Feature Article - March/April 2018

One Size Does Not Fit All

Experts Talk Individualization Strategies for Incentives

By Deborah L. Vence

Why Does Individualization Matter?

Individualization is important because people want to feel appreciated and acknowledged.

"People need to feel that they are a valued part of the team," Buer said. "Individuals come to work and perform for your company, and those individuals want to be recognized for accomplishments in a way that is meaningful to them.

"If a reward or incentive is attractive enough and given out under the right circumstances, it can change behavior. In our industry there is often too much focus on systems to administer programs and not on the people," he said. "GC believes in keeping your solutions simple, communicating clearly and keeping your budgets focused on the rewards for your people not complex systems."

Buer also suggested finding some ways to send personal and meaningful communication to employees for their achievements, for example, and give them a choice of rewards that have value to them.

The fact is, "We are all individuals," Purdy said. "We express who we are in so many ways including how we dress, what we eat, how we socialize, our beliefs, education and even our hairstyles all define, at least, in part, who we are. When it comes to rewards, we have seen a massive shift to more personal rewards being selected by our members, including fashion and outdoor sports because these categories represent the very things we love to do."

Making a statement through fashion is a very emotional purchase, he noted, saying that his company has members who work very hard to earn enough points to redeem for that special brand of handbag; and some have even redeemed for more than five different bags.

"They can do this because of the amazing on-sale fashion offers that we merchandise by brand each and every week within our rewards gallery," Purdy said.

For the outdoor enthusiasts, that special brand of fly fishing, such as a Winston fly rod, is a very personal reward choice and one that they will use for many years. "As a passionate fly fisherman, I can assure you the right fly rod speaks volumes to fellow fishing enthusiasts and in exactly the same way that a Gucci handbag does," he said. "We all associate the traits of who we are within the brands that we shop for and in the end you can only meet the individual needs of any shopper by carrying a broad selection of the things they would love to redeem for."

This is what has made Amazon so successful, he said. "Amazon has created this expectation that you can get it here and within the rewards industry we can no longer ignore how we merchandise rewards within our programs," he said. "Curation simply limits selection and this is often a means to drive the consumer to a core reward offer such as a gift or prepaid debit card, but is that motivational or even memorable?"

And, when it comes to personal shopping, it all begins with the category and the brand that you're most passionate about. "Within electronics, Apple is the most sought after brand in the world, but for many program participants they cannot afford to redeem for an Apple product. However, by offering online point top-up features and even instant financing, members can instantly purchase a much broader array of rewards including Apple," Purdy said. "Connecting financing options to a real-time monthly payment feature also opens up amazing opportunities for companies that may want to reward behaviors such as individual fitness results as part of their health and wellness programs."

An Apple watch can track your results instantly, enabling employers to measure and reward your success.

"Measurement is the key and connecting Apple this way creates a very powerful reward offer," he said, adding that in the end, "selection is king and the easier we make the online shopping experience for our members the more they will embrace it."

He stressed that successful online programs must ensure that every step of the ordering process is "absolutely perfect."

"This starts with the initial reward search and related UX, to confirming an order, to instantly communicating the delivery details to the member, along with proactive service-level support, collectively determines the success of your online rewards solution," Purdy explained.

"In short, the best sites deliver a promise that anything is possible here. After all, we are delivering a true reward experience and making members' dreams come true is what we are here to deliver to all of our members. Where anything is possible; isn't that what motivates us?" he added.

Thiegs also noted that it's human nature to respond to things that interest you most. "We're not all attracted to the same type of person. We're all not interested in the same type of foods. That's how life works," he said.

"We are all unique, with our own tastes, aspirations and desires. These deep-seated preferences are what drive us to act, love, and engage in the world around us. I coach clients to think the same for their incentive and rewards program. Offer choice," he said. "Give end users a colorful menu of rewards that pertain to various life stages, demographics, and ages, and you'll find that those programs far exceed the relevance and ability to evolve with their members over time for the greatest engagement, retention, and advocacy."

In the same way, Krichman said "Everyone has specific wants and needs, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not make an impact.

"To fully engage your audience, to fully show them that they are valued and strengthen your relationship," she added, "you have to understand what motivates them personally and deliver exactly that."