Guest Column - July/August 2010

Reach Your Rewards Customers Where They Live

Dana LaSalvia, CRP

By Enter Author Here

t's a fact. The Internet has displaced every type of medium as a means for reaching consumers. According to a survey by the International Data Corporation (IDC), people today spend twice as much time online as watching TV. And that captive online audience includes your incentive rewards customers. They're a techno-savvy bunch, and they have grown accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it, with just a few simple clicks.

A recent study, titled Trends in Online Shopping: A Global Nielsen Consumer Report, revealed that "more than half of all Internet users, or 875 million Americans, make at least one online purchase per month." That's a significant number, and it's growing every day. It's also great news for the incentive industry, as customized rewards platforms now offer the same benefits and functionality as e-commerce sites—plus many significant opportunities to increase engagement.

Redeeming Benefits

Similar to popular online shopping sites, today's online rewards platform offers everything from the hottest merchandise and experiential packages to retail and custom gift cards. Updates happen in real time (versus the days of locking everything down in print), and online rewards sites provide round-the-clock access, allowing customers to research an item before ordering it—an important element of customer satisfaction.

A variety of companies are using automatic product feeds to update items in real time, ensuring customers have access to the latest offerings. Additionally, online rewards platforms' search functionality has been expanded to offer participants the opportunity to search by category, brand, product description, level, points or any combination of these criteria. Other popular functions include Shopping Cart and Wish List. As the name suggests, the Wish List feature adds an inspirational element to the program by allowing participants to add items to their Shopping Cart (for which they may not have enough points/dollars) and work toward that goal. Once the goal is reached, the participants receive a congratulatory e-mail and are free to redeem their long-awaited reward.

But the rewards redemption process only is one aspect of a successful "online incentive program experience" for both the participant and host company.

Today, an incentive program delivered online can't be truly successful without addressing Internet security concerns, integrating and maximizing smart, targeted communications to drive results, and, last but not least, measuring those results. The need to drive and track ROI has never been greater. Let's take a look at each of these critical factors.

A Secure Environment

Just like shopping online, consumers want to know that their transactions within the online rewards platform are secure. According to a study conducted by Oracle titled Online Security, A Human Perspective, "Confidence in online security is a motivating factor in purchasing behavior." As program administrators, the more we communicate the security of our rewards sites, the more successful our programs will be.