The bar has been set high for the digital experience your members expect. Like all consumers, your members and online audience desire (no demand!) a consistent, tailored digital journey with innovative technology integrated into every aspect of your organization.
If your goal is to increase member loyalty and retention, then you need the conviction and foresight to infuse a transformative member experience (MX) into your association’s DNA. It’s the only way to deliver the tangible value that your members expect in the long run.
Here, we'll look at the connection between innovative technology adoption and member experience transformation. We’ll give you actionable takeaways to reinvent your member experience by creating and executing a forward-looking, experience-driven digital transformation plan that focuses on tangible member value.
Shifting Member Expectations in The Digital-First Environment
Members are more critical of your association’s tech use than ever before. Today, innovative technology is intimately tied to the member experience.
These shifting member expectations are driving change across virtually every silo in the organization. Here's what your members value:
Early Tech Adoption
Members who view an association as an early adopter are more satisfied, connected, and more likely to renew and promote your organization.
A 2022 study reveals 63% of members and 65% of association professionals believe their association/nonprofit won’t survive if it doesn’t transform technologically.
71% of people expect organizations they’re involved with to deliver personalized interactions—and about ¾ will take their business elsewhere if this expectation isn't met.
In other words, non-personalization is a significant risk that derails member loyalty. That's likely why organizations that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue than those with non-personalized communications.
Read More: 8 Benefits of Personalized Member Engagement (& how it works)
Career advancement opportunities are immensely important today. Members value associations that integrate job boards, job-hunter resources, career planning tools, and placement services into the digital organization.
Members appreciate virtual engagement. Over the next year, about half of members plan to connect virtually, for the most part, and a quarter will connect through a hybrid of in-person and virtual events. Unfortunately, many associations overestimate the value of in-person events and don’t spend enough time on virtual event management.
Investment in Innovative Tech & Digital Transformation
The recent shifts in user behaviors and expectations have forced associations to reinvent how we connect with and serve our members and audience base. Currently, the overwhelming majority of associations don’t feel adequately prepared from a technological standpoint– over 80% say they lack digital readiness for the future.
Associations are investing in innovative technology, digital transformation, and data-driven decision-making to elevate the member experience. This kind of experience-led transformation is how you satisfy, retain, and engage existing members today while also growing your membership base. It requires:
- Modern Technology Investment — About half of associations are increasing IT budgets to adopt and roll out innovative technologies. Innovative technology plays a central role in delivering a superior experience and personalized value to members.
- Formal Digital Transformation Plan — Most small associations don’t have a formal digital transformation plan while many larger associations have yet to document a formal strategy. Current data suggests only 1/3 of associations have formalized a digital transformation plan.
- Data and Analytics — Allow staff to analyze data in real-time so they can quickly respond with relevant content, products, and services. Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain members, and 19 times as likely to be profitable.
Building Blocks of Member Experience Transformation
The key to member experience transformation is investing in a digital-first organization. Keeping up with the modern digital MX advances everything from member acquisition, retention, trust, and engagement to sustainable vendor partnerships and revenue growth.
Those that don’t adjust to shifting member priorities and invest in MX transformation will quickly be left behind in terms of membership growth, revenue, and decision-making. Simply put, you need to get a plan in place.
Here’s a proven formula for upgrading the digital member experience.
Phase 1 – Define Your Member Experience Aspiration and Purpose
Frame the type of member experience you want to deliver.
Rethink your value propositions based on members shifting priorities. What are you trying to accomplish in the digital age? An effective MX aspiration should deliver on your organizational mission, purpose, and brand promise.
Remember, your members:
- Demand personalization – Want tailoring offerings and outreach. Personalize all communications to the right individual at the right moment with the right experiences.
- Value tangible career advancement benefits – Give members career advancement opportunities (certifications, job opportunities, etc.) that elevates their personal career trajectory.
- Appreciate the hybrid flexibility – Value excellent hybrid event experiences. Members derive tangible benefits from associations that allow them to access events and the full functionality of all critical systems from anywhere at any time, in one seamless and consistent digital experience across channels.
Don't be afraid to engage members in defining your innovation journey. For many organizations, the key to finding new revenue opportunities and increased innovation has been to listen more closely to member needs and collect feedback on how to best allocate spending to deliver the most value.
For instance, you can engage with members about the perceived value of in-person vs. virtual events to improve hybrid and virtual event management. Then define what hybrid means for your organization.
Translate MX aspirations into expected business value (aka member value).
This entails defining the specific changes in member behavior that you expect to see. Review internal and industry benchmarks, and then set MX targets and an associated timeline for achieving each.
Focusing on member behavior changes the conversation from financials to member value. It allows you to design a member-centric business model that adds new, continuous value through a personalized digital journey, custom e-commerce experience, and tailored recommendations.
Prioritize the experiences with the greatest potential impact on behavior.
Prioritize the experiences that will lead to the target behavioral changes and planned member outcomes, even as user needs and expectations evolve. Use data analytics to ground decisions about what members value and prioritize the experiences that matter most.
The most forward-looking associations use integrated data lakes along with advanced analytics and machine learning to improve the member experience. Setting up this sort of analytics engine enables you to identify the member interventions, outreach, and investment strategies with the greatest impact that you can deploy in three to four months vs. 24 months.
Phase 2 – Transform Your Organization
Define required internal processes and technology capabilities.
Consolidate your prioritized experiences and then define the internal processes and IT capabilities necessary to execute these priorities.
What processes and tech investments are needed to enable member experience transformation? How should you reimagine your operational model to achieve your list of MX priorities (from phase one)?
How can you become a savvy organization in order to:
- Reinvent operations and business processes to lower costs, improve member services, and increase efficiency.
- Explore innovative technologies to redefine services and create new digital products.
- Rethink the business model to deliver continuous member value and career growth.
- Optimize your website and e-commerce experience to drive dues and non-dues revenue.
By embedding MX transformations within an agile organizational model, your association can provide superior experiences, improve decision-making, and realize tangible membership and revenue impacts.
To achieve and continuously improve these capabilities for long-term value creation, you’ll need to develop performance metrics and a tip-top data governance strategy.
Develop targeted strategies for the goal in question.
Now more than ever associations are thinking of ways they can do more with their data for less. You know you can improve your membership and ROI using the data you have stored and regularly collect; but at the same time, you don’t want to spend any more than you already are.
Even if you don’t trust your current information, you can take advantage of the increasing availability of advanced analytics today to inform decision-making, discover member needs, and improve the value of your data going forward.
Regardless of your association’s size, you can build or outsource data analytics capabilities to:
- Forecast the behavior of target members based on the actions, attitudes, and habits of individual members.
- Individualize the omnichannel experience with automated, personalized content intelligence at scale.
- Personalize your outreach communications, campaigns, products, and services to individual member needs and behaviors.
- Target members that are unlikely to renew membership, attend an event, or take some action.
- Avoid blindly wasting marketing dollars on very unlikely opportunities or “done deals.”
- Reduce spending and improve ROI with better conversion rates.
For instance, you could score the experiences of members based on location, renewal and loyalty history, and recent events and engagements. Then use data analytics to accurately predict the level of satisfaction members get from certain types of content and engagements. Next, tailor future communications and interactions based on individual scores and profiles. Finally, monitor their response and adjust your approach.
This new capability has been shown to dramatically increase satisfaction for the most dissatisfied members and reduce churn intent.
Ensure your website and best-of-breed applications support a modern digital MX.
Make sure all of your applications and website – whether it’s a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) or Content Management System (CMS) – power personalized, consistent experiences at scale through a variety of contexts and digital touchpoints.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations
Phase 3 – Enable MX Transformation
Turn the culture of technology-enabled innovation into a distinctive, sustainable competitive asset.
Examine your organizational culture to enable the critical underlying capabilities, mindset, processes, and skillsets for MX transformation.
Create a roadmap to develop these IT capabilities.
Identify quarter-by-quarter IT investments, necessary training, and critical activities to achieve required IT capabilities (from Step 4). Plan out these investments and activities in annual increments, quarter by quarter. Include regular review sessions to verify and adjust the expected member value and expected behavior change as needed.
Gain leadership and board buy-in for your strategic plan.
Get board members on board with your tech investment strategies and roadmap. Successful associations have strategic, future-gazing boards. Your board must be actively preparing for the future and reviewing performance metrics and KPIs at board meetings.
Getting Started with Member Experience Transformation
Ready to make your digital member experience a sustainable competitive advantage? Don’t know where or how to get started with member experience transformation? Let’s chat!
At Brightfind, we do full-scale website migrations and digital experience makeovers for associations and nonprofits to grab the attention of your unique user base and inspire recurring users.