Mobile apps are increasingly paving the way for stupid-simple commerce, hitting industries as diverse as groceries, taxi service, even laundry. You might think this model won’t work for your association, but guess what? An association was one of the first movers in this space a century ago.
People who lived in cities around the turn of the century got a taste of the future of electronic commerce—but it only lasted until the venture capital funding ran out.
The roaring ’90s, an era when the internet was new and the cash flowed freely, produced websites such as Kozmo and Webvan to simplify the process of shopping locally. It was a good idea—in some corners of the internet, people still talk about Kozmo’s epic ability to deliver stuff within an hour—but it didn’t last long.
It’s been a while, but guess what? Those free-flowing times are back, and thanks to mobile devices, these apps, which came back into vogue off the success of Uber, have revolutionized the urban dwelling experience. You can open up an app to get groceries, to do laundry, to clean your house, to even just pick up the loose ends.
The latest and greatest example is an app called Push for Pizza, which turns ordering a pizza into, quite literally, a one-button affair. It’s a concept that’s more awesome than it sounds and deservingly picked up a lot of quick hype on its launch earlier this month.
We may not be there at scale yet, but this is where technology is going—to a place where technology fills in all the little holes and solves all of our problems. Maybe all this isn’t as cool as robots or self-driving cars, but it most certainly has its place.
Push for Towing
If you’re an association pro reading this, there’s probably a degree of this sentiment running through your mind: “Who cares? This model doesn’t matter to me.”
I’d like to pop that bubble. There’s a service, created by an association, that beat Kozmo to the order-anywhere punch many decades earlier. It offered a service at the press of a button, and it came at a time when a way of life was being disrupted for millions of people.
The American Automobile Association—you probably know it as AAA—offered roadside assistance, perhaps the grandaddy of help-on-the-fly services, way back in 1915. The nonprofit motor club now handles 29 million such calls annually. We take car service for granted now, but it wasn’t such a sure thing back in the day. AAA set the groundwork that made us take it for granted.
You don’t hear about disruptive competitors to AAA very often, because the organization does its job, and well. That’s not to say there aren’t competitors vying to be the Uber of roadside assistance—I can name at least two, Tow Choice and Urgently.
But the sheer existence of AAA and its century-long track record of helping out drivers in need proves that there is room for trade groups to get in on the press-to-buy market as a member benefit.
Your members are way more likely to trust you to do the right thing than they are, say, Yelp. Leverage that.
See the Potential
AAA has mostly kept up with the times—its apps for Android and iPhone allow you to order roadside assistance without calling anyone, and it even has secondary apps for its magazines and car buyers—but perhaps its app isn’t as slick as its competition. (The app space is like a treadmill, and you have to redesign constantly or risk feeling dated.)
But that’s a lot further than many associations have gotten. As I wrote back in July, there is plenty of room to do more with apps than help attendees at events or offer a digital version of your publication.
You can sell stuff now. You can fundraise. You can advocate. You can create resources that help the public find what they need from your industry.
There’s an opportunity here to not just help your members, but to let the public know that your members exist—and that your members can be of benefit, too. Perhaps this is a collaboration like the American Bar Association’s recent team-up with Rocket Lawyer; perhaps this is a new app entirely. But the point is that there has to be a vision to see places where you can play a role and allows you to assist both your members and the public at large. Your members are way more likely to trust you to do the right thing than they are, say, Yelp. Leverage that.
Can you turn your industry’s needs—at least some of the bigger ones—into the press of a button? If the answer is yes, don’t wait.
You could be sitting on the next AAA without even realizing you’re in the driver’s seat.