Psychology has been a part of business and marketing for years. When you think of colors like red and yellow, what brands immediately come to mind?

Chances are, you thought of a fast-food chain. Red is thought to stimulate the appetite and make you hungrier, while yellow is an open, friendly color that promotes happiness.

Of course, the use of psychology in business goes far beyond color choices to include the stories that brands tell to connect with their audience on a personal or emotional level. TOMS Shoes uses the power of positive psychology to sell shoes by donating a pair to someone in need for every pair sold.

Whatever route you choose to go, technology is allowing brands to be incredibly precise in how they leverage psychology to craft an end-to-end shopping experience that will keep customers coming back.

Differentiating with Customer Experience

According to a Walker study, customer experience is predicted to overtake both price and product to become the key brand differentiator by 2020. It's not hard to imagine why -- a better customer experience goes hand in hand with better customer retention, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and an increase in upselling.

So how do you improve customer experience? The term itself is rather broad, but here are some of the best areas to start focusing on.

1. Improve customer service

The contribution customer service makes to the overall customer experience should be obvious. If you think back to the most memorable customer service experiences you've had, the majority of them are probably overwhelmingly negative. 

Bad experiences stand out in our minds far more distinctly than good ones, so investing in your customer service center or call center will go a long way toward improving customer experience. No matter how amazing a product is, customers don't want to give their money to someone who is rude to them.

2. Create an emotional high

Even as marketplaces evolve with technology, most businesses are still aiming to fulfill a customer need with their product. What e-commerce platforms such as Tophatter have realized is that shopping for its own sake can spark moments of fun and fulfillment. Tophatter's live, 90-second auctions are revolutionizing discovery shopping, and they've made an exciting, fast-paced game out of the shopping experience.

3. Give a little

Help customers make a purchase they're on the fence about by offering them a little something extra. Depending on the size of the purchase, it can be as small as a free sample or as large as a coupon for 50 percent off a future purchase.

Giving something to your customers can be especially effective when they aren't expecting it. Help improve the odds of creating a return customer by surprising them with something personalized.

4. Position items strategically

Whether you're selling in a brick-and-mortar retail store or online, think about which items are placed where. Especially for products that are wants instead of needs, place a premium or luxury item next to a similar one that's a more reasonable splurge.

Is a $500 watch expensive? Maybe so, but next to one that costs $3,000, it's a relative bargain. Letting customers make comparisons and draw their own conclusions will make them less wary about a purchase they don't necessarily need to make.

Customer experience is more than just another marketing buzzword. As competition in the marketplace becomes even more fiercely competitive, the brands that rise to the top will be the ones that find ways to stand out.

Price is becoming less and less important, and all signs indicate that customers are willing to spend more for a product or service that appeals to their emotions.

Improving customer experience can sometimes require a total transformation of company practices and values, but other times all it takes is a little psychology. Start with the steps above and you'll be well on your way to earning customers for life.