Reach Your Rewards Customers Where They Live
Dana LaSalvia, CRP
A recent study, titled Trends in Online Shopping: A Global Nielsen Consumer Report, revealed that "more than half of all Internet users, or 875 million Americans, make at least one online purchase per month." That's a significant number, and it's growing every day. It's also great news for the incentive industry, as customized rewards platforms now offer the same benefits and functionality as e-commerce sites—plus many significant opportunities to increase engagement.
Similar to popular online shopping sites, today's online rewards platform offers everything from the hottest merchandise and experiential packages to retail and custom gift cards. Updates happen in real time (versus the days of locking everything down in print), and online rewards sites provide round-the-clock access, allowing customers to research an item before ordering it—an important element of customer satisfaction.
A variety of companies are using automatic product feeds to update items in real time, ensuring customers have access to the latest offerings. Additionally, online rewards platforms' search functionality has been expanded to offer participants the opportunity to search by category, brand, product description, level, points or any combination of these criteria. Other popular functions include Shopping Cart and Wish List. As the name suggests, the Wish List feature adds an inspirational element to the program by allowing participants to add items to their Shopping Cart (for which they may not have enough points/dollars) and work toward that goal. Once the goal is reached, the participants receive a congratulatory e-mail and are free to redeem their long-awaited reward.
But the rewards redemption process only is one aspect of a successful "online incentive program experience" for both the participant and host company.
Today, an incentive program delivered online can't be truly successful without addressing Internet security concerns, integrating and maximizing smart, targeted communications to drive results, and, last but not least, measuring those results. The need to drive and track ROI has never been greater. Let's take a look at each of these critical factors.
A Secure Environment
Just like shopping online, consumers want to know that their transactions within the online rewards platform are secure. According to a study conducted by Oracle titled Online Security, A Human Perspective, "Confidence in online security is a motivating factor in purchasing behavior." As program administrators, the more we communicate the security of our rewards sites, the more successful our programs will be.
Communication Is Key
Communication is vital to the success of any incentive program—from launch and creating continuity to encouraging engagement and promoting redemptions—electronic media is a quick, easy and cost-effective way to get your message out.
Online platforms offer the ability to reach customers through multiple communication vehicles such as e-blasts, e-cards, surveys or targeted homepage messages (links to leaderboards, personalized letters, hot items, deals of the week and more). In addition, online communication is the perfect complement to tried-and-true print campaigns.
The power of recognition and communication—even if it's just a simple thank you e-mail—goes a long way with rewards participants. Many platforms also offer automatic messaging. Notifications such as order confirmation, tracking, login and password information sent direct to a participant enhance the experience and are reminiscent of the shopping experience today's Web-savvy customer has come to appreciate and expect.
An integral part of a successful communication program is the ability to appeal to specific segments of your audience. Social media applications are a great way to generate program awareness, boost engagement and enhance overall program success. You can write a blog, set up a fan page or group on Facebook, post news on your company's LinkedIn page, even send out in-the-moment updates via Twitter. These powerful tools are easy to use, free and present incredible opportunities for today's marketer.
ROI—The Brass Ring
Of course, the most immediate way to measure the success of any program is results analysis. Beyond the smiling faces of your participants, an online rewards program gives you point-and-click access to a variety of data including redemption rates, patterns, communications response stats, etc. This valuable information makes it easy to evaluate what's working and where adjustments need to be made to increase success.
The Net Takeaway
There's no disputing it. The way to engage today's rewards program participants is online. We need to reach people where they live, and increasingly that means communicating via Internet applications. Incentive companies that evolve with technology to engage and reward program participants will reap the rewards of the digital revolution today, tomorrow and beyond.