Membership Pro Tip: A Website “Secret Shopper”

Having a third-party observer look at your website might reveal a lot of hidden obstacles for members. The fresh look, along with some minor modifications, could vastly improve the user experience—and boost member engagement.

Successful websites are not based on analytics alone. The user experience is paramount, regardless of demographics. “Everybody wants to have a good experience on a website,” said Jay Daughtry, chief communications officer and owner of CQbd, a consulting firm. Certain aspects of a website will cause people to get frustrated, shut down, or look somewhere else for information. Not good.

What if you could have a “secret shopper,” a third-party observer, who has login credentials and can interact with the site and staff as a member, to glean invaluable insights about what’s working and—more importantly—what’s not? Objectivity is key.

How Does It Work?

Daughtry, who calls this an “undercover member experience,” looks at everything from a shopping cart experience, to signing up for a webinar, to links that lead to out-of-date information.

“Associations are great about putting stuff on their websites,” he said. “They’re not very good at having an expiration date on it.” That causes members to have a subpar experience.

One of his favorites is checking online contact forms, filling them out, and seeing if he gets a response. If he doesn’t, he knows there are only a few explanations: the technology’s not working, it’s going to a person who is overwhelmed with other responsibilities, or it’s going to more than one person and everyone in the group thinks someone else is taking care of it.

Daughtry uses screen capturing software to create videos of his website interactions and includes a voiceover, walking through his engagement with the site so he can visually explain to associations what he’s experiencing, step by step, and where he’s hitting roadblocks.

Why Is It Effective?

It gives staff a chance to see their website through a different set of eyes. They are on the website daily and so they don’t always see the mistakes or hiccups an outside user might. For example, when Daughtry sees a page promoting an annual conference that happened three months ago, there’s a problem. Instead, there should be new information about the upcoming conference, wrap-up highlights of the previous conference, or both.

What’s the Benefit?

If associations apply what they learn, members are going to have a better experience, Daughtry said. Because if a member is reaching dead ends or not getting a response from staff, it’s not sending the right message.

“The end result is, if no one is getting back to that member or potential member, they don’t have any reason to be engaged,” he said.

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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