Associations reimagined

On invitation by the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), through fellow association executive and PRA Secretary-General Evelyn B. Salire, I attended the opening of the two-day 26th National Retail Conference and Stores Asia Expo 2019 (NRCE) at the SMX Convention Center on August 15, 2019. Over a thousand participants attended the successful event.

The NRCE is the centerpiece of PRA’s efforts in helping local retailers attain global competitiveness. This annual event serves as the hub for retailers and partner-industries to know about the latest trends, developments, and technologies in retailing. This year’s NRCE theme was “Retail Reimagined.”

In conferences that I attend, I am always on the lookout for ideas and trends resonating with associations that speakers and the event itself present. In this case, I was not disappointed. The opening keynote by Mr. Jesus Vega, technology evangelist and former managing director of Zara-Inditex Spain, has three takeaways that associations can relate to. Through his presentation, titled “Surfing the Digital Transformation Tsunami in Retail,” I learned the following insights:

1. Retail is not only about stores. Putting up a physical store to sell a product is no longer the only option. Online retailing is here and expanding. Retailing is also now about customer experience and not focused only on marketing the product. The same thing is happening in the association world. Associations selling education programs, conferences and publications to their members need to have the capability to undertake these online.

2. Offline and online retailing are merging. There is, however, a limitation in online retailing and this is customer experience. Customers still prefer to see, touch and feel the product they are buying. Stores make this experience possible. Hence, there is a need to consider both offline and online options. This is also true with associations that still have to engage members face-to-face in educational sessions and conferences and sell publications at these events.

3. People have to rank first in retailing. People do not compete with technology; they compete with other people who use technology better. So retailers have to invest in building the capacity of their people to be more creative, innovative and competitive. Associations, which relate constantly with people—members, volunteers and staff—should do similarly, i.e., to tool up, retool, and upgrade the capabilities of their people.

Reimagining associations, like retailing, comes down to knowing and sticking to your purpose and how best to achieve it consistently. For retailers, their purpose is not selling per se but to make people happy with the product they have purchased. Associations are not in the business of selling; their purpose is to provide their members, services that are relevant to them, either to advance their profession or industry, solve their problems, or sustain themselves into the future, or all of these.

The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (Adfiap) and the CEO and founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE). The PCAAE is holding the Associations Summit 7 (AS7) on November 27 and 28, 2019, at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) which is expected to draw over 200 association professionals here and abroad.  The two-day event is supported by Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board and the PICC.

E-mail for more details on AS7.


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