Four Internet Trends Affecting Membership

At the 2019 Code Conference, venture capitalist Mary Meeker detailed numerous internet trends giving shape to businesses. Many of them also have implications for associations and their members.

Last week, Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report was released, teeing up—as Vox Media’s Recode put it—“the holiday season for data nerds.”

Meeker, the founder of Bond Capital and a former Wall Street securities analyst, delivered a whopping 333-slide deck in a half-hour presentation at the Code Conference 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Watch it here.) She hit on major data, technology, and internet trends affecting businesses and marketers. Among them, four stood out to me as key drivers of change for associations and their members.

Online advertising for targeted acquisition. Associations might take comfort in the fact that acquisition is not a challenge they face alone. For many businesses and industries, new customer acquisition is expensive and time intensive. That may be why companies (and associations) are searching for marketing acquisition strategies that deliver ROI value in a short period of time.

Meeker noted that internet ad spending for acquisition continues to grow, and it’s not just Google and Facebook where ad dollars are spent. These days, platforms like Amazon, Twitter, Snap, and Pinterest are reporting ad revenue increases year over year. They make it easier and more cost effective for an organization to control ad targeting, relevancy, and the creative experience that captures the attention of a new customer or member.

Referrals, recommendations, and free trial offers. While an online ad campaign might capture new attention, Meeker believes there’s still a lot of value in referrals, recommendations, and trials to keep and retain customers. “The most efficient and effective marketing is one’s own product, plus happy customers, plus recommendations,” she said.

She pointed to the rise of companies like Spotify, Zoom, and Canva, which rely on a freemium subscription model. Each of these services demonstrates value by offering a free, no-risk trial at sign-up. That’s something associations might want to consider too, whether it’s a free membership offer or trial membership period.

Meanwhile, Meeker pointed out that companies like the online personal styling service StitchFix use customer referrals and personalized recommendations—powered by both customer reviews and artificial intelligence—to grow their customer base even more. Associations should also consider the power of AI and word-of-mouth feedback. These tactics can be applied in something as simple as a member-referral campaign.

GDPR is still a great unknown. Especially if you have members based in Europe, you’ve probably spent the last year monitoring GDPR enforcement. To add to the complexity, a handful of U.S. states have either passed or proposed laws similar to GDPR, making data privacy a confusing landscape for many businesses and other organizations.

Much of that landscape for marketers is still “TBD,” Meeker said. “We don’t quite know what the impact of privacy changes will be on ad targeting.”

At some associations, what we’ve already so far are the creation of new positions, like the data protection officer, as well as new protocols for managing members’ data effectively. In the future, membership marketers may be faced with greater challenges, such as whom they can target or reach.

Voice recognition apps are on the rise. According to Meeker, there are now more than 47 million Amazon Echo devices in the market today, plus more than 70,000 Alexa skills developed in the last three years. It’s not just Alexa that’s popular—Google’s Home and Apple’s Siri are also on the rise.

In many instances, these voice-enabled technologies can be put to work right now for your members. In the May/June issue of Associations Now, I wrote about how these devices are being used at conferences, serving as AI-powered assistants.

We can expect other use cases for membership soon. For instance, last year, Amazon deployed a new pay integration that gives Alexa the power to buy goods or services using a voice command, which means it’s now possible for members to ask Alexa to pay membership dues.

What internet trends are affecting your members? Are any of these trends new or unexpected? Post your comments below.

(gremlin/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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