Guest Column - March/April 2017

Choose Wisely

Giving Customers the Power of Choice

By Paul Gordon

We all make hundreds of choices every day. From the moment when we open our eyes in the morning and decide whether or not we're going to hit the snooze button, to the moment we decide to close our eyes at night, we make choices all day long.

Some choices are based on our wants, while often, they're based on our needs. But either way, we take for granted the number of choices we have to make in a day—or rather, that we have the privilege of making in a day.

The ability to make your own choices is empowering. No matter how old we get, no matter whether it's at work or at play, making choices gives people a sense of freedom.

Think about today's consumer landscape and the many different ways in which consumers shop. Some prefer to shop online. Some prefer to shop in-store. Some prefer traditional retail locations, while some love the big box stores.

As consumers, people are empowered by their right to choose how to spend their money.

This concept holds true for incentive programs, too. The currency may be in the form of a point instead of a dollar, but the notion is the same. People want to feel empowered. Regardless of whether the points they are redeeming are earned through customer rewards or through employee recognition, people want the ability to choose how to "spend."

Again, sometimes spending choices are based on want—but often, they're based on need. Many times, spending choices are affected by changing markets, trends or the economy.

For example, in the incentive industry, when the economy is strong and consumers are confident, they're more likely to redeem luxury items in the fashion and technology categories. But, when it is not as strong and consumers are a little more cautious, they tend to redeem more items of necessity.

As a marketer, the ability to be nimble and to anticipate these changes is critical.

Offering a diversified product rewards portfolio guarantees that not only will people feel empowered, but also that their wants and needs are being met. At Rymax, we believe that providing people with the power of choice strengthens customer engagement and bolsters retention. In turn, this creates more value for organizations and keeps customers coming back again and again.

Remember, the goal of a loyalty program is to fuel customer happiness and encourage retention. No single product or brand will evoke the same response across all demographics, so when creating your incentive programs, don't alienate your customers by putting them in a box. Give them plenty of options and let them dictate what they crave. The most in-demand products in the market translate into the most compelling reward redemptions.

When you provide your customers with value that's relevant to them, you're showing them you understand and care about their needs.

A successful marketing incentive program offers high-end items of indulgence as well as the practical everyday products. The crucial element is designing a program that strategically targets its audience with a wide variety of products.

This concept is not exclusive to redeeming points through online platforms, however. It can also be applied to rewards redemption events, too, which at Rymax we call R-S.I.T.E. For example, there have been times when Rymax clients felt that they only wanted to offer their customers smaller, easy to carry items at R-S.I.T.E events because they felt their customers demanded immediate gratification. We know from experience that though that may be true for some people, others actually prefer to wait to receive their reward, if it means getting an item that they truly desire.

With that in mind, we encouraged our clients to also provide a selection of larger items at their events, within the same price point, that customers could have shipped and later delivered to their homes. Upon our direction, the customers expanded their offering. The result?

When kayaks, televisions, cooking sets, vacuums and other larger but desirable items were offered at events in addition to smaller take home items, the overwhelming redemptions were for shipped items.

Bottom line: You can offer a narrowed selection of goods that you think most customers might like, or you can present a carefully crafted, yet varied program that offers the best of everything for everyone.

The choice is yours.

Paul Gordon is Senior Vice President of Sales for Rymax Marketing Services, Inc. Under Paul's direction, the sales division is responsible for developing innovative loyalty programs, merchandise rewards and events on a national and global level that initiate consumer trial, create retention and attain higher returns. Paul created the highly successful R-SITE [Rymax Strategic Interactive Themed Events] program and deployed it in business verticals as distinct as telecommunications, automotive, finance, pharmaceutical, casino, among others.