There are many ways to work e-commerce into an association’s revenue structure — but it needs to be done with care.
Association CIOs say it hasn’t taken long for e-commerce—the web-based sale of products and services—to become a critical tool supporting nondues revenue. It can be applied to almost any financial transaction membership organizations engage in, from collecting fees at a conference with a roaming payment system that turns mobile devices into credit card machines (Square and PayPal are just two popular mobile payment systems on the market), to selling products directly to members and creating affinity programs with industry partners.
Some associations are embracing e-commerce tactics such as those used by daily-deal sites like Groupon. Birch wants to integrate variable pricing based on how members publicize an event for his association: If a member gets five people to register for an event, he or she should get a discount. But with his current system, he can’t easily generate on-the-fly discounts for specific members.
Ultimately, an association’s budget dictates its ability to jump on any new tech trend—a fact CIOs grapple with every day. “Whatever we do,” says Sullivan, “we have to balance the cost of investment against the impact it makes.”