Guest Column - September/October 2016

Matching Reward Selections to Program Demographics

By Stephanie Sheehan

The importance of rewards and recognition is undeniable. It's a driving force for behaviors including loyalty, motivation and commitment, and customers, employees and consumers alike are constantly evaluating the return in every choice they make.

In a society that places such a high value on individuality and celebrating differences, it is important to offer your audience an assortment of branded merchandise across all categories. By giving them the power of choice, you encourage a gift selection that fits their personal aspirations, which maximizes the reward experience. Choosing this assortment is critical to the success of the program. Statistical data collected from your audience such as earnings, age, geography and gender should be married with brand demographic data to create a measure of qualifications for your merchandise assortment.

Merchandise should be aspirational but also attainable—the goal shouldn't be so far out of reach that it discourages members from participating.

First, determine if there is a minimum value that makes sense for your program's ROI. Using a consumer loyalty program as an example, points are received for every purchase your consumer makes, but you may not want your customer to receive a reward until spending $2,500, so the lowest available redemption item should be equivalent to that corresponding point value (i.e., $25). On the other side of the spectrum, this same hypothetical program may implement a maximum redemption value when, once achieved, your consumer graduates to a new platform with a new assortment and items starting at a higher value. Let's assume this spend is $50,000, which would equate to points earned worth $500 using the same scale as above.

Your assortment for the first "level" must obviously reflect the corresponding price point values for redemption. Items are not valued the same way to every person or for any price point, however, which is why it is important to have variety and allow for the member to make their own selection.

Consider two national program participants: the first, a female in her mid-20s living in Portland, Ore., who has an active lifestyle, and the second, a male in his early 30s who is an audiophile and travels frequently between New York and Los Angeles. They both want to redeem for headphones, but have very different priorities. Based on demographics, the former is a candidate for Skullcandy and the latter is a candidate for Klipsch.

Data can also tell us where to focus on additional areas for our assortment. Family size, for example, will influence if a toy selection should be included and if that's an important category for the program or if a small assortment would suffice.

Geography and corresponding weather patterns indicate what types of seasonal items should be included. Cold-weather products are applicable in the northern states, but would not be relevant for many southern states.

Geography can also influence your assortment when it comes to including popular and trending items based on sports teams, music, food, dance and more. An example would be the growing trend in practicing yoga, which gained popularity along the Northeast and West coasts. By 2012 yoga was being practiced by 20.4 million people across the United States, primarily females, according to a study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance. Gaiam, which is the leading innovator in the creation of yoga mats, props and accessories, perfectly illustrates how a regional trend grew to become a popular redemption nationally. The study also noted the significant growth for this practice since 2012 in the United States, which has increased to 36.7 million people in 2016, 28 percent of whom are male.

When it comes to food, we must be educated on pop culture trends with celebrity chefs and the tools they use to execute their recipes. Celebrity chef brands like Ken Hom, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri all touch different demographics. Also, more and more people began to entertain at home as an effect of the recession, which caused a shift in what participants wanted to redeem for with their earned points. Brands like Juliska, which caters to the young romantics wanting to create a bohemian tablescape for their guests, or Lalique, which caters to a sophisticated palate for design and conversation pieces, have surged in popularity as a result.

We are fortunate to be in a digital age that allows us to collect demographic information from our program participants. Gaining insight into the aspirations of our members allows us to create a more robust assortment that will better influence their behaviors and achieve our own corporate goals. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your audience the better you can connect with them.

Stephanie Sheehan is Senior Manager of Vendor Relations for Rymax Marketing Services Inc., a full-service loyalty marketing provider in the incentive industry solely focused on creating programs and events to drive ROI through brand name rewards. For 20 years organizations partnered with Rymax have seen an increase in employee performance and retention, customer loyalty and overall revenue. For more information, visit