Feature Article - May/June 2009

Card Carriers

The IGCC & Trends in Gift Card Incentives

By Rick Dandes


any companies today are working hard to properly recognize the contributions of their employees, and they are seeking tools that give them options in choosing reward programs. But picking the right incentive or gift to motivate, recognize or reward can be challenging, because it's often difficult to know what the recipient might want.

Quite often, incentive and performance-improvement programs fall short of expectations because the incentive doesn't hold enough motivational value to drive desired behavior. Add to that the challenge of designing programs for cross-generational demographics, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers.

"That's why it's important to maximize the performance of a reward, recognition or incentive program by giving the receiver choices and offer gifts with universal appeal. It's why gift cards are a great option for incentive programs," said Marcell King, senior manager of corporate gift cards, Amazon.com.

Give someone a gift card and they can spend it on whatever is important to them. It creates excitement around a shopping experience. Cards are convenient and secure. And they are also valuable in that you can message the company's giving of that card, tie the two together, so the recipient always remembers that the item they bought or the trip they took came to them from their company.

"Gift cards engage the reward recipient into the experience as a deliberate and purposeful part of their work," said Andrew Dodge, the current president of the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) and senior manager of national accounts for L.L. Bean Direct to Business. "When this behavior is combined with a branded gift card, the desired 'trophy value' of the incentive is achieved."

Matthew Davies, gift card marketing manager of Nike Inc., agreed with Dodge. "Gift cards are perfect for those companies that want to give personalized rewards. In our case, no matter the type, the size, the color the recipient actually wants, cards allow the recipient to always receive the exact product. This alleviates the need to return what they don't like or may already have."

In any economy, it is not in anyone's best interest to waste money on gifts that people don't want or need. Corporations are watching their budgets more closely than ever, and gift buyers are more concerned about the impact of their purchases.

From a retailer's perspective, gift cards make perfect sense as well. There will be fewer merchandise returns and better customer experiences. The customer actually ends up getting two gifts. One is the card itself. The other is the opportunity to spend it.