Report: Sense of Belonging Essential to Sustained Membership

The iSeatz survey features input from members beyond associations, including season-ticket holders and participants in subscription and loyalty programs.

Members of a wide variety of groups are looking for value, belonging, and personalized attention, according to a new report.

The Benefits of Belonging, released last month by loyalty technology company iSeatz, is based on online surveys of more than 2,000 managers and customers of membership groups, which encompassed clubs, professional associations, trade groups, and subscription programs. 

Though that covers a wide range of member groups, the report surfaced some common ground. Most prominently, all members more typically focus on a sense of belonging. People “who belong to membership organizations are driven by shared interests and value at a greater rate than consumers who belong to more traditional loyalty programs,” according to the report. Among the most valued offerings, according to the report, are “exclusive access to content, events, and experiences” and “interacting with people with shared interests.”

“Every type of organization has its own distinct needs based on its nature, but they all share three common objectives: attracting new members, increasing engagement with existing members, and retaining loyal members,” said Andy Hermo, chief commercial officer at iSeatz. “By studying successful commercial loyalty programs, membership organizations can improve member engagement, strengthen loyalty, and deliver a valuable membership experience.”

Just 58 percent of members of professional associations say they engage with their organizations weekly.

Another shared trait across groups is a stronger emphasis on marketing and personalization compared to the corporate world: 60 percent of organizations cited marketing as their top area of investment, compared to 34 percent of businesses; 37 percent of membership organizations highlighted personalization, compared to just 28 percent of businesses. 

That effort seems to have paid off in terms of high levels of engagement: Overall, 80 percent of members say they engage with their organization weekly. That figure is lower when professional associations are broken out, though—just 58 percent. Hermo said associations can take a lesson from other organizations’ loyalty programs. “Member engagement is heavily influenced by the reward options an organization can provide,” he said. “A key finding of the report shows that… members would engage even more frequently if provided with additional options tailored to their interests in the group. This presents a significant opportunity for organizations to expand their rewards portfolio and offer added value to members.”

Respondents to the survey said that receiving personalized information was valuable to them, and that they were willing to share more personal information if it provided them with better deals focused on their interests. Such information, beyond basic profile data, includes brand and product preferences; travel wish lists and habits; household information; and real-time location. 

”Members prefer personalization in their interactions with their organizations,” Hermo said. “And they are more likely to engage with content that is relevant and meaningful to them. Specific methods of personalization, such as targeted communications geared toward specific member interests, tend to be more effective, often resulting in increased interaction and participation.”

Such efforts might help organizations offer good deals for their members. But good deals alone won’t drive engagement, the report found. “Members ranked interacting with people with shared interests as one of the top signifiers of value for the organizations they are affiliated with – 35 percent of survey respondents said this was one of the top three aspects of membership they valued most,” Hermo said. “Therefore, understanding the emotional affinity of members and prioritizing advocacy and social connection are among the most effective strategies for nurturing a sense of belonging.”

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