the workforce to develop face to face communication techniques. Now, emojis have risen to provide a similar experience for communicators of technology, to that of a face to face conversation. Face to face communication allows for display of immediate behaviour, which describes the communication behaviour that psychologically brings the receiver of the message closer to the one who is sending the message (Kelley and Autman 2014, p. 49). This improves or furthers the connection between the two communicating parties, elevating the level of understanding between them and therefore better the communication of messages. This induces a range of positive effects for specific circumstances. In a marketing setting, the increasing understanding between two parties such as that of a brand and a customer develops trust and credibility. No matter the type of marketing, there is a need for trust and credibility to be engendered in the customers, by the brand (Lynch and de Chernatony 2004, p. 408).

As society moves towards a new era of technological advancement, verbal communication becomes more necessary, as companies are resulting in the ability to expand themselves past any physical restrictions, to increase their customer pools. This has also led to the distancing of communicators because of the gradual loss of immediate behaviours such as observable emotions and gestures, causing communication to appear increasingly vague and easily misunderstood. Hence, it is now absolutely crucial for marketing professionals to search for ways to re-establish the lost emotional connection during verbal communication. The use of emoticons open a new window for marketers to portray their ideas with a slightly more accuracy as to when only verbal communication was used. Emojis have now begun to find their way into the lexicon of the technological society (Walther and D’Addario 2001, p. 327). The significance of non-verbal communication is still being studied today, but the pervading idea that verbal communication does not build as strong of a relationship or understanding between the two sides of a conversation. Many researchers have come to conclusions that emoticons have been adopted to make up for the absent nonverbal social cues (Skovholt, Gronning and Kankaanranta, 2014).

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There is an inherent increase in discussion about the relevance of emotion to leadership roles. Walther and D’Addario (2001, p. 324) found that Kiesler, Siegel, and McGuire (1984) observed the “traditional forms of communication, head nods, smiles, eye contact, distance, tone of voice, and other non-verbal behaviour give speakers and listeners information they can use to regulate, modify, and control exchanges.” Managerial roles heavily depend on the ability to communicate with others in their team, and the need for emotional intelligence is extremely significant as without the understanding of non-verbal behaviour can hinder the efficiency of any team and could possibly provoke disagreements or other unnecessary conflict. As most employees’ primary source of social interaction is with their work group, the communication that takes place must allow them to release emotional expression of feelings and fulfil social needs. Kelley and Autman (2014) found in a research that leaders who used social media and emoticons to communicate with their team members were seen as more immediate or engaged with their members, improving their connections and productivity levels with their team members.

Knowledge transfer is described as a combination of the processes of transmission and reception of knowledge as Nylund and Raelin (2015, p. 532) found from Grant (1996). It involves verbal, non-verbal and tonal emotional signals expressed between the individuals who are communicating (Nylund and Raelin 2015, p. 533) and for individuals to be able to receive the full message, all signals must be expressed. Therefore, it is questionable of whether emails and memos are sufficient in passing the exact message between leaders or managers and their team members. Despite the fact that email and memorandum and quick methods of communication, they are not necessarily the most accurate. In fact, all forms of written communication are just as lacking in comparison to face to face communication. Emojis can provide more depth to the message, adding specificity of the subject, tone, mood and many other aspects of speech to the written message. Even though emoticons were not initially designed for businesses’ use, recent updates to emoji packages on operating systems’ keyboards have added icons such as clocks, pens and briefcases for corporal use. So perhaps developers of these packages have begun to consider purposes outside casual conversations. Emoticons can also evoke a conversational tone, allowing individuals to speak on a more casual basis. Spinks, Wells and Meche (1999) have explored the professionalism of emails. Some have said that emails were meant for efficient and informal means of communication or for more conversational instances than traditional paper communications (Spinks, Wells and Meche, 1999). This remains a constant debate, even today, in corporate companies, and though most companies remain open to the use of emails, some companies have chosen to limit the use of communication via such means. ­

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There has always been a focus on the need for members of teams to understand each other and can communicate and connect with each other but today, this is not merely a throwaway idea or concept. In a world where businesses are deep in a period of technological evolution, professionals may or have noticed that there has been a loss or decrease in those qualities as a result of implementing computer based and mobile based verbal communication systems to create a more modern environment and work culture. Whilst researchers continue to look into the greater potential and impacts of the newly developed and viral, image-based language within written business communications, businesses are continuing to adapt their face to face communication habits into that of computer mediated communication.



Kelley, S. and Autman, H. (2014). EFFECTIVE COMPUTER-MEDIATED BUSINESS COMMUNICATION: FOSTERING IMMEDIACY. The Journal of Research in Business Education; Reston, [online] 56(2), pp.48-58. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

Skovholt, K., Grønning, A. and Kankaanranta, A. (2014). The Communicative Functions of Emoticons in Workplace E-Mails: :-). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, [online] 19(4), pp.780-797. Available at: [Accessed 13 Mar. 2017].

Nylund, P. and Raelin, J. (2015). When feelings obscure reason: The impact of leaders’ explicit and emotional knowledge transfer on shareholder reactions. The Leadership Quarterly, [online] 26(4), pp.532-542. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

Lynch, J. and de Chernatony, L. (2004). The power of emotion: Brand communication in business-to-business markets. Journal of Brand Management, [online] 11(5), pp.403-419. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

Walther, J. and D’Addario, K. (2001). The Impacts of Emoticons on Message Interpretation in Computer-Mediated Communication. Social Science Computer Review, 19(3), pp.324-347. [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].


Spinks, N., Wells, B. and Meche, M. (1999). Netiquette: a behavioral guide to electronic business communication. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, [online] 4(3), pp.145-155. Available at: [Accessed 17 Mar. 2017].

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