Getting the digital member experience right

Alan Perestrello, Director and Co-Founder at Trillium offers his insights on what makes for an excellent digital member experience, and offers tips on what to include so that you can engage with your members as comfortably online as you did in the real world...

21 Apr 2020

Author: Alan Perestrello, Director and Co-Founder at Trillium

Alan leads on Trillium’s commercial strategy; he ensures that our clients’ experience matters.  He’s an expert in delivering digital transformation by creating trusted and transparent relationships, teams and strategies.

Alan is dedicated to putting people and strategy before technology, He believes that the success of any technical project is dependent on this approach.  He combines his expertise in the membership and charity sector with decades of IT management to support organisations create a digital mind set and deliver meaningful innovation.

Trillium deliver digital transformation for membership and charity organisations and we are delighted to have them as Gold Sponsors at this year’s memcom 2020 blended conference.


Let’s be honest – things don’t look good for the economy right now. We’re staring into the face of what is predicted by some to be the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Using the word “unprecedented” is getting a little old, but I challenge you to come up with a more appropriate term. While this isn’t the first pandemic to threaten the global economy, it’s a first for those of us living and working in the modern, globalised and digital world. We’re seeing and feeling the effects in every aspect of our lives – personal and professional – and it’s affecting the membership sector too.


With face-to-face engagement with members on hold indefinitely, the intervening time feels uncertain, to say the least. Many membership organisations rely heavily on in-person delivery of training and qualifications, networking, support and engagement, and the current social distancing measures have likely eliminated key elements of your member value proposition. The temptation to scale down, batten the hatches, and wait for things to settle is strong right now.

While it might feel like the wrong time to be making plans, I’m here to tell you that it’s more important to do so now than ever. Taking a strategic approach and implementing a change mindset into your organisation will enable you to better support your members, weather the current storm, and come out thriving.


Looking to data insights and trends

No one can claim to have all the answers to the current situation, but there are past events – such as 9/11 or the 2008 financial crash – with which we can draw sufficient comparisons to identify meaningful solutions to the present context. We can also look to current research and consumer trends for insight; the beauty of digital is in its immediacy.

Media agency ami has produced a timely and insightful consumer trends and marketing impact report in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, drawing on data from sources such as YouGov, Kantar and Ipsos Mori.

These consumers are of course your members and other stakeholders in another capacity. The ways in which they engage with you (or not) will likely follow similar patterns to the ways in which they are currently engaging with consumer brands. Listen to what they’re saying, and you’ll have a good indication of how you should be responding. I’ll take a look at some of the trends and insights to come out of the ami report below. I’ll also put forward some practical actions that membership organisations can take to strengthen their position and positively engage with their members.


What trends and insights can we learn from?

Digital usage is up.

This one comes as no surprise, but it’s worth remembering that the only engagement possible right now is remote. The ami report shows consumers are switching to digital: 50% in China and 31% in Italy are using e-commerce more regularly to purchase things normally bought in store. This applies across the board to all experiences. Getting the digital experience for your members right has never been more important.

Conscientious messaging is the way to go.

Big brands have acted fast in the face of change. Global giants such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Nike, and Guinness have used their platforms to simply but creatively reinforce government messages to stay at home. Others have performed high-profile acts of generosity, such as Pret, which is at the time of writing offering NHS workers free hot drinks and 50% off all other items.

According to ami, 65% say how brands act now will affect future purchases and 37% that they’ve already acted on it. The message is clear – creativity and a degree of light-heartedness is acceptable, but anything that suggests you’re capitalising on the current situation as an excuse to get in touch or as an opportunity for a quick sell will be poorly received.

Things are going to change.

New technologies and ways of interacting are being implemented by force right now. These will act as test-cases for both consumers and industry. If they work, we should expect them to become part of the new normal. Don’t expect an all-out replacement. For example, virtual events are extremely unlikely to completely replace traditional ones. But it’s certainly plausible that we might in future see a blended approach, with virtual events offering a complementary addition to membership organisations’ calendars.


So, what can you do?

Be visible.

Maintain your profile and don’t ignore the current situation. Now is the time to create advocates of your members; how you respond to the current crisis will stay with them well into the future. While everything is remote, utilise the channels available to you to maintain contact. Digital provides a multitude of ways to engage; ramp up your social content, refresh your news and insights pages, and consider creating opportunities for virtual connection.

If your organisation is changing the way it works or adapting products or services to better serve members or the wider industry at this time, don’t let it go unnoticed. Positive messages are powerful – be vocal and share what you’re doing to help.

Be empathetic.

Carefully consider the tone and content of your member communications. People are seeking help and advice – not promotion – and membership organisations are well placed to offer both. Be knowledgeable, reassuring and open with members. Consider what you can offer them that will support them through this difficult time. Are you able to adapt aspects of your current offering to ensure members can continue to benefit remotely?

Bear in mind that your members will likely have received a great deal of communication from a staggering number of organisations and companies, from the government to consumer brands. Keep your communication clear, relevant and concise. 

Be prepared.

We might not know when, but we can say for certain that there will be an end to the current measures. It’s therefore essential that you take action now to ensure that your organisation has a strategy that will carry you through the now and beyond.

Now is the time to refocus and spend time and money wisely on those aspects of your offering that will make the most difference for your members. Rolling out a whole host of new tech features isn’t the answer – you need an agile strategy based on in-depth knowledge of your members (and other stakeholders) and their needs.

Digital transformation may have been sitting in the to-do pile for some time, but it can no longer be ignored. Use this time to arm yourself with the tools and knowledge required to bolster your organisations position and improve the digital experience for your members. Getting it right is not only key to the survival of your membership organisation, but also a means of supporting your members when they most need you.


Trillium are offering free and informative content designed to support you and your strategy. Take advantage and tool up.


memcom webinar 29th April – Digital Strategy is Strategy 

Ensuring digital success for better membership experiences, our webinar will go through what we believe are the must have elements of digital strategy for membership organisations. And we’ll be available to answer and specific questions you might have. Register here.


Download the Creating a Digital Culture Guide

We wrote this guide before the current crisis, but it’s possibly even more relevant now than it was then. The guide explores how to focus on your people (and not the tech), get the messaging right for each stakeholder group and create a digital culture within your organisation.