Associations learn from retailers, too


(Source: Business Mirror | August 30, 2018)

Retailers differ from manufacturing companies in that they do not produce any tangible product. They purchase merchandise from these manufacturers in large quantities for resale to consumers at a profit. The domestic retail industry in the country, represented by the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), is mature and highly competitive.

So, what have retailers got to do with associations? I recently read with interest the “KPMG Global Retail Trends 2018” and thought I’d share with you the top lessons from the report for retailers which are relevant, to associations, as well:

Customer experience is key to success. The commercial battleground is no longer just price, product, or efficient supply chain. It is now customer experience. This is an important insight for associations. Members are also customers who expect great experiences from their associations: be it a conference, a training course, a publication, or a networking event.

Don’t give up on brick and mortar. Understand the balance of digital and e-commerce required in order to reach your customer.

Many associations simply “jump into the online bandwagon” because it is the fad. But consider that associations are first and foremost, “social” organizations that still need face-to-face interaction among members.

Understand how AI can help your business. In 2018, there will be more AI adoption. Retailers need to understand where AI fits within their organization. Similarly, associations have to explore what AI can do for them. My column last August 24, 2018 (AI: Association Intelligence) suggests how associations, through member engagement techniques, can benefit from AI.

Look externally to help build your technology. The best way for many companies to achieve successful implementation of technologies is to look outside their own four walls. Associations need not work in isolation.

The Philippine Council for Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), the “association of associations” in the country, provides sharing of information, ideas, and experiences in many aspects of association governance and management, including technology.

Stay true to the core of your brand. Customers want authenticity and transparency. They want to know exactly who they are buying from. Studies show that remarkable associations do not deviate from their avowed purpose, advocacy, or cause—their key branding asset—even in challenging times and this makes their members “stick to them as a community.”

Understand that the customer has changed. It is important to understand that the old ways of doing customer segmentation aren’t sufficient. You need a multidimensional view of your customer. For associations, developing “member personas,” i.e., getting to know your members through research, surveys and interviews, help determine what products and services would appeal to members.

More on this in my column on February 21, 2018 (Association Member Personas).

Recognize that customer expectations have changed and retailers who don’t meet expectations are no longer contenders. Disruption is here to stay. Associations will be vulnerable if they do not adapt quickly to cater to their members aspirations and expectations.


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