Do you have the X factor? Digital experiences for the modern member

Kylee Coffman | 02.04.16
Topics: Web - Mobile - Social, AMS - Data - Membership

The association community is filled with abbreviations and acronyms. When talking about technology with your colleagues, you’re bound to hear several mentioned in one conversation: AMS, CMS, LMS, SaaS, CRM, UX, and so on. Here’s one you might not have heard before: DX or digital experience.

The membership experience for many of your members is a digital experience. For example, your website is most likely a prospective member’s first insight into your organization and, after joining, their major touchpoint with you.

But your website is only one platform for interacting with members. The digital experience therefore requires an omni-channel approach—a digital strategy that encompasses all digital platforms.

4978472520_86db26b8c4_z1.jpgOver the last several years, you’ve increasingly communicated with—and delivered value to—members via your blog, emails, mobile apps, and other digital platforms and channels.

  • New members receive a series of onboarding emails instead of a bulky welcome package on their doorstep.
  • They consume your website’s articles and resources, and they stay informed thanks to e-newsletters.
  • They register for events and buy products online.
  • Members with sufficient budgets may still go to in-person events, but others rely on online courses and webinars for their professional development.
  • Members get advice from each other in online communities, and socialize and share resources on social media platforms.
  • And, they participate in online advocacy campaigns.

You’re not the only ones who use digital platforms to interact and deliver value to your members. The digital world is full of nonprofit and for-profit brands competing for your members’ attention, interest, time, and money. That’s why it’s so critical to consider how your member is experiencing their membership—both in person and on digital platforms.

  • Are you providing a consistent membership experience?
  • How satisfying is their digital experience?
  • Is it productive or frustrating?
  • Does it feel personal or institutional?
  • Does the digital experience provide the value that members seek?

Understand the digital experience (DX)

Before you take steps to improve the digital experience, you must first understand the type of experience you’re providing now. Google Analytics provides a wealth of data about how members and other visitors are using your website. However, making sense of all the data provided by Google Analytics can be a daunting task (and a good reason to hire a consultant). Other digital platforms—social media tools, mobile apps, and email marketing software—also provide analytical reports that can help you understand how members are interacting with your digital content.

Use surveys and focus groups to collect feedback from members about their digital experience so you can better understand their online expectations and habits. Consult with staff who provide member and customer service or anyone else who regularly answers calls and emails. These ‘frontline’ employees know your digital bottlenecks and problem areas… like the 14 steps it takes to renew a membership.

You need to think about the digital experience of all your different audiences, not just members. In developing a digital strategy, you’lldefine those target audiences and the percentage of time you’ll dedicate to each one—along with the resources, content, and services you’ll use to support them.

Shift resources from traditional to digital experiences

You may find that senior staff and other leaders continue to think about the membership experience in traditional terms. The data you’ve collected from Google Analytics, other digital platforms, and customer feedback will provide the proof needed for the new digital reality. You will need leadership support to make the organizational changes necessary to provide the best digital experience possible.

Rule #1: get out of the member’s or customer’s way. Members are focused on what they need to do or find; they’re not thinking about the departments or systems that might provide it. For example, website navigation shouldn’t mirror the association’s departments; instead, it should reflect the needs of the target audiences.

Delivering a successful member experience online goes beyond building a website. Your digital experience and content live on many different platforms. Supporting this digital ecosystem requires looking realistically at traditional mindsets, job descriptions, budget lines, and organizational responsibilities. Do they support today’s new digital reality or are they relics of the 20th century?

Often when new technology and processes are implemented, the people factor is left out of the mix. Does your staff have the appropriate skills to develop and manage a digital strategy? You must have the right people in the right roles to succeed in the new digital environment.

An organization’s culture determines how successful it will be in providing a valuable digital experience to members and customers. A good digital experience requires a collective effort, not a piecemeal departmental approach. When we work with our association clients on a digital content digital strategy, we bring different departments together to work as a unified team, often for the very first time.

Although the digital experience involves technology, budgets, and programs that live in different departments, an integrated approach is required. When staff is encouraged to work together collaboratively, they’re more likely to provide a digital experience that solves the problems and meets the needs of members and constituents. And what organization wouldn’t be pleased with those results?

Improve your members' digital experience by laying a solid foundation with a forward-thinking digital strategy. Learn how in our free Digital Strategy Toolkit.

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