Technology is constantly changing how we live our lives. We can order products online and expect them on our doorstep no more than two days later. We can purchase and pick up groceries without ever having to go in a store. We can order a rideshare service and visibly see how far away the vehicle is from our location.
Pretty remarkable stuff.
But the less glamorous side of that is the impact it can have on existing products and services. Companies must make changes in order to remain relevant in evolving times. And if they don’t, well...just look at the cab companies.
But here’s an interesting case study: Between 1995 and 2000, the number of independent bookstores in America, unsurprisingly, plummeted. The culprit? Amazon, eReaders, and superstores, such as Barnes & Noble. But then in 2005 (and beyond), independent bookstores started to make a comeback.
Why? How? (I mean, Amazon is some pretty stiff competition.) And when the prices at independent bookstores are often higher than those of online retailers, why would people still opt to go the more expensive route?
Well, independent bookstores honed in on what their strengths were. Sure, they may not be able to offer the lowest prices, but they can offer something online retailers can’t: a sense of community. People like coming together with others who share similar interests. And not only that, but people like to feel like they’re doing something good, and supporting the local community is certainly a noble endeavor.
Now independent bookstores couldn’t rely on their strengths alone. They realized that some changes had to be made, and so they started expanding their offerings and collaborating with others in the community. For example, many independent bookstores host hundreds of events throughout the year - some book-related, others not. One popular event type: comedy shows. That’s right, a few bookstores actually partner with local comedy clubs and offer shows right there within the shelves of the store. (Books plus comedy plus the company of others: now that’s something you can’t get from an eReader.)
The takeaway here is this: While many associations struggle to remain relevant (why would people pay for membership when they can access information and network with others online?), people still value community and they still care about doing good - two things nearly ALL associations can offer. So understand your strengths, while also exploring new ways to attract and engage your audience. (Partnerships, perhaps.)
Hey, if independent bookstores can do it, so can your association!
Want more tips for managing your association, particularly in such changing times? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Membership Management below. It’s filled with best practices for membership recruitment, engagement, retention, and more!