How Omnichannel Marketing Can Build Relationships With Your Members

Two new reports point to member engagement challenges for associations, which could mean it’s time to test out an omnichannel marketing strategy—and, no, that’s not the same thing as multichannel marketing. Here’s what the omnichannel approach looks like.

Is your member engagement rate dropping? If so, you’re not alone.

According to the 2019 Membership Performance Benchmark Report released earlier this month from Advanced Solutions International, member engagement is the top challenge for most associations. Only 34 percent of associations reported an increase in member engagement this year, down from 38 percent last year.

A separate study by Personify echoes those findings. In a webinar Tuesday, Amanda Myers, the company’s director of product growth, said that preliminary findings from Personify’s Member Experience 2.0 study show that digital marketing will continue to be a critical piece of the member engagement puzzle, especially when organizations are trying to reach young members.

“It may not have come as a surprise [that] online content is hugely important to Gen Z,” the report states, noting that these young people spend an average of six to 10 hours a day looking at as many as five different screens.

If associations want to make inroads with young members, they may want to pay attention to what many online retailers are doing, Myers says.

Take me as an example. As I write this blog post, I’m wearing a pair of Allbirds tennis shoes. Like many online retailers, Allbirds uses an omnichannel approach to marketing its products, a strategy that emphasizes a brand-to-consumer connection that feels cohesive and built around user habits.

Here’s how I came to Allbirds: First, the company targeted me with an Instagram ad that I clicked on. Then, a video popped up in my Facebook feed and explained the company’s corporate social responsibility program of donating shoes to people in need. Then, I heard an ad on my favorite podcast talking about how Allbirds are sustainably produced with a zero-carbon footprint. Notice that none of these messages asked me to buy anything.

Next, I began window-browsing online for various shoe styles. Then a friend recommended Allbirds, and shortly after he gave me a pair as a gift.

My path to wearing Allbirds took several steps, typical of an omnichannel marketing campaign. As Myers explains, each of the brand’s engagements with me “was by design [and] meant to feel fluid and interconnected.”

From Multichannel to Omnichannel

Now, you might be thinking, “We’re already doing omnichannel marketing.” But what you may actually have is a multichannel strategy. That’s not a bad thing, Myers says, but multichannel strategies are less about creating a consistent, seamless experience regardless of which channel the customer is in. Instead, multichannel marketing focuses on hitting several channels at once.

“With multichannel, your message might vary from channel to channel, but it almost always gets pushed from the organization and directs back to them,” Myers says. Think of parallel lines running between your organization and your member, each line representing a different channel. By contrast, an omnichannel strategy “looks very much like a wheel with a hub and several spokes,” Myers explains.

The goals of the two strategies also differ. Multichannel marketing tends to be more transactional, persuading someone to click “buy,” “register,” “renew,” or “join.” The omnichannel approach is more about creating a holistic experience of your brand, which leads to a relationship—and somewhere downstream, a purchase.

Research from Google shows that omnichannel strategies drive a 30 percent higher lifetime customer value. Myers says many college-based membership groups, including fraternities and sororities, are using omnichannel marketing right now to recruit Gen Z members during the back-to-school period.

“So maybe you visit a Facebook page, then receive a [Facebook] direct message, followed by an email invite to attend an on-campus event,” she says. “It all coalescence and comes together as more meaningful way to engage.”

Have you used omnichannel marketing? How did it help engage your members? Post your comments below.

(Tevarak/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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