Ecommerce for Associations: Rethinking Your Online Approach

As an association, optimizing your ecommerce experience (or starting one for that matter) can feel like a daunting, near impossible challenge. Ecommerce and the overall online experience haven’t always taken precedent over other important aspects such as maintaining revenue streams and providing free or low-cost resources to members. While you might be a little late in the game, if you have not already considered investing into your ecommerce website experience, now is the time to get started.

Driving revenue to your association has been more of a challenge than ever, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many organizations have put new initiatives on hold, and others have made significant budget cuts as associations have seen event, membership and engagement numbers decreasing. Not to mention, people are not joining associations at rates seen previously, so dues revenue cannot be solely relied on.

Those new or potential members who are just now entering the workforce have grown up using the internet. It is second nature to most of this generation and an online presence is what they expect from any modern-day business. Attempting to market to this group is nearly impossible if you lack an online presence or if you have a weak digital presence at all.

So, how can we find creative solutions to add revenue to make up for these losses, particularly from a workforce that is only getting younger?

Go to where your potential members are and will be for the foreseeable future by giving them valuable, relevant experiences via ecommerce marketing, something they are quite familiar with already. Keep these tips in mind as you begin or build out your ecommerce.

1.) Sell More Than “Tangible Goods”

Seminars, continuing education resources, events, and so on are all resources you can sell to non-members. Identifying premium content is a way to expose non-members to the benefits and educational resources the organization provides, while giving your members the benefit of not having to pay for those items and more incentive to renew. This premium content may include: seminars, e-books, industry reports, white papers, webinars, certification resources, continuing education, and more! When it comes to ecommerce, studies have shown that between 20% and 40% of webinar attendees eventually become qualified leads.

2.) Deliver Relevant Content

Delivering relevant and useful content, along with the products you already sell, helps to keep users on your site for longer amounts of time. This also gives them a reason to return for more, spending more with your organization. Build content around your organization that positions it as a thought leader with assets like press releases, blog articles, white papers, etc. This type of content is a marketing staple shown to boost credibility and sales. On average, sales pages containing testimonials see a 34% increase in conversions.

3.) Design for Scannability

Build a shopping experience that eliminates obstacles to enable shoppers to find what they want to purchase. Creating an easy shopping process is important to make relevant information appear prominently on your site by design. Some principles to follow are easy-to-see calls to action and links, contrasting elements with good use of white space, and present content that is easy to digest - cut straight to the point. Browsers that can easily process the information on your site can more easily find what they are looking for and lead to purchase.

4.) Create Simple Check Out

Implement a simple, intuitive way for repeat users or members to purchase and a guest checkout option for non-members. Help your users gauge how quickly they can move through the purchase process with ‘steps until completion’ to show the progress of the checkout process. Another tip is to allow browsers to purchase through guest checkouts which give the option to quickly place an order if they value the product more than membership. This strategy makes the customer feel like you’re not pushing them to join but then once the purchase is complete, you can serve them content that speaks to the benefits of membership.

Take it one step at a time and only do as much as you can handle. Creating and implementing an ecommerce practice within your organization can feel intimidating at first but with the right planning, preparation, and design you can create revenue for your organization based off of your non-dues.

Contact us if you have questions about ecommerce best practices, or how you can begin your own ecommerce development.

About Author

Steven LaGow is on the Partnerships team as the Regional Partner Marketing Manager based out of Washington DC, specifically focused on the association and nonprofit markets. Having worked with these organizations for the last 5 years, he is committed to helping Associations and Nonprofits focus on their missions and providing their members and constituents the best possible web experience. In his free time, he loves attending Washington Nationals games, watching Manchester United, and all kinds of live music.

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