Digital Excellence Research Summary Report 2019 Reveals Double-Edged Sword

Carl Grieves, Managing Director at Silverbear looks at the latest digital trends in the membership sector.

Carl Grieves, Managing Director, Silverbear Memberwise’s yearly Digital Excellence research summary report has become the annual barometer for the membership sector; an indicator of how the sector has evolved, where it currently sits (for good and bad) and, perhaps most importantly, where it is heading.

As its readers have now come to expect, the report typically blends valuable insight, ideas and inspiration with a glimpse into some of the areas where greater value could be added. The Digital Excellence Research Summary Report 2019 is no different.

On one hand, and from the perspective of a membership software specialist, this year’s findings provide numerous reasons to be extremely cheerful. On the other, it highlights areas that require improvement.

Firstly, as a business whose flagship product, Silverbear Membership, is built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 – and as a software specialist that has forged a very close relationship with Microsoft over recent years – it was heartening to see that at 23 per cent, Dynamics 365 holds the largest share of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Association Management Systems (AMS) sector.

In fact, with an eight per cent increase in the number of membership organisations and associations using the platform since this time last year, there is little doubt that Dynamics 365 is the market leader and a platform that is rapidly growing in popularity and ubiquity. The very fact that the second most popular platform, Integra/Integra AG, has nine per cent market share indicates that the next best solution is not even close and that the gulf is only widening.

This, combined with the fact that four in 10 companies to implement solutions built on Dynamics use three providers, one of which is Silverbear, places us in the top tier of membership solutions companies in the UK. It also supports the fact that Silverbear is well poised for growth in line with that of Dynamics’ upwards trajectory. And, with 69 per cent of organisations having integrated their website and CRM/AMS system in 2018, up from 56 per cent in 2016, it would seem that there is a growing trend towards organisations harnessing the power of digital transformation programmes in order to future-proof themselves and add value to their members.

The general market outlook for 2019 is also very encouraging. With 25 percent of organisations reporting to want to replace their CRM/AMS systems in the coming year – up from six per cent last year – the opportunities that arise over the coming 12 months are likely to be significant.

However, the fact that the average performance score given to CRM and AMS systems is a mere five and a half out of 10 should offer pause for thought – if not cause for concern.

Of course, this mediocre score will not be attributable to all those supplying the membership sector; based on Dynamics stealing almost a quarter of the CRM market share we would like to think that this does not apply to those using this particular platform. Regardless, in the digital age in which we now live, this simply is not good enough.

The membership software sector is built around solutions that are innovative, inventive and that have been developed to meet today’s challenges. Furthermore, CRM/AMS represents one of the biggest investments an organisation can make as it embarks on a digital transformation programme. On that basis, an average performance score of five and a half is at odds with the very nature of what software solutions are created to achieve, and this is one area that I would like to see significantly improved in time for the Digital Excellence Research Summary Report 2020.

An interesting point, and one that links in with the last, is that despite most people rating their system as mediocre, many advocate staying with their current provider.

If we look at this alongside the poor average performance score, my view is that either membership organisations need to come to expect more from their CRM/AMS provider, or that providers need to be doing more to communicate the value they create and the number of possibilities available to their clients via the solutions they have implemented. Maybe it is a combination of the two.

Whilst on the surface this would suggest a degree of loyalty from membership organisations and associations, which is undoubtedly positive, it would also seem that there is a degree of ‘making do’, which is not something that any organisation needs to do with the number of options currently available to them.

Once again, Memberwise has provided a forensic account of the current membership landscape and the Digital Excellence Research Summary Report 2019 offers a valuable and insightful piece of work that has shone a light on the excellent work currently taking place within the sector. It also raises questions that the CRM/AMS sector and all those who operate within it must address.

Against the backdrop of a tide which seems to be turning in favour of digital transformation and a coming 12 months that looks set to offer CRM and AMS businesses a wealth of opportunities, I am confident that we will see further growth in the number of implementations by the time the Digital Excellence 2020 Research Summary Report is launched. I would also expect growth in the sector’s overall reputation, too – but only if the CRM/AMS community plays an active role in helping to positively shape it.

About the Author

Carl Grieves is the Managing Director at Silverbear.

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