Feature Article - January/February 2020

A Home for Incentive & Engagement Solutions

A Closeup Look at the IESP

By Deborah L. Vence


From the time when the Incentive Engagement & Solution Providers (IESP) was launched a few years ago by combining three existing strategic industry groups (SIGs) of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) into a single entity, it has remained steadfast in offering value to members, as well as educating and helping businesses to achieve their goals.

The IESP has continued to provide valuable resources such as white papers, toolkits, blogs and webinars to help educate members about the latest incentive and sales solutions, and more.

What Is the IESP?

David Gould, president of the IESP and CEO of CR Worldwide, a company that creates recognition, event and reward programs for businesses around the globe, defined the IESP as "a group of senior business leaders from incentive and engagement companies who are passionate about raising the profile of engagement and incentive solutions."

He said, "We are thought leaders in our field. We are building an invaluable library of content and resources to help business leaders make informed choices when considering investing in incentive and engagement programs."

Juan Manuel Valenzuela, CPIM, treasurer of the IESP and CEO of Above Target, added that "The IESP produces educational content and resources created by solution providers from around the world. The content helps IMA members and organizations stay on top of the latest trends in recognition and engagement."

He noted that "IESP members bring a broad array of experiences with incentive program planning for organizations of all sizes across many cultures and languages. The IESP provides forums for members to network and build relationships."

Gould added that the IESP was created "as a strategic industry group (SIG), as a specialist group to share best practice and ideas, within the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA)," and added that its mission statement is: "The Incentive & Engagement Solution Providers (IESP), a strategic industry group of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), is a trusted resource for business leaders globally in helping their organizations achieve results through engagement and incentive solutions."

Current Trends

When asked about what some of the latest trends are in the industry, technology and AI (artificial intelligence) were at the top of the list.

For example, Gould noted:

  • Technology to create and manage programs is getting more and more sophisticated. Gamification is being built in, sometimes as standard, to increase engagement and participation.
  • More companies see incentive and employee recognition programs, using non-cash rewards, as a competitive advantage and are, therefore, investing more heavily.
  • Rewards catalogs are becoming more comprehensive across more countries allowing for more fairness and consistency within multinational companies.
  • The use of AI in programs is starting to emerge, with more predictive/smarter choices being made available to program participants.

Similarly, Valenzuela noted that "Artificial intelligence is being used to tailor experiences on the programs' platforms or even with the awards, for instance on incentive travel. AI is also used for mobile-based incentive and gamification platforms. Now you can play from your mobile device, which feeds the database, and you earn points for your training while you play," he said.

"Behavioral economics helps give 'nudges' to the participants to keep them aware of the program's existence by providing visual cues at many touch points such as providing office products with the program's logo on them, which helps create connections that make the program more emotional than transactional," Valenzuela said.

"In my work I see these types of applications more often used in programs for employees and commercial partners than for consumers," he added.