omnichannelFun fact! I recently bought a chainsaw.

It’s true. Eager to get some overgrown garden beds under control, last weekend our family became the proud owner of a Ryobi 40-volt brushless lithium-ion cordless chainsaw. Because I’m not in the habit of buying power tools, and the cost of all available options wasn’t what I could classify as insignificant, I approached the purchase as I do most others. I asked friends and family for their thoughts, went online, watched a handful of videos and read reviews on different hardware store websites before walking into the store and completing the transaction.

While I’ve spent much of my career in nonprofit technology, an equal number of years saw me working in ecommerce. As a marketer, and a product manager, I built campaigns and tools to help retailers and brands reach consumers no matter where they were – on a mobile device, online, in-store – and to ensure the experience was a seamless one. The idea of omnichannel wasn’t new to me and has been the way I’ve bought pretty much everything for the last decade (or more).

Apparently, I’m no longer alone. According to Google, 98 percent of Americans switch devices over the course of that day and IT research firm Aberdeen Group reports more than half of all companies are trying to reach us through no fewer than eight channels. It seems all of us have become accustomed to what retailers have dubbed the omnichannel experience, where a shopper engages through a series of channels to complete a transaction. Whether it’s the chainsaw you started researching online and bought in-store, or the beauty product you saw on the shelf and purchased via the web after reading reviews, the importance of a consistent experience designed to help the end user accomplish a goal has never been more important.

What does it all mean for nonprofits? A lot, actually.

Personify first noticed this phenomenon in our landmark Young Members 2.0 research published earlier this year. Digital, social, live events and even phone calls worked together to communicate value, creating a memorable, meaningful experience and both Millennial and Gen Z members reported engaging through a variety of channels in pursuit of what they understood as a single, consistent objective: to be a member. We found ourselves asking if this was isolated behavior, unique to young members who we recognized as sophisticated in their technology use or was there more to the story?

If you want answers, you need to ask questions. In July of 2019, we launched new research into the field, to expand on some of Personify’s earlier discoveries, exploring how all members, regardless of where they are in their membership journey, perceive membership and to better understand how they engage with the various channels used by associations.

What did we learn? A lot. While we’re putting the finishing touches on the report itself, we discovered that the omnichannel behaviors members show as consumers are now influencing how they engage with membership organizations. With the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across channels, omnichannel can boost both a deeper relationship between the member and association plus yield bottom-line results driving a 30% higher lifetime customer value.

Other key findings:

  • Engagement via different channels isn’t a phenomenon unique to younger members. 73% of users across all generations report using multiple channels to engage with their favorite brands when provided with the option to do so.
  • Membership is important…but it may not be enough long-term. Nearly three-in-four of members surveyed reported that it is important to them personally to be part of an association, with half contending it is very important. But this wasn’t the feeling across all generations and there was a sharp drop-off in value with one particular segment we surveyed.
  • The top engagement channels weren’t necessarily the ones associations are telling us are their areas of focus, and there was a huge surprise in terms of what most beloved by our youngest survey respondents.
  • In-person events continued to perform well as an engagement channel, but many channels associations are using to replicate these connections online aren’t just failing to meet expectations, they’re actively disliked!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There were additional bombshells that caught us off guard and very obvious ways in which associations can leverage what was uncovered about channel effectiveness to begin crafting that retail-like omnichannel experience members crave.

Interested in learning more? Join us for a free on-demand Webinar.