The Complete Guide to Ecommerce for Associations

Ecommerce has revolutionized the way associations deliver association member services online. With the rise of online third-party vendors offering continuing education resources and professional development opportunities, associations are facing increasing competition for their traditional revenue streams. However, the membership model remains viable, provided associations can effectively engage their audiences by offering value-added services through user-friendly, high-quality digital commerce solutions.

A seamless integration of an intuitive course delivery system with a robust ecommerce platform is key to attracting and retaining members in 2024 and beyond. Organizations that can leverage digital engagement for associations that enhance the member experience, streamline transactions, and provide personalized offerings will thrive in the ever-evolving ecommerce landscape.

person managing operations from digital device, indicating success with ecommerce solutions for associations and nonprofits

The Benefits of Ecommerce for Associations and Nonprofits

Integrating ecommerce in associations is important because it’s only going to grow in the coming years. According to the International Trade Administration, Global B2C ecommerce revenue is expected to reach $5.5 trillion by 2027 with a consistent 14.4% compound annual growth rate.

Growing revenue for membership, continuing education, conferences, and other paid member resources takes a multi-channel ecommerce marketing and advertising effort to be competitive.

Integrating ecommerce into associations offers many benefits that can drive growth, enhance member engagement, and streamline operations. Here are some key ones:

  • Revenue diversification: Ecommerce provides online revenue for associations beyond traditional membership dues. By offering online products, courses, publications, and other digital offerings, associations can tap into new sources of revenue.
  • Expanded reach: With an ecommerce platform, associations can extend their reach beyond their geographical boundaries, attracting and serving members globally. This broader accessibility can lead to increased membership and a more diverse community.
  • Improved member experience: Ecommerce for associations provides a seamless and convenient shopping experience for members. Members can easily access and purchase products, register for events, and renew memberships online, enhancing their overall satisfaction with the association.
  • Data-driven insights: Ecommerce systems capture valuable data about member preferences, purchasing behavior, and engagement levels. This data allows associations to personalize offerings, optimize marketing strategies, and make informed decisions about product development and resource allocation.
  • Cost savings: By digitizing products and services, associations can reduce printing, shipping, and inventory costs associated with physical goods. Automating processes like membership renewals and event registrations can significantly streamline operations and minimize administrative overhead.
  • Self-service capabilities: Ecommerce platforms empower members with self-service options, allowing them to access resources, complete transactions, and manage their accounts independently. This convenience fosters member autonomy and reduces the burden on association staff.
  • Scalability: As associations grow, ecommerce solutions can easily scale to accommodate increasing demand, enabling associations to expand their offerings and reach without being constrained by physical limitations.

By leveraging ecommerce, associations can enhance their value proposition, diversify revenue streams, and better serve their members in the digital age, positioning themselves for long-term sustainability and growth.

Key Considerations for Implementing Ecommerce

Before implementing ecommerce for associations, it’s important to conduct an audit to identify the current strengths and weaknesses of your product pages, and how you present membership, continuing education courses, conferences, and other resources. Analyze these areas to pinpoint opportunities for improvement and elements that are working well.

Additionally, compare the mobile experiences offered.

When implementing an ecommerce solution, consider factors such as your target audience and technological infrastructure.

Evaluate the development and maintenance costs associated with your website and ecommerce platform. Instead of maintaining numerous subdomains and applications, consider one unified web presence. While the upfront costs may be higher, a single modern digital platform offers better outcomes and decreases long-term maintenance expenses.

Newer web platforms have improved capabilities for integrating third-party systems. In contrast, separate websites require more effort to promote and gain online traction, and they typically rank lower in search engine results compared to a strong, centralized association website.

Finally, consider the legal and compliance aspects specific to associations and nonprofit organizations when implementing an ecommerce solution.

Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform for Associations

Associations should carefully analyze different ecommerce platforms to find the one that best suits their needs. Ideally, they should look for more than just a traditional ecommerce platform; a multi-purpose digital platform that can support comprehensive digital experiences is preferable. When evaluating potential solutions, associations should prioritize features such as integration capabilities, user experience, security, and scalability.

The criteria for selecting an ecommerce platform should include its ability to integrate with existing systems, provide an exceptional user experience, offer robust security features, and scale as the organization grows. Additionally, associations must consider the long-term cost of ownership, including maintenance and development expenses.

Top Association Web Platforms with Ecommerce Capabilities

There are some leading ecommerce platforms for associations that cater specifically to this sector. These platforms provide extensive tools beyond ecommerce, including content management and digital marketing capabilities.

Let’s take a look at some of these platforms.

Sitefinity Website Platform for Associations

When it comes to top ecommerce platforms for associations, Sitefinity stands out as a versatile solution that goes beyond traditional ecommerce functionalities. Tailored specifically for associations, Sitefinity offers a comprehensive digital platform that not only enables seamless online transactions but also serves as a hub for member engagement, content management, event organization, and more. With Sitefinity, associations can create a dynamic online presence that caters to diverse needs, making it a valuable tool for organizations looking to enhance their digital footprint and drive meaningful interactions with members.

WordPress CMS Platform for Associations

Among the top ecommerce platforms for associations, WordPress emerges as a versatile content management system (CMS) that transcends its ecommerce capabilities. Tailored to meet the diverse needs of associations, WordPress serves as a multi-purpose digital platform that not only facilitates online transactions but also empowers organizations to manage content, engage members, host events, and maintain a dynamic web presence. With WordPress, associations can leverage a user-friendly interface, extensive plugin options, and robust customization features to create a holistic online experience that fosters member interaction and supports organizational goals.

Kentico DXP Platform for Associations

Kentico DXP (digital experience platform) is a powerful solution for association websites, offering a wide range of benefits that enhance digital engagement for associations. With Kentico, associations can leverage advanced features such as personalized content delivery, marketing automation, omnichannel capabilities, and robust analytics to create tailored and impactful user experiences.

As a DXP, Kentico focuses on providing a cohesive ecosystem where associations can effectively manage content, engage members across various touchpoints, and drive meaningful interactions. By combining the strengths of Kentico as a platform with the key aspects of DXP, association websites can elevate their online presence, streamline operations, and deliver exceptional digital journeys to their audience.

Sitecore Enterprise Web Platform for Associations

Sitecore stands out as an enterprise web platform that provides more than conventional ecommerce functionality. Tailored to meet the diverse needs of associations, Sitecore is a multi-purpose platform that enables organizations to manage content effectively, personalize user experiences, implement marketing automation, and drive member engagement.

With Sitecore, associations can create a seamless online environment that not only facilitates transactions but also fosters relationships, enhances brand visibility, and supports various organizational objectives, making it a valuable asset for associations looking to establish a robust digital presence.

Strategies to Enhance Member Experience through Ecommerce

To optimize the member experience through ecommerce, associations can implement a range of strategies that cater to personalized shopping experiences and exclusive member offerings. By personalizing the shopping journey, associations can tailor product recommendations and promotions based on member preferences. Offering exclusive services and products such as subscriptions, digital content, and event tickets online can provide added value to members while boosting revenue streams.

Simplifying continued education course purchasing through customized category and detail pages, along with a streamlined cart and checkout process, ensures a user-friendly experience for members seeking professional development opportunities.

A promotional graphic with text

Optimizing Online Sales and Marketing for Associations

Associations should follow best practices for digital marketing to optimize their ecommerce efforts. This includes remarketing to members across digital and direct marketing channels, as well as implementing abandoned membership remarketing campaigns. Clearly highlighting the tangible incentives of membership, such as discounts on continuing education and conferences, can drive conversions. Providing added value resources tailored to the target audience is also important.

To generate traffic and sales, associations should utilize SEO, focus on the user experience, create compelling content marketing, and leverage social media effectively. An integrated digital marketing strategy that guides prospects through the entire funnel from awareness to purchase is key for successful online sales and member acquisition.

Leveraging Ecommerce for Fundraising and Donations

Associations can leverage ecommerce as a powerful tool for fundraising and donation initiatives by integrating innovative strategies into the online shopping experience. By incorporating donation options at checkout, offering exclusive merchandise or services where a portion of proceeds go towards a cause, or creating special fundraising events within the ecommerce platform, associations can seamlessly encourage contributions from supporters.

Successful case studies showcase how associations have utilized ecommerce for fundraising, such as implementing charity auctions, launching limited edition product campaigns tied to donations, or hosting virtual fundraising events that drive engagement and donations. Through strategic integration of fundraising and donation opportunities into the ecommerce experience, associations can maximize their impact, engage their audience, and generate support for their causes.

Streamlining Operations with Ecommerce Integration

Associations can streamline operations by integrating ecommerce with existing CRM and CMS systems, enabling seamless data flow and enhancing member management processes. By automating membership renewal and registration through the ecommerce platform, associations can improve member retention and operational efficiency.

Additionally, streamlining course sign-up and marketing processes with marketing automation tools allows for targeted communication and personalized promotions, optimizing engagement and conversion rates. Through these integrations and automation, associations can centralize their operations, reduce manual tasks, and deliver a more cohesive and efficient experience for both members and staff.

Analyzing Ecommerce Performance for Continuous Improvement

Associations can achieve continuous improvement by analyzing ecommerce performance through key performance indicators (KPIs) that track the success of their online activities. Monitoring metrics such as conversion rates, average order value, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of ecommerce initiatives.

Utilizing tools like Google Analytics, CRM integrations, and heatmaps enables associations to measure and enhance ecommerce effectiveness through data-driven decision-making. By implementing strategy dashboards that cover membership, continuing education, conferences, and other website areas, associations can gain a comprehensive understanding of results from marketing campaigns, identify areas for optimization, and drive strategic improvements for sustained growth and success.

Future Trends in Association Ecommerce

As associations navigate the evolving landscape of ecommerce, embracing emerging trends like AI and automation will be crucial for staying competitive and relevant. By leveraging AI-powered tools for personalized recommendations, chatbots for customer service, and automation for streamlined processes, associations can enhance member experiences, increase operational efficiency, and drive growth. Furthermore, with a rising level of competition in the digital space, associations must prioritize improving digital marketing strategies, advertising efforts, and ecommerce user experiences to stand out and attract and retain members.

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About Author

Shawn Griffin
Shawn has been with since 1999 in a variety of roles. Currently, Shawn is part of our digital marketing and content team. In addition to editing and producing written company pieces, he produces copy for clients and he also helps to produce our radio and TV spots. He wants to make sure everybody knows that it’s truly a collaborative effort – between many, including the people he’s worked for during the past 20+ years!

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