Twilio (credit image/Pexels/ Vlada Karpovich)Twilio has published a report that suggest European consumers are in “open relationships” with brands. Twilio’s Relationship Economy 2023: How brands can be successful in a non-monogamous world report reveal how brands can meet changing customer expectations and thrive in the relationship economy.

The research surveyed over 6,000 consumers and 1,800 marketers across Europe. It reveals that consumers have an emotional affinity towards an average of 4.75 brands. This points to a readiness among modern consumers to seek out variety and challenge the traditional notion of long-lasting brand loyalty.

(credit image/LinkedIn/Sam Richardson)
Sam Richardson, CX consultancy at Twilio

Despite this non-monogamous behaviour, consumers universally value trustworthiness and consistency from brands. They prioritise brand honesty (44%) and reliability (41%) above all else, mirroring the qualities they most value in their personal romantic relationships.
Sam Richardson, CX consultancy at Twilio says, “Brands need to be thoughtful about the way consumers approach relationships. Nowadays, a relationship doesn’t have to be lifelong or exclusive to be considered meaningful. A short-term engagement can still be genuine and courteous. It’s about being real and respectful in every interaction. This behaviour shift is important for brands – while it might be harder to gain customer loyalty than a decade ago, the reward is much greater when they get it right.

Practicality over emotional connection

In this new landscape, expertise and efficiency are taking precedence over emotional connection. Reinforcing that loyalty stems from company action and is no longer a given based on the product or service alone.

The study revealed that 31% of consumers prioritise expertise when contacting brands. While 24% place a premium on efficiency – far surpassing the 15% of people who prioritise emotional connections. This represents a notable shift in priorities. Last year, the ‘E3 formula’ of efficiency, expertise and emotion were considered equal building blocks of customer engagement.

However, it appears that brands may have “overcorrected” in their efforts to meet consumer demand for functional efficiency. Only 27% of European consumers reported that they are regularly made to feel special by brands.

Richardson continues, “There has been a noticeable shift towards pragmatism among European consumers. In many ways, that is down to the economic reality we live in. But unfortunately, it appears that the pursuit of functional efficiency may be leading to more lacklustre engagements. Organisations have been adapting their strategies to deliver dependable solutions that effectively cater to consumer needs. However, they must continue to deliver standout experiences that drive strong customer engagement and make people feel special.”

Consumers swiping left

The research revealed that some brands are struggling to keep pace with this dynamic consumer environment. Keeping up with evolving customer needs and behaviours emerged as the top challenge faced by marketing leaders (44%). This was ahead of knowing enough about their customers (42%), understanding their boundaries (42%), keeping things exciting (40%). In addition to maintaining consistent experiences across channels (35%).
Consumers appear to agree that marketers are not always getting it right. 81% of respondents report they have “dumped” a brand. Following a lack of reliability (44%), the biggest brand turn-offs include a lack of communication or difficulty in getting a response (30%) and constant calling or messaging (28%).

“There is a fine line between too little and too much communication. This emphasise the need to strike the right balance in interactions with customers, and the need to always be readily available,” comments Richardson. “Real-time personalisation will allow brands to deliver the right kind of communication, at the right time. By delivering tailored messaging, offers and products to individual consumer, they will be able to build more genuine, two-way relationships.”

First party data as the key to success

The study found marketers are pinning their hopes on first-party data to build more respectful relationships in this new consumer environment. 56% of marketers believe that use of this data will enable more accurate personalisation. 53% believe it will also create better customer experiences, helping to improve customer engagement. Other advantages cited include more transparent data use as a vehicle to build trust (50%). The ability to put the customer back in the driving seat (37%).

The emergence of AI will also make it easier for brands to build these unique interactions with every single customer and create longer lasting relationships, making it more likely they’ll be in the inner circle of their customers. Richardson concludes: “In this new non-monogamous world, achieving recurring revenue and staying top of mind hinges on resonating with today’s consumers. Brands that stand out will be the ones that demonstrate honesty, liability and genuine respect – a journey that starts with first-party data. They will build the strongest relationships, realise huge potential gains for customer engagement, and build a new kind of loyalty.”

Enterprise Times: what this means for business

The relationship between brands and customers have undergone a significant shift. Today’s consumers no longer seek exclusive, monogamous commitments with their favourite brands. Instead, modern consumers are exploring multiple options, seeking variety, and challenging the traditional notion of long-lasting brand loyalty. The truth is that today’s consumers feel emotional connections to wide range of different brands. Furthermore, they are increasingly suspicious of those that take them for granted. For brands, retailers and online merchants in today’s competitive environment, they have to play by the new rules brand relationships. These include honesty, respect and a commitment to helping customers feel special.

Despite this requirement for openness, one fundamental principle remains unchanged – the expectation for honesty and reliability. Just as in personal relationships, consumers demand trustworthiness and consistency from the brands they interact with, whether in long-term or short-term engagements. This is another interesting report from Twilio that attempts to rethink the concept of brand loyalty. However, it runs a bit short on concrete ideas on how enterprises can build a successful brand for post-monogamous consumers. Yet one fundamental principle remains unchanged: the expectation to be treated with respect. When exploring their brand options, consumers are placing practicality above all else. Something that all brands and online merchants need to consider.

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