We’re hearing more and more about “Relationship Commerce” these days – but how many of us actually understand its implications?  I’ve spent years in the midst of the evolution of commerce: As traditional commerce shifted into a digital world, through it’s evolution into Social Commerce, and now as we come upon the brass ring – Relationship Commerce.

There are some guiding principles to Relationship Commerce.  None seem drastically different on their own; though they seem radically new when applied to the realm of commerce:

Relationships matter.  Discovering something you love is great, learning about it from someone you trust is even better. 

Buying from someone you like is way more fun than buying from a BIG-BOX robot. 

Shopping can be better. 

Relationship Commerce is simple yet novel, it’s buying from people you know and trust. 

But in a fast paced, digital world, defining and maintaining our relationships has become unexpectedly difficult.  Social Media has enabled us to connect with an infinite number of individuals; it has given us the tools to extend relationships that years ago would have been impossible.  Yet make no mistake: “Social Media is a facilitator of relationships, but it is not the relationship itself.”  You have to give to get.  No relationship can survive without trust; it’s so simple in concept yet not always easy.

With effort, a relationship may begin from the request of a Facebook friend or following someone on Twitter; but make no mistake – that initial request or follow will never create the relationship.  Trust is built upon interaction, when you’re true to your word, authentic, and genuine.  To build relationships online, you (as a brand or individual) have to offer value in return.  Be it via valuable information or personal introductions, engagement and interaction will remain key. 

By asking questions and proposing ideas, you can engage your followers in such a way to give them the ability and reason to respond.  Then when they do respond, interact with them to solidify your relationship, lest it fade away.  Directly acknowledge their response, ask follow-up questions and share their insights with others.  Follow me on Twitter (@tedrubin) and you’ll see what I mean.  The more responsive you are to your audience, the more responsive they’ll be to you.  And that’s where relationships are born.

It is this interpersonal exchange, the relationship, which differentiates Relationship Commerce.  Life is not just about financial exchange, and neither is commerce. 

The way I see it, we’re overdue for a revolution in retail.  So many of us have been sharing our passions and discoveries, it’s about time we acquired tools that empower us to share in the economic benefits.  I believe that our economy is experiencing a monumental shift towards an era of increased self-sufficiency.  We all need to learn to earn… to provide for ourselves.  We can’t continue to live dependant upon the (one time) security blanket of big corporations, parent companies and traditional jobs.  They may not always be there.

How many of you spend more than 10 hours a week on your online presence? 15 Hours, 40+? How many times have you recommended something to a friend and how many times have you made a purchase based upon the recommendation of a friend?  How many of us wish that our passions, our energy and our influence could evolve away from pure hobbies and into a revenue stream?  Relationship Commerce, sharing what you love with others and facilitating their ability to buy it, easily can be a piece of that puzzle.  That’s how it can make shopping better.

This is truly what I call ROR: Return on Relationship, and I believe it’s what the future holds for shopping, for commerce and the economic wellbeing of each and every one of us.  It’s Relationship Commerce.

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