Feature Article - March/April 2009

Empower Your People

Motivate With Electronics & High-Tech Incentives

By Emily Tipping


ll I wanted for Christmas was a big-screen TV, a Wii gaming console, an iPod, a new GPS that can save me some gas mileage—oh! and a camcorder for my family to catch the look on my face when I open all these goodies.

OK, the holidays may seem in the distant past (or future) at this point, but it is interesting to note a couple of trends that were taking hold in late 2008.

First, we should note that according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), nearly 80 percent of adults had consumer electronics on their list for Santa Claus this year, from computers and televisions to video games and cell phones.

And second, according to SpendingPulse, an information service provided by MasterCard Advisors, the electronics and appliance category ended up having a tough holiday season, with declines of more than 26 percent compared to 2007. In particular, sales of more than $1,000 were hard to come by. Furthermore, the CEA anticipates that in 2009 overall, consumer electronics sales will remain essentially flat at about $171 billion (a small drop of 0.6 percent from 2008).

The consumer electronics industry is "resilient but not immune from the business cycle," remarked Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA at the opening of the 2009 International CES, the huge consumer technology trade show held every January in Las Vegas. "In a tough economy, our products offer high value for entertainment and an entry point for entrepreneurs creating new business." Innovation in the industry, he added, has the power to help kick-start the economy.

What does all of this mean for planners working on incentive, reward and recognition programs?

Consumer electronics—always popular among consumers—are just as desirable, and just as innovative, as ever, but consumers are tightening their belts, closing their wallets and staying home to entertain themselves. This gives the electronics and high-tech gear you include as rewards and incentives for your targets even more power (no pun intended) than they already had.