In the past decade or so, the economics driving global sales have gradually shifted. For years, the world operated on the model of the Consumer Economy. However, the rise of an interconnected society has opened the doors to many possibilities, and collectively, this puts the power back in the consumer\u2019s hands. The result is that successful companies have shifted to the Relationship Economy rather than the Consumer Economy. Built around trust, enabled by digitization, rather than sales, this new model isn\u2019t just a trend; in fact, with the Big Data era becoming more and more robust, it\u2019s likely that all industries will dive deeper into the Relationship Economy as years go on. If your company haven\u2019t shifted to this model, now is the time -- and here are five key ways to start.\n1. Understand the new currency\nThe Consumer Economy was based around transactions -- and to entice people to participate, there was a large amount of one-way broadcasts proclaiming sales and savings. This type of approach is what drove consumers in; the currency was literally currency. As technology brings us an interconnected and informed society, saving money and solving problems is as easy as Googling or checking Amazon. One-way messaging isn\u2019t as important as what the consumer experiences. Thus, in the Relationship Economy, the currency in play isn\u2019t money (or saving money), but rather engagement. Engagement can come in many forms, but the bottom line is that consumers already have control over better prices, so building a relationship with them means providing meaningful engagement both in the short term and long term.\n2. Be human in a digital world\nIt\u2019s never been easier to engage directly with consumers through social media. However, the trap that many businesses fall into is that they\u2019ve forgotten how to engage in a genuine interaction. Instead, they\u2019re simply leveraging social channels as a one-way broadcast tool to promote or post automated questions\/comments with a lack of follow-up. Consumers are savvy and expect more.\u00a0 The simple act of replying on social media \u2013 then leading with empathy -- whether it\u2019s good, bad, or just for fun -- makes the consumer feel like they\u2019re having an actual, authentic and human conversation. When there\u2019s a conversation, there\u2019s a relationship, and the better a company\u2019s content team is at responding, the stronger the relationship. Interaction provides meaningful engagement, and social media provides a powerful and direct way to achieve this.\n3. Respond to criticism with transparency\nSuccessful relationships \u2013 whether they be with a spouse, family member, or friend \u2013 are based on being open to constructive criticism. In those personal examples, having an open mind and responding accordingly winds up strengthening the relationship. In the Relationship Economy, digital platforms have made consumer feedback public and direct. From social proof sites such as Yelp to conversations on social media, engagement can be positive or negative. Recent history is filled with examples of corporate Twitter responses gone wrong, and that affects public opinion. The Internet never forgets, nor does it let you off the hook. In the age of social media, if you make a mistake, you better own it because it will be discussed, shared, screen captured, and re-tweeted ad nauseum. On the other hand, displays of corporate transparency, which lead to discussion, apologies, and constructive criticism, do wonders for a relationship \u2013 both in real life and in the Relationship Economy. Most people understand that mistakes happen; it\u2019s the response that lingers in people\u2019s memories and affects the company\u2019s reputation.\u00a0\n4. Reward loyalty with personalized experiences\nThe ultimate goal of the Relationship Economy is consumer longevity. Deeply understanding your customer allows companies to implement smart loyalty systems that leverage data to customize and reward long term customers.\u00a0 They go beyond the occasional \u201c5% off any purchase\u201d coupon or odd thank-you trinket and instead open the door to unique experiences, exclusive items, or heavy discounts that are matched to the needs of the consumer. With smartphone tech, many companies have married data and applications to build this engagement. Remember, long-term loyalty is built on anticipatory experiences tailored to the consumer, not saving a few bucks, so think bigger picture.\n5. Be customer-centric\nToday\u2019s consumer expects brands to solve their problems where and when they need them solved.\u00a0 Engaging today\u2019s consumer through a traditional service model is not sustainable in a world where organizations like Amazon and Apple behave as integrated engagement ecosystems.\u00a0 People expect a 24\/7, consistent experience \u2013 all accessible from a digital device.\u00a0 Organizations need to rethink their engagement models to serve customers based on their behaviors, rather than what is easiest and most cost effective for the company.\u00a0 Consumers have very little patience for a \u201ccorporate-first\u201d approach to service.\u00a0 When companies put themselves in their customers\u2019 shoes and design delivery around them, engagement, usage and loyalty improve.\nThe simplest way to think about the Relationship Economy, regardless of the avenue you're currently using (social media, social proof, etc.), is to apply the same common sense you use in real-world relationships. Which is ironic given how technology has often depersonalized our everyday experience. These ideas, though, may not just help engage consumers \u2013 it might even help remind us all about the importance of relationships.