Welcome to the new era of relationship marketing

Leading marketing experts reveal what it takes to win over the hearts and minds of customers


We have entered a new era of relationship marketing. With third-party cookies phasing out and trust in online ads dwindling, brands are looking to engage with consumers through real-time, hyper-personalised experiences, a new eConsultancy report in partnership with Cheetah Digital reveals.

“For the last decade or so, companies have relied on cookie-based marketing efforts,” says Lorraine Barber-Miller, CMO of consumer health-tech brand Philips. “As we shift to a cookie-less future, brands will need to take a step back to look at the consumer decision journey, build relationships and look for their consumers.

“Consumers expect that their experience will be predictive, seamless, relevant and connected,” she adds.

Trust in advertising is on the decline

More than 64% of UK consumers feel cookie tracking is ‘creepy’ and over 60% of UK consumers do not trust social media platforms with their data, according to Cheetah Digital’s new 2022 Digital Consumer Trends Index report. 

“People simply don’t know what social media platforms are doing with their data,” says Nick Watson, VP client success at Cheetah Digital. 

“When Cambridge Analytica happened, I think a lot of people began losing trust in social platforms. That’s why we’re seeing an increasing number of consumers who want more control over their data – they want to know how their data is being used,” he adds. 

Dan Arden, senior director, global CRM and marketing operations at ecommerce marketplace Groupon, says marketers must take responsibility for the data they collect. 

“It is no longer acceptable for brands to be a ‘data Frankenstein’, guilty of endless collecting. Marketers need to know what data is useful, reliable and appropriate to analyse,” he says. 

And as consumers are getting more proactive about protecting their online privacy, marketers must shift to a first- and zero-party data strategy to power their advertising and marketing initiatives.

Greater personalisation yields ROI and long-term consumer excitement

In the value exchange economy, UK consumers are rewarding brands that make personalisation a priority, with more than half saying they will trade personal and preference data to feel part of a brand’s community, according to the report. 

At the same time, the report reveals there’s been nearly a 60% increase in UK consumers who feel frustrated with a brand whose personalisation initiatives don’t recognise their unique desires and needs.

“First and foremost, marketers need to create a strategy that involves getting closer to their customers,” says Watson. “Customers are saying: ‘We’re happy to provide our data and sign up to your marketing program in exchange for offers sent directly to me that are relevant,’” he adds. 

Alex Williams, head of growth and personalisation at Marks & Spencer (M&S) says the business uses AI machine learning and data taken from their digital-first loyalty program, Sparks, to help understand the needs and wants of each customer, ensuring they create the best possible and most relevant experience each time a customer shops with them.

He explains: “We want to give our customers the same consistent experience whether they’re shopping physically or digitally at M&S. This means replicating those personalised recommendations customers receive from our colleagues in-store across all of our digital touchpoints too, wherever our customers are and however our customers are interacting with us. 

“This is where personalisation comes in. The more customers shop with us, the more personalised their experience will be,” he adds.

Price isn’t the only loyalty driver

Price isn’t the only factor when it comes to loyalty, with 61% of UK consumers willing to pay more to purchase from a trusted brand, says the report. 

Consumers are looking for brands to create emotive bonds by fostering community, recognising their customers as individuals and delivering bespoke offers and product recommendations that reflect this. 

And there’s been an 86% increase in UK consumers who want suggested products and services based on their preferences in return for their loyalty. 

“When done correctly, loyalty programs govern the value exchange between brands and consumers, and not just for a single interaction but for direct engagement over the customer lifetime,” says Watson.

“With contextually differentiated, personalised experiences, they can be the conduit for the one-to-one relationships that build customer lifetime value,” he adds. 

Nurturing the brand’s community has had a huge impact on the rapid growth of premium beauty brand Trinny London, says its CMO Shira Feuer. 

“Trinny London’s community, the Trinny Tribe, is undoubtedly one of our most valuable assets,” she explains. “With over 100,000 members in over 30 countries worldwide, we recognise the positive and significant impact the Tribes members have on the business. 

“By feeling part of a strong community, our customers tend to be more loyal and drive a powerful word-of-mouth impact, which has very positively contributed to the company’s growth and product development strategy,” Feuer adds.

Email marketing reigns supreme

Email continues to sit comfortably as UK consumers’ preferred channel for receiving offers, content, incentives and rewards from brands, the report reveals. 

In fact, when it comes to driving sales, email beats paid social and display advertising by up to 128% in the UK. And half of all global consumers reported they have purchased a product directly as a result of an email they received in the last 12 months. 

Arden says Groupon uses email as a communication tool to build relationships with its customers. “Essentially, today’s customers want an authentic experience,” he explains. “The days of ‘spray and pray’ marketing are over, a good example being the mass use of influencers - customers are getting wiser to these tactics and more suspicious.”

He says brands are now focusing on building unique personas for each customer and aligning their communications and CRM content to these at each stage of that customer’s lifecycle. This includes focusing on being where Groupon’s customers are and surfacing what they want to see.

With the cookie era of advertising coming to an end, brands that move to a more hyper-personalised relationship with their consumers, creating seamless, relevant, connected and authentic experiences, will be sure to stay ahead in the future years.

Access the full UK findings of the 2022 Digital Consumer Trends Index here