Why Review Sites Help Attract New Members

By Ben Martin, CAE

If you’re concerned about attracting and retaining millennials at your association, the alignment of three trends should have you tuned in to your association’s role in online reviews in the workplace. Here are the facts:

Trend #1: Online reviews are ubiquitous.

On an annual basis, 97% of consumers read online recommendations before making a purchase. In other words, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t look at reviews before making buying decisions.

92% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. But only 9% of consumers will actually take the time and effort to ask for a recommendation from a friend or family member. Reading online recommendations is far more convenient.

Think about your own buying habits. Let’s say you arrive in a new city for work and are looking for a restaurant to spend $25 on dinner. You’ll probably go to Yelp or Open Table to read reviews on restaurants before deciding where to dine.

Or maybe you’re thinking about buying a cappuccino machine. Before you buy, you’ll likely go to Amazon to read online reviews before making a purchase.

How about a tropical vacation? When deciding where to stay or what activities to participate in, if you’re like most consumers, you’ll go to TripAdvisor to read reviews to inform your decision.

Online reviews are 12 times more trusted than advertising and other media created by businesses. The bottom line is that reading reviews is habitual for the overwhelming majority of today’s consumers – who also happen to be your members.

Trend #2: Millennials’ buying power at work is increasing, and they rely on recommendations more than other generations.

As of 2020, millennials now make up the largest generation in the workforce. Their influence will only increase, as the youngest millennials are still under age 18, and have yet to enter into the workplace. As other generations retire, millennials are increasingly becoming the business world’s decision-makers.

Research also concludes that generations Y and Z are twice as likely to consider online recommendations when making buying decisions, and 80% of millennials say they worn’t buy anything new without first reading online reviews.

In the workplace, the effect of millennials as B2B buyers is already having an effect, with 92% of IT buyers saying they seek out peer recommendations when making purchasing decisions on enterprise software.

Trend #3: Associations are the venue of choice for workplace recommendations.

In July 2017, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science published a peer-reviewed study out of Wake Forest University. Their research concluded that B2B buyers prefer to seek out recommendations in venues sponsored by associations.

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but think about your own association’s meetings. You’ve probably witnessed your members exchanging recommendations at your conferences and trade shows. Or to bring it closer to home, have you ever asked one of your fellow TSAE members for a recommendation about a speaker, event venue, AMS, or entertainer? I’d be shocked if you haven’t.

Another way that association members tap into recommendations is through online forums and communities. The same Wake Forest University study cited above concluded that communities that are sponsored by associations are more trusted than communities that are open in nature. Here’s a quote from the research to drive home the point: “Our respondents expressed a preference for communities sponsored by industry trade associations with membership limited to professional peers. Many lamented that the more public groups with minimal membership restrictions are now populated by silent sales and marketing types lurking in the cyber-shadows, waiting for a purchasing manager to reveal contact information. When they inadvertently identify themselves, purchasing managers complain that they are the recipients of an unrelenting barrage of spam from sales and marketing managers. Many reported dropping out of nonexclusive, open membership sites.”

This research proves that members find more value in their association community.

But are you capitalizing on it? If your association has been searching for a way to create unexpected new value for members, consider encouraging members to exchange recommendations and reviews. Provide a dedicated venue for members to read recommendations on their workplace purchases.

The convergence of these three trends should be a wake-up call to association executives to claim their rightful place in The Review Economy, especially if recruiting and retaining millennials is a priority. Learn more about trends in online reviews, and how to leverage recommendations to earn non-dues revenue, with a free membership in The Review Society.

Ben Martin, CAE, is the executive director of The Review Society and chief engagement officer at Online Community Results. He can be reached at bkmcae@gmail.com.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Feelife

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