Last week our team had the opportunity to attend the ASAE Annual virtual conference. As a key sponsor of the event, we spoke with many association teams at our virtual booth to learn how they are adapting and responding to changes in the market.

Beyond the conversations at our booth, we also spent much of our time listening to the educational sessions and keynotes to hear what others in the industry are focused on right now.

As our team met to reflect on the event, we definitely heard some common themes on how association leaders are seizing this moment as a real opportunity to refine their strategies and test new tactics that will change how their organizations operate in the future.

Here are some of the trends that seem to be taking hold:

Trend #1: Embracing digital channels for member engagement

With the global pandemic forcing everything online, there’s now a greater focus than ever before on digital channels to interact with members. Digital is not new for associations, but there seems to be a greater sense of urgency to optimize the digital experience for members and push ahead with digital transformation projects.

This is translating into greater demand for IT and business leaders to work together on technology initiatives and to invest in key purchases across the technology stack to improve the ability to do business online with members.

This ranges from communication tools for engagement and events, IT products and services, data management, and much more. Many of these purchases are going to be aimed at making it easier for members to interact with businesses online and providing a more seamless experience for the customer.

Trend #2: Personalized, relevant, and trusted content is becoming a requirement

With so much engagement now happening online, this second trend is the logical next step. As consumers spend an increased amount of their time online, there is a greater demand for businesses to stand out and provide content that is timely, relevant, and personalized.

This demand requires that organizations focus their efforts on getting the necessary data and having it be accessible across their business units. Associations need actionable data insights, defined data governance, and the ability to use these insights to determine how they interact with the customer.

And as more companies create content online, there will be greater competition for customers’ time and attention. With little barrier to entry, any publisher can create content online and publish it for free – so there’s also a growing need for trusted and valuable content, being delivered to the right person and at the right time.

Organizations will begin to leverage artificial intelligence and things like recommendations engines that are able to make smarter suggestions on which content and products members are likely to be interested in viewing next.

Trend #3: Understanding value and optimizing business performance

Our team also noticed that much of the conversation has become focused on evaluating different areas of the business to understand impact.

Many organizations are looking to cut under-performing products, services, or spend. Others are looking to better understand what influences member behaviors and purchasing decisions, so they can optimize the member journey.

All of this leads back to a greater need for data insights to drive smart decision-making. Not just historical trends, but also better insights into what might happen in the future with predictive analytics.

Additionally, many are equally focused on understanding with what is happening with members in real-time, so they can quickly pivot and adjust as needed.

Executive teams and boards of directors want better data to influence these important decisions, so we expect to see a greater investment in analytics capabilities that increase access to trusted and meaningful business intelligence.

From our own product data with Acumen, we have seen that our association clients have been increasing their usage of analytics by up to a 70% increase since March of this year. Data has never been more important than it is now, when many leaders are actively looking for ways to optimize profits and achieve their missions.

Data is a Driver of Change for Many Organizations

This year’s virtual conference seemed to be a huge success for ASAE, with record attendance for the event and over 14,000 people registered. One of the things we’re most excited about is that the conference sessions will be available on demand until August 31st, so if you registered for the event, you can log back in to watch the recordings (use the link provided to your email from ASAE).

Here are a few of the sessions our team enjoyed:

  • Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome. How to Put Theoretical Knowledge to Practical Use
  • Defining the Right Measures to Achieve Desired Strategic Plan Results
  • Get Lean to Give More: Eliminate Waste and Increase Member Value
  • Create Intentional and Amazing Online Member Journeys


If you’re interested in reading more about the role of data and technology in the association industry, ASAE has their resource called ForesightWorks – Drivers of Change: Data and Technology. This covers specific areas of data and technology that are changing how associations do business and provides a brief summary on some of the emerging trends.

As a company that focuses on data and analytics, the Association Analytics team is excited to see how much of an impact these initiatives are having on the industry and the role we can play in helping associations to increase member value and grow their profits in the future ahead.