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Five Things Associations Can Learn From Amazon

by | Jan 25, 2012 | Industry News & Trends

What? We don’t have that kind of revenue! I can already hear my association friends and colleagues tapping on their screens to x out of this blog post. But what Amazon kept in mind during its meteoric rise is the customer and how to make its offerings more easily, efficiently and economically available to them. As this article in Forbes points out, they didn’t create a new product or service, they revamped/set our expectations. Associations can use this same strategic thinking and customer focus to win over members.

1. Innovation. Amazon didn’t (initially) introduce a brand new product or service. They didn’t create the tablet concept or online ordering. They made it more affordable and efficient. Take a look at your current offerings. Where are the gaps? What could you do better? Assess what’s out there. “Innovation” for your association community may not be about creating a revolutionary process or service. It may just be in doing something quicker, better or making a price-point more enticing.

2. Prime membership. Amazon offered a paid membership program that bundled free 2-day shipping, free streaming video and other perks. They saw that some people would be willing to pay more for upgraded services. Are there services within your association that you could package together and “sell” as a premium membership of some kind, on top of your current member type designations?

3. Wish lists. Amazon allows users to choose products and save them to a list that can then be circulated to friends and family. They allow sharing on social profiles and a toolbar that transfers your likes around the web onto your wish list. Maybe your association does not have the capital to invest in its own toolbar but you can track/survey user preferences and use them to shape offerings. Poll members and/or ask them to create their own wish lists professionally and personally through a blog or forum. Read the responses, aggregate them and apply findings to your association.

4. Search/recommendations. Amazon’s search is fabulous but their “you might also like” suggestions are the cat’s whiskers. When members sign up for events consider sending them suggestions on other opportunities within your organization. The brilliance behind Amazon’s suggestions is how closely they are linked with the product you’re looking at so make sure that your suggestions are too. Don’t suggest the golf outing just because someone signed up for a CE seminar.

5. Promoting new items. Amazon remembers past orders and wish lists and uses that data to compile recommendations as mentioned above. It uses that information when presenting its newest products to the customer as well. A way to stand out and provide excellent customer service is to tie your newest offerings or features into a member’s preferences. Use a tickler, set up groups by preferences, use touch logs, whatever helps you keep a member’s interests in mind. Find this overwhelming to do for your entire membership? Target a particular group such as power users or those who have not participated in x amount of months and follow/link their preferences.

Amazon is one of the world’s most prominent name brands; so prominent that when I hear it, I think first of the company and then of the geographical region. Their success was predicated on customizing the user experience and while your association may not have the technology capital that it does, you can customize the member experience to great results with a few questions and some savvy monitoring.


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