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E-Commerce for Associations: 8 UX Design Tips and Benefits in 2022

Unprecedented growth in the digital marketplace over the past couple of years has propelled e-commerce websites into (yet another) revolution centered around hyper-personalized user experience (UX) design trends. While cutting-edge e-commerce UX means new possibilities, it also comes with the daunting challenge of figuring out how to proceed.

 

No organization bears the brunt of this challenge quite like membership associations and not-for-profits. For far too long, organizations with relatively limited time and resources to spare have struggled to keep up with the pace of change.

 

But with growing competition online and increased reliance on mobile devices and digital channels, mission-driven organizations have no other option but to adapt.

 

So, how can you improve your association e-commerce UX? What are the most important tips and tricks to accelerate e-commerce growth within your association?

 

Here, we'll dive into the importance of user-centricity and a test-and-learn mindset. We’ll walk point-by-point through strategies to power up your UX design for e-commerce. Walk away with an action plan for personalization, omnichannel design, digital conversations, non-dues revenue, and beyond.

What is UX in e-commerce?

In e-commerce, UX encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with your brand, services, and products. Think of your e-commerce UX like your storefront layout. Upon entry, folks should be able to easily and quickly find and buy what they need, without having to wait.

 

Similarly, your online audience should be able to intuitively navigate your site and locate the right information effortlessly. From the second a user lands on your e-commerce website to checkout and throughout the post-purchase journey, UX plays a direct role in winning or losing that relationship. 

 

The biggest challenge of e-commerce UX is to create a consistent, well-integrated, and conversational UX design experience across all channels, devices, apps, and touchpoints.

 

This requires the synergy of a variety of technologies and tools, from artificial intelligence to high-bandwidth conversational commerce at every stage. It also requires a commitment to continuous optimization enabled by data and a systematic, iterative approach to UX design testing.

Why is UX important for association e-commerce sites?

 

It’s simple: great e-commerce UX = happy members, subscribers, and community base + more sales and better fundraising.

 

In today’s omnichannel, self-service, and fiercely competitive world, your e-commerce website needs a dazzling UX that aligns with your professional community and user demands.

 

In fact, building competitive e-commerce experiences is one of the primary determining factors in the success of your site and digital product offerings. Here are some of the most obvious reasons why UX design for e-commerce is important for associations, non-profits, and professional organizations.

 

  • Inspires confidence in your organization and drives user satisfaction.
  • Helps to convert prospects into recurring members, event attendees, repeat buyers of your books and intellectual properties, regular volunteers, and active donors.
  • Tempts subscribers of your journals, magazines, and audio programs into membership.
  • Leads to more productive e-learning registration, virtual event participation, program 
  • subscriptions, and online fundraising campaigns.
  • Inspires your website visitors to return more frequently and engage with your community.

e-commerce UX designs and benefits for member organizations and non-profits

Let’s now dive into benefits along with powerful improvement strategies and takeaways one by one.

 

1. Increases personalization


At the end of the day, your association's members and website visitors are humans with unique experiences, goals, and pain points. Connecting with the individual on the other side of the screen is very different from one person to the next.

 

So when recommending products, integrating continuing education, and displaying dynamic content, be sure to tailor your approach to the individual using the range of AI-powered, ultra-personalized tools that are built into many association e-commerce platforms today.

 

“Hyper-personalization” uses artificial intelligence and real-time user/member data to deliver highly relevant content, product, and service information and contextual experiences based on the user’s unique interests, preferences, and interactions.

 

Through personalization, you can also create a truly unified and user-centric experience across all of your sites, applications, devices, and touchpoints. The result is more engagement, returning visitors, member acquisition and retention, and ultimately more revenue.

 

 

Quick takeaways

 

  • Create ongoing, two-way digital dialogues with users that resemble real-life conversations.
  • Tell what products, events, and services the user has “Recently Viewed.”
  • Recommend options they’ll love. For example: “Related Products,” “You May Also Like,” and “People Also Bought” sections.
  • Let users select, modify, or remove their personal information, advertising preferences, and how (and how much) they want to be tracked online.
  • Use big data and sophisticated technologies to deliver highly-customized, micro-targeting content based on user preferences, expertise, interests, needs, passions, interactions, and transactions.
  • Leverage remarketing ads and personalized offers to retarget users based on their buying behavior, member data, and other personal details. You could reward frequent shoppers with promotional offers on similar items they’ve previously purchased or showed interest in. Also, consider asking them for their birthday during checkout, and then send them a personalized offer on their special day.
  • Go the extra mile and use advanced audience targeting testing tools to design loyalty programs and personalize rewards based on your members’ prior shopping behavior.

Impact of personalized e-commerce UX

We recently rebuilt ISM’s e-commerce functionality on Optimizely Commerce to give their online audience a more holistic, ultra-personalized, omnichannel digital experience. One of our goals was to provide targeted cross-sell opportunities using dynamic, human-centered content, event and product recommendations.

 

We also had another primary objective involving their AMS.

 

best association e-commerce website user experience

 

Essentially, the big hurdle for associations in moving to a package like Optimizely is that they don't want to waste the money and time investment they've made in their Association Management System. To address this concern, we kept ISM’s existing AMS on the backend and used Optimizely's frontend to give them a more flexible and friendly user experience.

 

Since rolling out the personalized e-commerce experience, the organization’s average order value has risen significantly. The flexibility, operational efficiency, and engagement potential of this more modern and individualized digital commerce website has also allowed them to continuously scale their strategic business goals and value streams.

2. Builds trust


A clear, intuitive, and “humanized” e-commerce UX can boost user trust and confidence. One main way, in particular, is by designing for data transparency and user empowerment.

 

In the past, increased data security and privacy protections often obstructed engagement and conversion funnels. Today, organizations are safely gathering personal data by forging stronger, mutually-beneficial user relationships based on trust, truth, and transparency. The key is to hyper-personalize your e-commerce UX.

 

In fact, 83% of digital shoppers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience. In return, organizations must give users control over that information and be transparent about how they’re going to use it.

 

Here’s how it’s done:

Tip #1 - Nurturing digital conversations and living profiles

 

Create visible, ongoing, two-way digital dialogues that empower users to carve their own digital journey and paths to purchase.

For example, you can make data attributes visible through a "living profile" that allows the user to own their UX experience and curate the offers and digital products they receive. This secure and trusted exchange of information greases the wheels of personalization. It also supports more accurate and relevant data, and thus, better decision making.

In addition to user-controlled living profiles, you might consider creating a dedicated data privacy channel where users could submit requests and you could respond. You might even consider making this channel public to build transparency and community.

Tip #2 - Supporting a ‘privacy culture’

 

Take a proactive stance on privacy. Your UX and online branding should build credibility and a humanistic, “for-the-people'' reputation. The goal is to hone awareness around personal information and cybersecurity, and clarify the relationship between privacy and targeted personalization. So be clear and straightforward in your messaging.

 

Many association e-commerce websites collect data through forms, email, cookies and tracking pixels (e.g. Google Analytics), advertising, and other collection points. You want to be upfront, honest, and informative about what exactly happens to data, how it’s collected and by whom, how and who it’s shared with, and how users can control their information and digital experiences.

 

Other quick tips to build a privacy and data-sharing culture:

 

  • Implement a “Zero Trust” cybersecurity strategy to restrict access controls without interfering with e-commerce UX.
  • Enable single sign-on (SSO) to increase security while streamlining checkout.
  • Simplify your privacy policy, disclaimers, and cookie consent to ensure user-friendliness.
  • Visibly display trust badges, compliance standards, and security certifications.

3. Increases lifetime value

 

Your e-commerce UX impacts each constituent or member’s lifetime value (LTV). LTV is how much each member, attendee, donor, sponsor, supporter, volunteer, etc. contributes to your financial and social goals over the duration of their relationship with your association.

 

If you’re a membership-based organization, then of course you count on annual dues to keep your association moving forward. Beyond membership dues and monetary non-dues revenue, your e-commerce UX also has intangible benefits on LTV.

 

For example, your digital commerce experience affects word-of-mouth. It may even contribute to your social footprint as well as the man hours and emotional and creative insight that someone provides on behalf of your organization.

4. Improves conversions

The e-commerce funnel is a common pain point for membership associations that often results in frustrated members, wasted staff time, and lost opportunities. Making the digital path to checkout a breeze is vital for conversions and e-commerce success.

 

A cumbersome online store, on the other hand, is like putting a bunch of shopping carts in front of the checkout counter. It’s burdensome and makes people more likely to walk away.

 

To convert users into paying members, registrants, and subscribers, your page speed needs to be super fast and your checkout flow needs to be clean, fluid, and convenient. Users shouldn’t feel like they’re moving from one system to the next (e.g. online store to shopping cart to LMS). 

 

They also shouldn’t have to wonder why your LMS recognizes them, but not your AMS e-commerce system. Instead, you want to create a smooth e-commerce flow to enhance UX and decrease funnel drop offs.

 

And moving the needle even slightly on this front has very real implications when considering the average e-commerce abandonment rate of 69.82%. For non-profits, the rate of drop-off is even higher (much higher) at 83.1% on average.

 

Point is, overcoming abandonment issues is a HUGE part of a high-converting commerce environment.

Quick takeaways

  • Analyze the data to create a frictionless checkout flow for your digital products.
  • Connect e-commerce to your CMS, LMS, and other flow-through systems. Or, use a CMS/DXP with built-in e-commerce functionality.
  • Help users find their digital shopping cart easily and easily access delightful support.
  • Pre-populate forms by syncing contact information or provide easy lookups.
  • E-commerce pop-ups designed to collect email addresses convert visitors into subscribers at a higher rate than any other type of site. Use them!
  • Optimize the messaging and design of your calls-to-action. For example, the data suggests that email pop-ups on e-Commerce sites with two input fields convert the best, followed by single input pop-ups. A/B test what works best for your audience.
  • Mobile commerce is the norm so optimize your mobile checkout.
  • Only 2.17% of e-commerce visits convert into purchases, so optimize your product, service, and event pages for higher conversions.

 

5. Informs user decisions

 

Enabling informed decision making can also lead to a better conversion rate.

 

Here’s why:

 

In today’s world of heightened connectivity, informed customers and members have more purchasing power than ever before. Before taking a step, these people will dig into the research and read the reviews. Then they assess the risks and competitive value perceptions about a brand’s reputation, competitive value, and the specific digital product in question, they make their decision.

 

You can use transparent, human-centered UX design and conversational commerce practices to simplify and encourage informed decisions. Transparency engenders the trust and confidence users need to move through the e-commerce funnel, cross the checkout finish line, and keep coming back.

 

Quick takeaways

 

  • Show value instantly by making your value propositions immediate and compelling.
  • Highlight trusted peer reviews from legit, third-party sources and other social proofs.
  • Tips for impactful digital product, service, and event descriptions and search listings:
    • Include high-quality photos and/or videos.
    • Bring the offering to life while integrating the benefits and impact.
    • Don’t sell. Be direct and informational. Keep hype to a minimum.
    • Be concise and use shorter paragraphs for easier reading.
    • Integrate conversational long-tail keywords for SEO and voice search rankings. Optimized product listings are also more likely to be recommended by voice-powered devices such as Alexa, Apple Home, and Google Home.

6. Strengthens brand value

Your digital commerce experience showcases the value of your brand. It’s the gateway to sustaining a purposeful, high-performing organization with a meaningful mission.

 

A wonderful way to build awareness around your brand value is through promotions. In fact, well-designed and well-executed promotions are the lifeblood of e-commerce for associations.

But you need a solid promotional strategy and actionable roadmap.

 

Without effective planning and execution, you won’t be able to resonate with the right professionals in your target market and convert them into full paying members. With a good strategy and follow-through, association e-commerce promotions have four main benefits:

 

  1. Draw your target audience’s attention.
  2. Create interest in your digital services and products.
  3. Generate demand.
  4. Reel prospects into your membership program.

 

association e-commerce UX promotional strategy

 

Discounts and flash sales on premium training and continuing education are HUGE promotion types in the association world. Discounting is actually the most effective way to get new members to join. Don’t communicate “cheap” though. Instead, make prospects feel valued and build an emotional connection.

Quick takeaways

  • Use catalog-entry-level promotions and order-level promotions to underscore the value of your membership and celebrate your industry and professional community.
  • Discount premium content-packed training, continuing education courses, professional development webinars, and certification programs to reach your audience.
  • Craft the reasoning and messaging behind price promotions (e.g. discounts, flash deals) to demonstrate that you care about your community and mission.
  • Deliver information-rich, value-added content to convert registrants, readers, and subscribers into full paying members.
  • Establish measurable, achievable, and time-bound goals for your promotions.
  • Align digital commerce strategy with your short-term goals, long-term vision, and higher purpose.

7. Improves retention

Post-purchase touchpoints are where loyal members, constituents, and customers are won or lost.

 

By now it may sound cliche, but it’s worth reiterating: acquiring a new member is harder and more costly than retaining existing ones. In fact, the average total value of an existing member is worth 35.7% more than that of a newly acquired member.

 

Naturally, that's why organizations are now investing more in UX (46%) compared to pricing (21%) and product development (34%). The user gets wiser as competition increases, making them more likely to stick with brands that look out for them.

8. Grows non-dues revenue

One of the most impactful things you can do on your e-commerce site is to serve up a super simple path to checkout infused with a rich, human-centered experience. Why not enrich their UX by integrating non-dues revenue products in your listings and advertising spots based on user interest data?

 

Infusing your online store with valuable, human-centric digital products is a wonderful way to personalize your e-commerce UX for members, non-members, and program supporters.

 

For instance, you can advertise webinars, continuing education, certifications, e-books, and event tickets. Or, turn your data into industry-specific behavioral research publications, standards products, and contract documents. Then, dynamically advertise these digital products throughout your site or directly within listings.

 

Don’t forget to get user permission for this type of targeted personalization!

Wrap-up: E-commerce UX for associations

For organizations to succeed in e-commerce transformation they need to create a personalized, user-controlled digital experience enabled by digital dialogues, data trust, and advanced technology.

 

A personalized e-commerce UX is one that is contextual, fluid, and conversational. And the result? More membership sign-ups and renewals, higher lifetime value, and a crowd of loyal advocates that enable your organization’s long-term success and earned revenues.

 

Ready to keep pace with rapidly changing personalization trends? Let's tackle the UX design of your association's e-commerce environment together. Check out our digital commerce solutions.

Emily Shine

Topics: Design, UI/UX, E-Commerce

Written by Emily Shine

Emily Shine is a content writer and SEO strategist who helps purpose-driven organizations and entrepreneurs build their online presence. When she's not behind the computer, you can catch her in the park, gigging on a stompbox, or playing tennis.