Associations Can Do Things the Amazon Way

Three years ago, I wrote a couple of articles titled “Associations can’t navigate the Amazon-way,” (see here) which explained why associations have a much tougher time making their web sites function as simply and effectively as

Three years later, technology (or perhaps more accurately, the cost of technology) allows associations to offer web sites with functionality that more closely resembles Amazon. More important, your members, being consumers themselves, now expect your web site to offer the same kind of functionality as Amazon.

Approaching Amazon…

Here are a few of the functions your members will likely expect as part of their web site interactions:

  • Online profile management. As a customer of Amazon or a member of an association, I expect to be able to go to a web site, log in to my record, and update certain elements. I should be able to update my address (and different types of addresses, like home, office and shipping); my phone, fax and e-mail; and my login name or password.
  • Opt-in/opt-out. As part of my profile management, I should be able to tell you which types of communications I want to receive from your association, and which I do not want to receive. This would include both commercial (e.g., event or product promotions) and noncommercial (e.g., newsletters, SIGS, listservers) communications.
  • Areas of interest. Amazon uses a concept called “predictive marketing” to identify products that I am likely to be interested in, and presents those products to me when I am logged in to their site. While some AMS products offer similar functionality, most do not.

However, creating and tracking areas of interest can get you closer to this ideal (see “Using the power of predictive marketing“). By surveying and asking members and customers which areas they are most interested in, you can better target your marketing message.

  • Product ordering, tracking and history. If your association sells products, events or services, at a bare minimum users should be able to order online with a credit card and without any staff intervention.

And when I order something online, I expect to receive an email confirming my order. If it is a physical product, I expect to receive tracking information about the order. In addition, I expect to be able to go online and look at my order history, to see which products and services I have purchased from you in the past (publications, meeting registrations, etc.).

The good news is that the latest offerings from major AMS vendors to the association community are providing this kind of functionality. And for the most part, at a price that many associations can afford. Your members and customers are consumers. They’ve come to expect this kind of web interaction from any organization with which they have a financial relationship. Is your association meeting those expectations?

This article originally appeared in the March 25, 2005 issue of Association TRENDS. Copyright 2005 Association TRENDS. Reprinted with permission.


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