Today's relationship dance

The need to rewire organizational DNA

Humans, by design, are social beings who desire relationships. As evidence, throughout the ages, people have continued to pair up as couples. Relationships are important to organizations, too; thus, firms have also sought to build sustainable, long-term ties with their customers. Of late, technology has redefined the nature of interactions and the scope of options available. While some may lament this digital disruption and long for the return of old-school, face-to-face interactions, for many, these digital advancements have been hugely beneficial and, at times, transformative. The Internet and social media platforms have allowed friends and family who live far apart to maintain connections. These platforms have also enabled vital new relationships; for example, individuals battling rare diseases can find and connect with others facing similar challenges and form much-needed support groups. For this latter kind of digitally formed relationship, even the staunchest Luddite would likely take his or her hat off and pay homage to the technology fostering these kinds of relationships.

Perhaps one arena in which digital has had the most impact is the realm of dating. Not only are many dating relationships now initially formed and fostered online; they often develop into lasting, sustainable partnerships. Given the success of these digitally hatched relationships, many on the dating market have not only jumped on the digital bandwagon for at least some of their dating experience, but have also become experts at integrating their digital and “analog” (in-person) dating interactions into one seamless dating experience—an overall activity that we’ll call the “relationship dance.” Thus, ironically, today’s daters have mastered what marketers still grapple with: intertwining analog and digital interactions into a single unified experience.

As marketers strive to follow this path, we decided to take a closer look at the digital-analog dating world and the behavioral principles in play. This article provides suggestions for marketers on how they might employ these online dating principles and behavioral insights to improve their own relationship dances with customers, engendering greater loyalty in the process. In our work, we have discovered that while the instruments may have changed, the basic moves for developing and fostering authentic relationships remain essentially the same—albeit with a few nuances along the way.

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