Guest Column - May/June 2009

Why Your Rewards Selection Deserves Another Look

By Emily Sadlock, CRP


ou have all your ducks in a row—the incentive program is in place, participants are earning points, and you are even running reports to gauge the program's success. Now ask yourself: When was the last time I took a close look at the reward offerings?

By not having a rewards mix that follows what trends and seasons dictate, you are falling victim to one of the biggest pitfalls in managing an incentive program. Attention and action toward the rewards you offer is key to ensuring continual redemptions—a sign that your participants are satisfied and engaged.

Trending Faux Pas

It's a proven fact: Incentives have progressed over the years, and participants are no longer looking forward to receiving logoed watches to commemorate their 20-year anniversaries. They want what's popular, and they want the most current model. It is imperative that you do your homework. You don't want them scoffing at the second-generation Apple iPod Shuffle showing up in their catalog, when the third generation came out two months ago!

Some tips for staying on top of what's hot:

Understand Product Life Cycles: While it is not necessary to revamp your entire rewards selection each time you review it, it is important to make sure you target the categories that contain rewards with shorter product life cycles. In reviewing your electronics category, make sure some of your offerings include touch-screen technology, Wi-Fi compatibility or Blu-ray—these are three of the hottest trends in electronics today.

Electronics isn't the only category that needs to be monitored closely. Be sure to keep an eye on the fashion items you offer. Fashion is constantly evolving, and therefore has a short life cycle. You need to be ready to change the assortment as the fashion trends change.

Stay Current With the Times: Nowadays, people have less disposable income. Instead of a weekend getaway, people are trending toward the growing-in-popularity "staycation"—taking a few days to relax in the comfort of your own home. With the increasing time people are spending in their homes, it only makes sense to include everyday lifestyle items and home commodities in your rewards mix. And you can easily achieve this in almost any category: a set of Circulon cookware in Kitchen, a Toshiba LCD television in Electronics, or a Bowflex Home Gym in Fitness. These items will all enhance life at home.

Never Underestimate the Power of Your People: Who knows better what they want than the participants themselves? You can't tell just by looking at them. You need to talk to them. Post questionnaires on your intranet. Prompt them to take a survey after they cashed in their points on the redemption Web site. This type of primary research is a great way to gain a fresh perspective on what your participants want.

Also, take time to read and review your redemption reports—think of them as free "cheat sheets" that outline which rewards are most popular in your program. Make sure popular categories are plentiful, and items that do not fit your demographics are refreshed.