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THE pandemic has changed the way customers engage with businesses. The new customer has different wants and needs, and businesses that succeed understand the new customer journey and solve customer problems that really matter.

Covid-19 and other major trends over the last five years have also changed our goals and priorities. Regardless of whether your business was badly affected or not, keep in mind your customers have already reassessed what matters most to them.

This was the premise of a recent webinar conducted by Perth, Australia-based futurist Gihan Perera entitled “Customers on Your Side” where he presented five key post-pandemic customer trends I thought would be relevant to associations. In fact, if you change the word “customers” to “members,” you will appreciate the similarity in context. Here are the five trends which customers gravitate to:

1.  Social. They engage more with each other, using social media and other online platforms. Associations always speak about being “where their members are.” So two questions to ask yourself as an association leader are: “Do you know where your members ‘hang around’?—in online or in offline communities?” and “Do you host a community of active members who connect with and help each other?”

2.  Personal. They expect a more personalized experience and want to be more involved in the products and services they buy. Association leaders are aware that membership engagement has changed dramatically in more ways than one. But do you engage with your members in ways that suit them and not always in ways that suit you? Do you personalize your after-member recruitment touchpoints to build loyalty?

3.  Environmental. They care about climate change, sustainability, and your organization’s green credentials. More than ever, association leaders have put sustainability on top of their associations’ agenda. But do you genuinely care about your sustainability pronouncements and actuations? Do you promote your sustainability goals and activities to your members?

4.  Ethical. They also care about the other impacts of your organization on society and the world, including diversity, social justice, global equity, governance, integrity, and more. Questions to association leaders: Do you have diversity (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.) at all levels of your leadership structure, matching the diversity of your members? Are all your marketing and engagement efforts appropriately reflect the diversity of your members?

5.  Digital. They have become more digital (QR codes, cashless payments, online shopping, etc.) partly because of the pandemic and also as digital infrastructure enables other trends. As an association leader, do you give your members as many digital engagement options as possible? Do you use AI to personalize and tailor your marketing, products and services?

The challenge for associations is that they sometimes tend to get too far removed from their members’ expectations of them. Associations usually start with a strong member focus and clear about catering to their members’ needs and solving problems. But over time, as associations grow and mature, it’s easy to get stuck with traditional products, services, systems, processes, and solutions and forget about what matters most to members.

Hopefully, by accepting and acting on the above-mentioned five trends, associations can have their members on their side.

Octavio Peralta is currently the executive director of the Global Compact Network Philippines and founder and volunteer CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the “association of associations.” E-mail: bobby@pcaae.org.