I'm attending a wedding next month. This is a wedding without a gift registry, which should be illegal because I spent well over an hour scrolling through "wedding gifts" on Amazon before I figured out what to give the happy couple.
Gift hunting was exhausting and stressful, so I waited until the next day to look for a dress to wear. That, however, went much faster. As soon as I logged on to Amazon I was shown some beautiful, wedding-appropriate dresses (along with a few "congratulations" greeting cards). The dresses were Amazon's suggestion, and that personalized recommendation created an ideal online experience for me.
Amazon is a master at this. They're incredibly effective at engaging their audience through personalization, including on-screen purchase suggestions and personalized emails.
But Amazon isn't the only pervasive brand that's personalizing the online customer and member experience. Think about Netflix, Disney, and media sites, like the Washington Post. These and other organizations have extensive customization in place, which has led to consumers no longer seeing personalization as just a nice touch. Instead, they've come to expect it.
That's made customization essential for your association as well. To provide a great online experience and effectively engage your members, you need to get as close to Amazon's personalization level as possible.
Fortunately, the fact that Amazon jumped on the personalization bandwagon first has some advantages. Amazon has already defined and developed methods to customize digital experiences. You can use those already proven methods as a framework for your association.
You can even cut down on the effort personalization requires by leaning on your membership and community software. Both systems will collect data for you. They'll also provide the tools you need to implement the same data-backed techniques as Amazon, personalizing your communication, website, and content offers.
Amazon's personalization techniques are heavily rooted in data. They track what items people search for, look at and purchase. They record the products that customers write reviews for and what pages they visit. They have mountains of data, all of which is stored in a single location.
The data paints a comprehensive picture of what each customer is interested in. Amazon can then make suggestions by showing comparable products or other items that complement what consumers have already purchased.
All of Amazon's interactions with customers and visitors are driven by their data. On-screen calls-to-action, product suggestions via email, and other communication is all based on what Amazon knows about their customers.
Like Amazon, your association has access to a large amount of information on your members. Along with traditional demographic information captured in your AMS software, you may even have transactional information and activity data (which Amazon has on their customers).
Use that data to personalize your members' experience using the following four techniques.
Segmenting your contact list is when you divide members and prospects into groups based on similar characteristics. For instance, you could segment your list based on members who have visited your website, live in certain areas of the country, or have attended your annual conference. Each segment is interested in, or engaged with, different content or benefits.
This type of segmentation is used heavily in email communication. A new study from demand generation organization, Ascend2, even found that list segmentation is the number one email personalization tactic.
To make the best use of segmentation, send different messages to members of different groups. Members who attended your conference may be interested in presentation slides, for example. You could email send them copies of the slides or instructions on how to access the slides in your online community. Those who didn't attend the conference likely won't be as interested in the slides.
How Technology Helps: If you have online community software that allows for group or chapter communities then you already have the basis for your segments. Chapters, communities, and groups naturally divide members into segments based on similar characteristics, so you don't need to start from scratch and put in extra hours to come up with all your segments.
Instead of creating one generalized newsletter for all your members, give each of your members the option to have a personalized newsletter delivered to them every day, week, or month. Your members will choose the content they're interested in by favoriting blogs or subscribing to discussion forums and updates on that content will be included in the newsletter.
Tailored email newsletters help members get information only on the topics they're interested in and most likely to engage with, instead of updates that don't apply to them.
How Technology Helps: Your online community software should have the ability to create targeted email newsletters automatically. After they favorite blogs or forums, updates on the chosen topics are gathered together and compiled them into a custom newsletter at a frequency chosen by members. There are no extra demands on your staff's time and workload.
Personalization techniques don't always have to be based on interests or groups, they can also be based directly on your members' activities. In Ascend2's research, activity-based personalization is listed as one of the most effective techniques.
To take advantage of member activities, also known as online behavior, consider linking your calls-to-action to the tasks that members have or have not performed. If a member has not filled out their profile in your online community, show them a call-to-action prompting them to do so. For members who have filled out their profiles, show a call-to-action to visit your event registration page instead.
How Technology Helps: Your online community software is already recording which pages members are visiting on your website, which blogs they're reading, and which files they're downloading. That means there's no extra effort required for you to get information on what activities your members are doing. Just use what's already being recorded in your system and base your calls to action on those activities.
Like behavior-based calls-to-action, customized webpages are built around the actions your members have performed in the system. Depending on your membership software and website provider, they could include your website and online community homepages, landing pages, and chapter community homepages.
When your webpages change to accommodate the actions your members have already taken, you provide them with a custom experience. Members who have not registered for your conference may see webpages advertising the event, for example, while members who have registered would see detailed information about the sessions. Such personalized webpages and landing pages relieve frustration because members won't be directed to actions or information they've already reviewed.
How Technology Helps: Online commnunity software and content management systems have different capabilities in this area. Systems with engagement levels, for instance, can show members different webpage messages based on how active they are in your association. Other systems may base messages on different behavioral metrics.
Corporate behemoths like Amazon and Netflix have ushered in an era of personalization, but with advances in technology personalization no longer has to be a daunting task. The more you take advantage of the automation and the tools in your AMS platform, the less effort you and your staff will have to put into creating custom experiences.
Start by using your membership management software and online community platform to automatically collect data on your members. Then put that data to good use by triggering personalized communication and offers. Do not do everything by hand over and over again. Create repeatable processes that utilize everything your technology has to offer.
Most importantly, make personalization a priority and carry it through the entire member lifecycle. You should give your members the best, most customized experience possible. It will soon be a must-have for all digital experiences.