Advocacy, Loyalty & Referrals

Community Brands announces the ASSOCIATION TRENDS STUDY results

Research data concludes organizations must adapt to increased technology demands to stay relevant
referral marketing

Community Brands, the leading provider of software and payment solutions for associations and nonprofits, just revealed industry-changing insights gleaned from the results of the 2022 ASSOCIATION TRENDS STUDY: The Future-Focused Member Experience — the only annual market study that examines both association professionals and members. Conducted with Edge Research, the data clearly indicates that after several years of turmoil, a focus on innovative technology and association member experience has never been greater.

The Community Brands study, conducted annually over the past five years, collected data from hundreds of association leaders and a thousand members, and measured their attitudes and behaviors regarding technology. Insights revealed in the study include key technology trends that all association leaders should know about as well as action items aimed at providing greater member value and member experience (MX), while driving engagement and loyalty.

“The past two-plus years of upheavals have reconfigured the world forever, and many associations are considering how to meet today’s digital expectations,” said Jennifer Lee, President, Associations & Events, Community Brands. “We hear every day that association professionals are thinking about what members want in this new post-pandemic world and what it will take to continue providing a great member experience. This research study reinforces what we know: Innovative technology is the future of associations.”  

This year’s insights identify a common theme: Innovative technology plays a central role in delivering superior MX. For example, 72% of Members report high levels of satisfaction and connection with associations they ranked as early adopters of technology, but less than 20% of Pros report being very technologically prepared for the future. Also, member priorities are shifting. While tangible career advancement benefits (certifications, job opportunities, etc.) have risen in importance for early- and mid-careerists, Pros continue to underestimate the importance of job opportunities and help with career advancement.

Where there are disconnects, there are opportunities. While many Pros feel unprepared to meet the future technological needs of their members, associations’ number one digital priority is currently investing in the member experience. The study suggests many game-changing insights for associations: Make sure your AMS and LMS support a modern digital MX; Invest in an event platform that can help you deliver excellent hybrid event experiences.

“Associations set the bar high during the pandemic  [they] came out like gangbusters during the pandemic with [added] value,” said Tirrah Switzer, Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Community Brands, during the Reveal Webinar. “But now [association] members expect that level of value. The bar has been set, and now [they] have to keep up with it because member loyalty and retention depend on it.”

Additional key findings from the report include:

  • Adopt innovative tech today. Members and Pros are in agreement—63% of members and 65% of Pros believe if their association doesn’t transform technologically, it won’t survive. Yet, only one-in-three associations have a digital transformation plan. When it comes to managing data, small organizations tend to be less technologically prepared than larger ones.

  • Member loyalty is tied to tech. While sentiments remain strong at 48% of Members valuing their association, they do show signs of softening—the statistic was 56% in 2021. Investing in innovative technology is critical to member loyalty and driving a better MX. Now is the time for associations to prove themselves with an attractive value proposition and technology to match. 

  • Shifting member priorities impacts all organizations. Members report an increased interest in tangible membership benefits like career advancement, job opportunities, certifications, and professional development. Networking, job opportunities, and certifications/credentials are the new top three priorities for Members. Opportunities to adopt career center and learning management software to boost MX abound.

  • Make hybrid happen. Pros continue to overestimate the value of in person events. Members report a preference for mostly virtual engagement — over the next year, 74% of Members plan to engage with associations virtually. Half of Members will engage mostly virtually, and a quarter will connect through a hybrid of in-person and virtual events.

  • Take member data seriously. Only one-in-four associations have a data governance plan, resulting in low levels of confidence for Pros in their current member data state. This presents an opportunity for Pros to develop a data governance strategy and to invest in technology that supports your goals and keeps your data clean and secure. Data analytics is a growth area in which Pros can better understand members and create superior MX.

The full study — now available for download on the association trends resource page — was released Thursday, June 23. As part of the release, a special CAE-credit Big Reveal webinar, co-presented by Tirrah Switzer, Sr. Director of Product Marketing at CB, and Pam Loeb, Principal at Edge Research, explained the study’s member engagement and offered a detailed look at findings and strategic ways to utilize the data.

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