The last two years have been a difficult time for associations. A recent Marketing General Inc. report showed that roughly 50% of associations have reported declines in membership, with 80% of those citing canceled in-person events as a major challenge. However, it’s not all bad news. Associations that have deliberately focused on member engagement have fared the best — and reported increased engagement. So how can your organization benefit members day-to-day when you are not able to gather in person? The answer may lie in a custom mobile app.
In 2021, people spent a record 3.8 trillion hours in apps. They also downloaded 230 billion mobile apps and spent $133 billion in app stores. If it wasn’t already clear that people depend on apps to make their lives easier and more entertaining, it is now. This is especially true of young people — and associations struggled long before the pandemic to keep younger members engaged.
The power of mobile apps for associations
Mobile apps are a great way to communicate information, engage members, and create an online community that extends beyond in-person events. But the power of mobile apps can go even further. Let’s take a closer look at some of the major benefits associations can expect from a custom mobile app.
Own your audience
With an increased focus on the digital world, it has never been more important for associations to own their audiences. When associations rely on social media platforms like Facebook to communicate with their members, they are at the mercy of a third party. Platforms like Facebook have their own algorithms that are always changing, and associations are in constant competition with one another for high-ranking search results.
Additionally, associations need to maintain a firm understanding of who their members are and what they expect from their organization — and the best way to do this is through data. When you rely on a third party for communication, that third party collects the data and the association misses an opportunity to get to know its members better.
Apps are a powerful way for associations to maintain firm connections with members between physical events — but they can also make it easy for members to stay in touch with each other. A well-designed app can include chat and private messaging, forums, polls, and other communication features right in the palm of your members’ hands. This allows them to communicate with one another, discuss industry events and updates, and even form mentorships. And unlike with a website, you don’t need to rely on users to check in regularly — with apps, you can use push notifications (more on that later) to let users know when they have a new message or poll to respond to, keeping them more engaged for the long-haul.
Learn more about how apps allow associations to build community.
Seamlessly integrate apps into events
In-person events are still critical for associations, even if they look very different. They are the best way for people to network and build connections and feel the full value of their membership. When you do have a physical event, attendees should be able to customize their experience via the app. You can host agendas, let users create their own schedule, set meetings, consult venue maps, share resources, and more. Additionally, members who cannot attend an event can attend virtually, or get access to recorded sessions later.
Perhaps the most important feature for associations — if not the members — is that they provide ways to generate non-dues revenue. Members (or maybe even non-members) can pay for premium content, events tickets, or educational resources all within the mobile app. When an app is well-designed with meaningful features, it can create real-world value for members that they are willing to pay for.
Best engagement practices for association apps
So you have a beautiful new app for your association. How do you ensure that members will interact with the app? More importantly, how can you guarantee they will want to keep opening the app?
Onboarding is key
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression — and in the world of apps, that means you must perfect onboarding. Here are a few tips to ensure your users have the best first impression of your app:
- Make sign-in easy — Nothing is worse than frustrating your user with excessive questions and hoops to jump through, inevitably causing them to leave the app without signing up.
- Point out important features — Don’t overwhelm new users with lots of information, but make sure they know how to find and use the most important features in your app.
- Make connecting easy — People love social features that let them communicate directly with each other, so let users know who else is on the app and make it easy for them to connect directly with each other.
Don’t neglect engagement
After the initial onboarding process, it can take a while for users to form a habit and return to your app regularly — so it’s important to have an engagement plan in place. Drip marketing campaigns can be an effective way to regularly educate and remind users about your app. Well-timed emails and push notifications also allow you to provide useful information without being overwhelming.
Personalize the user experience
In a world where people have their internet experience curated by algorithms, personalization is more important than ever.
A recent study of 3,000 companies, consumers, and marketers worldwide found that personalized engagement with a brand is a growing priority for people. With a well-built app, it is possible to use data and analytics to understand exactly what users expect from their online experience and what they find superfluous. Apps let you do things like send reminders to users who have signed up for a specific event, or tell them about content you think they may find interesting based on their job title or industry (all information you should collect at sign-up).
Perfect your push notifications
According to a recent study, 77% of consumers reported frustration with unnecessary push notifications or texts. When used correctly, however, targeted push notifications can engage users and draw them into an app, ultimately increasing app retention rates by 3 to 10 times. So what is the key to the perfect push notification?
- Understand the ideal time to send a push notification. Will users get this message right as they are about to start their work day or in the evening while scrolling on their phone?
- Include a call to action. This can improve engagement outcomes by more than 40%.
- Don’t overdo it. A recent study found that 28% of people will uninstall an app if it sends too many notifications.
Creating a member engagement app is easier than it sounds
Apps can allow you to own your audience, increase member engagement, generate revenue, and connect members between events. And the good news is, it has never been easier to create custom apps and deliver them to your target audience. In a matter of weeks, it is possible to have a turnkey mobile app that meets the specific needs of your association with all of the features and content members want to come back to time and again.
enCappture can help your association create a robust digital community for members in as little as three weeks. Our efficient discovery process helps associations define goals, and determine the features users will need. If you’re ready to learn more about how a turnkey app can benefit and grow your organization, check out our case study on how the Armonk Chamber of Commerce uses its app to connect with members.