Guest Column - May/June 2018

Staying Connected

Insights on Incentive Merchandise Trends

By Allyson Krichman

In the early '90s, New York Telephone had a jingle that played at the end of every commercial…

"We're all connected. New York Telephone."

At the time, the catchy little slogan was relevant only to local and long distance calling plans. Today those three little words—"we're all connected"—have a much broader reach. Current retail trends and this year's innovations prove that for almost everyone, everyday life involves some sort of app to launch or control from your device. Thanks to technology, whether at work or at play, home or away, we're all connected, all the time.

Years ago, when you got a new car, the dealership would ask you if you wanted to add a remote starter. This would allow you to start your car from a distance in order to warm it up when outside temperatures were cold, or cool it down when the summer heat demanded immediate relief from indoor air conditioning.

Today, this concept is being applied to our homes and offices. If you are traveling, you can control the thermostat remotely to ensure that your home's temperature is comfortable when you return. In addition, home delivery of merchandise has become more seamless as remote camera technologies allow you to monitor your home's front door so that you can see exactly when the courier delivered the package.

Modern society keeps us on-the-go, so the need to feel connected to our homes in some way is a top priority. Just as we can remotely adjust our thermostat or monitor our front door, our music, TV volume and preferred lighting can all be controlled from the ease of a smartphone or tablet.

Thanks to the introduction of the virtual assistant, many of life's little tasks can be done simply by the sound of your voice. Without so much as the push of a button, you can ask 'Alexa' to turn up the lights, start your favorite play list or check the weather in your destination city before getting on a flight.

Currently, the global smart home market is a $24 billion industry and is expected to grow. Estimates from Zion Market Research indicate that the market will exceed $53 billion by 2022. Further, a recent study by August Home and XFINITY Home found that approximately 30 million U.S. households are likely to add smart technology to their homes in the next 12 months.

So what does this all mean for the incentive industry? Let me "connect" the dots for you…

When it comes to employees, studies indicate that employee engagement can increase profits by $2,400 per year, per employee. Similarly, 70 percent of employees indicate that their motivation and morale would improve drastically if managers said "thank you" more. But how do you engage them? How do you thank them?

Most of the time, incentive merchandise trends reflect retail trends. So understand the marketplace. What's hot at retail? What's the must-have product of the season? What's at the top of everyone's wish lists? Once you know that, you can begin to build a compelling product offering that fuels loyalty and drives engagement. Offering the top global merchandise trends such as connected home products will ensure that employees and customers will stay loyal and connected to the brands that offer these products.

Once that connection is made, you can focus on maintaining it.

To show customers and employees that they are valued is to keep the connection going. Host interactive rewards events wherever/whenever possible, so that your customers and employees get a hands-on experience with the product and you get facetime with your audience.

Lastly, align yourself with the right incentive partner who understands the quickly changing retail landscape, has access to today's most in-demand products from the market's top brands and can help you stay connected and engaged to everyone in your target audience. Follow these simple rules, and you'll stay connected.

As the Senior Director of Product Sales Group for Rymax, Allyson Krichman manages and supervises the day-to-day activities of her team, overseeing the growth of key accounts and developing new client relationships. In her tenure at Rymax, she has grown within the organization from operations to now successfully running the product sales team, driving sales strategies that produce exceptional revenue. She is an active member of the Incentive Marketing Association, The Incentive Manufacturers & Representatives Alliance Strategic Industry Group, Advertising Specialty Institute, and Promotional Products Association International