Unlocking Membership Organizations' Growth Through Travel

Membership-based organizations are unique entities, widely available yet exclusive, comprised of members with specific interests that broadly represent the consumer population. These organizations, spanning from social clubs to trade associations to subscription programs and sports teams’ season ticket holders, share unique connections with their members, distinct from typical consumer-brand relationships. Analyzing them collectively offers intriguing insights. While they differ from commercial loyalty programs in several aspects, they also share similar mandates: to grow their member bases and retain their existing members.  

They can achieve those goals by leveraging best-in-class loyalty technology designed to deliver the most optimal travel and lifestyle rewards.   

That was one of the key findings in our latest survey report, The Benefits of Belonging: An Analysis of Membership-based Organizations, Their Constituents, and Their Loyalty Strategies. It’s a unique report for a unique (and significant) sector--and one of the only data-supported analyses of membership organizations. 

Based on a survey of 251 membership organization professionals and 2,130 consumers in the United States, our report offers insights into membership-based organizations and the consumers that belong to them. It identifies opportunities for these organizations to improve their loyalty, rewards, and member retention strategies through technology, expanded benefits, and adding travel and lifestyle reward options that members find valuable.  

Membership-Based Organizations: A Different Type of Brand Affinity  

Value will always be an integral ingredient in brand affinity, but membership organizations must consider another layer. Brand affinity in the context of membership groups tends to be emotional rather than transactional. Unsurprisingly, 48% of surveyed members said everyday discounts are their top priority – much like typical consumers. But beyond discounts, experiential benefits like exclusive access to content, events, or experiences and interacting with shared interest groups were also significant at 19% and 7%, respectively, contrasting with commercial loyalty program members. 

While consumers will always be drawn to discounts, our findings show that adding experiential benefits to transactional benefits can significantly enhance an organization’s overall loyalty value proposition. 

Members' Priorities Don't Always Align with Organization Goals

Our report also reveals several disconnects between consumers and membership organizations’ expectations and priorities. Increasing focus on personalization and customer support would provide significant opportunities for membership-based organizations to bridge the expectation gap between their needs and members while supporting growth and retention goals.  

Other points of difference and varying expectations include: 

  • Everyday discounts: 48% of consumers value these most, while just 11% of membership organizations say providing discounts and promotions that members want is their main challenge. 
  • Up close and personal: 36% of consumers want better engagement across all channels and more personalization from membership organizations, but only 18% of organizations cite member engagement as their top priority.  
  • More options: 31% of consumers say having a broader array of reward and benefit options would make them engage with the organization more frequently, but only 9% of organizations say building a more robust earning and redemption portfolio was their top loyalty program goal. 

Members Want More Personalized Travel and Lifestyle Offers 

The survey data shows that better alignment between member needs and organizational priorities is also needed. This includes the travel reward experience; nearly 30% of members say they rarely book travel through their membership organizations, while 21% check and compare other travel websites first to find better deals.  

The gap between what’s offered and members’ desires is even more apparent in these findings:18% of consumers say their membership organizations don’t provide travel booking. In contrast, most membership organizations (93%) say they do offer travel booking options.  

But beyond expanded travel rewards, what do members want? More personalized offers.  

Our survey found that 68% of members want personalized lifestyle rewards such as dining, entertainment, grocery, and gas discounts. Meanwhile, 65% of members would be receptive to personalized discounts on core travel purchases, and 55% want customized rewards-earning opportunities. Like many American consumers, customers of membership organizations often associate personalization with enhanced value, making it a vital capability for these entities to adopt. 

Personalization can also reward organizations with critical data and insights into their members’ preferences and behaviors. 

For example, most consumers who receive personalized offers will provide membership organizations with their data, including basic profile information (55%), travel wish lists (49%), dining and destination preferences (48%), contact information (47%), information about travel habits (41%), and household information (27%). 

Beyond the above highlights, our membership survey points to a massive opportunity for organizations to expand their technological capabilities, including travel booking and rewards options, to continue driving new member growth and retaining their most valuable asset – members. 

Download The Benefits of Belonging to learn how your organization can heighten member engagement and better compete with commercial loyalty programs for greater revenues and rewards.  

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