A new report from the association tech conglomerate Community Brands finds that technology often leads to better member experiences, but associations often don’t invest in the kinds most desirable to members—specifically, those that allow for personalization.
At a base level, associations work in service of their members—and technology, when done right, can help associations serve those members even better.
But what if there’s an area in which you’re not meeting your members’ needs? Can tech help there, too?
The answer to that question is the key discussion point of a new report from Community Brands, the recently formed parent company of YourMembership, Abila, and Aptify, among other association technology providers. The Digital Member Study [registration], a survey of more than 1,000 members of professional organizations and 400 staff members, makes the case that tech is a major driver of member loyalty, but that many organizations are struggling to keep up with the possibilities that technology provides.
A few key points of the report:
Better tech, happier members. Perhaps the most notable finding from the report is that, of the surveyed members who described themselves as “very satisfied” with their organization (about half of respondents), they gave their organization high marks for their technology uptake—73 percent saw their organizations as early technology adopters, while 89 percent gave their organization an “excellent” ranking on the technology front. Interestingly, members were more likely to see their organizations as ahead of the curve on technology compared to staff members.
Where the gaps lie. The report notes that one of the biggest weak points for membership organizations is personalization. Just a third of members believe they receive personalized content, while of those who do, 60 percent say they feel “extremely connected to their organization.” More than half of organization staff members (58 percent) are interested in the potential of a personalization solution, though the report finds there are differences in what members want (personalized job and product postings, reading recommendations) compared to what staff members think they want (thank-yous and acknowledgment).
Where the tech lies. On the preparedness front, 77 percent of organizations (are likely to have solid email-marketing platforms that meet member needs, while more than 60 percent say they have solid association management systems and event-related tools. Other common technologies in which associations feel they meet member needs are mobile applications (57 percent), content management systems (56 percent), webcast tools (56 percent), online communities (54 percent), and job boards (50 percent). Less common are learning management systems, business intelligence tools, and advocacy systems. Still emerging are tools related to artificial and predictive and artificial intelligence, risk management, and machine learning.
Will they invest? One other notable finding of the report is that many staff members don’t think their organizations will increase technology investment in the next year—with 55 percent saying they will stay consistent with technology funding, 9 percent expecting a decrease in investment, and 3 percent expecting no investment at all. Just 27 percent see an increase in investment in the next year. Staff members say leadership and budget issues are the limiting factors.
In a news release, Community Brands Membership Software Evangelist Sig VanDamme noted that personalization was overall the largest weak point that organizations should work on.
“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” VanDamme said in the release. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization.”
The full study is available for download from the Community Brands website.