Electronics Incentives to Drive Peak Performance
When it comes to incentives and rewards, consumer electronics have long held the top spot in terms of redemptions and usage. And, despite some shifting of categories when the economy weakens and strengthens again, electronics continue to maintain their perennial popularity. In fact, according to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) in its recent 'IRF 2017 Trends Study,' electronics is the most popular category of merchandise measured, with 75 percent of respondents indicating they see these items being included in incentive programs. In times of economic expansion, according to the IRF report, electronics have a typically strong showing.
Eric Anderson, director of sales for PMC, which provides a wide range of electronics to the incentive market, electronics continue to be popular, though, he said, "They have leveled out because technology has slowed." He added, "I think we are in a period of redeem-for-replacement as opposed to redeem-for-a-new-must-have."
That said, the reach of the electronics category has expanded, and while TVs, cameras and audio components like speakers and headphones might be the first items that come to mind, there are new products entering this space all the time.
Electronics, said Carey Berg, vice president, Special Markets, Vivitar Sakar, is "… pushing into areas where previously the products were not electronics, like Health, Wellness & Fitness electronics, and newly created categories like sports action cameras and car dash cams."
"Electronics continue to be remarkably popular in awards programs," said Kenneth Fishman, director of purchasing for Rymax Marketing Services Inc. "The trends took a slight shift from flat-screen TVs to wireless audio, web-connected devices, smart watches and areas that present newer technology.
"It is no secret that the workforce is being taken over by the younger generation," he added. "By the year 2020, half the workforce will be made up of gen Y or millennials. They think differently than previous generations, and more importantly, they respond differently to work-life and management. They look for ways that are easier, faster, more flexible and efficient. With that said, you always have to keep your incentives up-to-date with the latest gadgets and tech."
Berg agreed, adding, "People love gadgets, always have, always will, and now more so because of all the Bluetooth devices. They are connected to your smartphone, so the smartphone is at the core of many of these devices."
Televisions continue to be popular, Anderson reported. But in addition, streaming devices are seeing growing popularity. And, "We are seeing more and more fitness wearables slotted into programs," he said. "Big-screen TVs give any program the pop and pizazz to motivate people for an event, but in all reality, all forms of consumer electronics redeem very well in incentive programs."
Meanwhile, Berg said some of the most popular items he's seeing include "… Bluetooth speakers, primarily waterproof, Bluetooth activity trackers and waterproof cameras, which are good gifts for remote event trips."
"Some of our most popular items are Amazon Echo, Tap, Iluv Audclick, 808 Audio Canz Bluetooth Portable Speaker, Porsche Design SPACE ONE Noise Cancelling Headphone by KEF, Skullcandy Wireless Smokin' Buds 2," Fishman added. "As you can see, everything is electronic, portable and wireless. With technology rapidly increasing and continually improving, 2017 will quickly bring new gadgets to eventually replace older ones. Therefore, you always have to be aware of what is happening in the industry."
Go Go Gadgets!
The fact is, electronics have grown to encompass a wide range of categories and lifestyles, providing gadgets that make everything from grocery shopping to listening to tunes to turning on the lights when you're out of town easier.
"Electronics is a very exciting category since it offers numerous products that improve our quality of life," Fishman said. "These products have a high reward value, which makes the consumer proud of their redemption. We are constantly surrounded by gadgets and tech that demand our attention. This will never slow down.
"Millennials also bring a unique, tech-savvy mindset to the workplace, expecting systems to work with technology and having the must-haves of the tech world," he added. "Therefore, it is important that our programs provide the latest in electronics, and we continue to evolve our services as an industry to accommodate that."
Figuring out how to engage, motivate and work with millennials has been a running topic in business journals for at least the past decade, as this generation has swelled the ranks of the workforce. What motivates them most, in terms of incentives and rewards, may differ slightly from previous generations.
"Millennials are cord cutters," Anderson said. "They tend to go with much more streaming of content, so if you are building a program and adding consumer electronics with a majority of this demographic, be sure to include step-up product that allows for streaming, versus entry-level product that will not stream."
Of course, just because they're the biggest name in the news, that doesn't mean millennials are the only demographic you need to consider as you add electronics to your program mix.
"Millennials are of course becoming a bigger factor since they're the largest demographic generation since the baby boomers," Berg said. "But the boomers are still going to have an effect for years to come. They (we) have disposable income and want to still be cool (60 is the new 40?), so sports-related electronics like sports action cameras, and health, wellness and fitness electronics will be key since they want to stay healthy and have fun."
Available through Premco, GoPro HERO 5 Black is the most powerful and easy-to-use GoPro ever, thanks to its 4k video, voice control, one-button simplicity, touch display and waterproof design. Smooth stabilized video, crystal-clear audio and pro-quality photo capture combine with GPS to make HERO5 Black simply the best GoPro. And when it's time to edit and share, HERO5 Black automatically uploads footage to your GoPro Plus cloud account to provide easy access on your phone.
For a more traditional approach to photo-taking, go with the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II, with beauty and style outside, advanced technology inside. Whether you're snapping an unforgettable moment on the go or recording an epic video with your friends, the PowerShot G9 X Mark II camera combines an ultra-slim design with high-performing features for incredible image quality and easy portability. Packing a powerful 1.0-inch 20.1-megapixel CMOS sensor into a pocket-friendly size, it's powered by the DIGIC 7 Image Processor for fast operation and features built-in Bluetooth connectivity for easy sharing.
Sight & Sound
Everyone loves a good gadget that makes their life easier or more fun, but most of us probably still think first of the ways consumer electronics can keep us entertained, with big-screen, high-definition TVs, and great-sounding headphones and speakers.
One thing to be aware of, Anderson said, as you're adding TVs to your program, is price and availability. "This winter we saw some factories have actually had pricing increases on 1080p panels due to production cost increases," he said. "Since the consumer is redeeming more and more 4K panels, it has not been as noticeable, but it is something program managers should be aware of. 4K panel redemption have really clicked up going into spring."
While 4K TVs are ramping up and changing people's favorite way to watch, there have also been changes in sound capabilities, changing people's favorite ways to listen.
"As big sound is arriving in a variety of sizes, wireless headsets and speakers are hitting the market like never before," Fishman said. "Consumers are craving incredible audio performance without worrying about connecting wires."
The Bose QuietControl 30 wireless headphones let you listen like never before, with breakthrough technology that allows you to control how much of the world you want to let in. Connect easily to your devices with Bluetooth and NFC pairing. Volume-optimized EQ gives you balanced audio performance at any volume. And a lightweight neckband design conforms to your body for all-day wearability.
If you demand professional-quality sound, but without the wires, the P7 Wireless utilizes Bowers & Wilkins' five decades of experience in transducer technology to offer a seamless audio experience. These incredibly immersive over-ear headphones deliver 17-hour battery life, and professional-quality sound in a large but foldable design, while wireless streaming via aptX Bluetooth means you can listen anywhere completely free of cables.
Available through Incentive Concepts, the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones are engineered with world-class noise cancellation that makes quiet sound quieter and music sound better. Free yourself from wireless and connect easily to your devices with Bluetooth and NFC pairing. And enjoy up to 20 hours of wireless listening per battery charge.
When you want to go wireless and listen out loud, you can experience the magic of wireless streaming and amazing sound with the SOLIS SO-6000, available at the end of June through Spectra Merchandising. This stylish speaker fits in well with any décor with its unique shape, wood finish and chrome trim. Convenience and wireless technology are front and center with both Chromecast built-in and Bluetooth. With Chromecast built-in, multi-room sync is also available and lets you customize your home audio listening experience. Connect multiple compatible smart speakers like the SO-6000 and play the same music or listen to different music in each room. The SO-6000 also includes Spotify Connect, allowing Spotify users to control the music playing using the Spotify app installed on their phone, tablet or computer. Music streams directly to the SO-6000 from the cloud, so no more relying on unstable connections from your device. Listening is seamless, so you can take calls, play games, even switch your phone off—all without interrupting the music.
The Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth speaker II was engineered to deliver bold sound wherever life takes you. From the pool to the patio, its rugged, water-resistant design lets you enjoy the music you love in more places. Voice prompts make Bluetooth pairing easy. And up to eight hours of listening per battery charge lets you keep your playlists playing.
For those who aren't yet completely reliant on digital music (and there are quite a few of us, still), the stylish yet practical Sharp 240W 5-Disc Mini Shelf System with Cassette, AM/FM and Bluetooth is the perfect audio solution for any environment. This system comes complete with a docking slot for your iPod or iPhone that not only plays audio files but also charges the device. It also has a five-CD multi-play changer, cassette deck, digital AM/FM tuner with 40 presets and a pair of two-way speakers. Enjoy your favorite music! Also play a CD-R/RW disc with all your favorite WMA and MP3 hits. Dynamic speakers feature 2x5 1/8-inch woofer and 2-inch tweeter.
"Hi-Def Audio products are also something to keep an eye on—bringing better quality audio to your music," Fishman said. "This has emerged as the ultimate audio selection for digital music fans overseas, and manufacturers will be looking to push sales in the United States."
With the Sony MDR-1000X/C Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones, you hear what matters, with industry-leading adaptive noise cancelling, wireless freedom and Hi-Red Audio that lets you focus on music in its purest form. Listen and talk without taking them off with the easy touch-control shells, while the SENSE engine adapts to your environment and eliminates noise in all conditions. All with up to 20 hours of battery life.
T7 Wireless is Bowers & Wilkins' most portable, versatile wireless system yet, allowing you to have fantastic sound in places other speakers can't reach. Moreover, T7 Wireless supports the superior aptX Bluetooth codec, which means you can stream high-resolution audio files for crystal clear sound. Just charge it up, and it's good for 18 solid hours of playback. Available in a choice of black or gold finish.
You can capture the audio and listening experience the artist intended you to with the SOLIS SO-7500/8000, available in mid-June through Spectra Merchandising. Featured prominently on the top of the unit are vacuum tubes, the same technology used in guitar amps for the highest and purest sound quality. With vacuum tube technology, you'll hear the rich, authentic clarity and crisp sound quality any audiophile is looking for. The SO-7500 includes Bluetooth for wireless streaming from your phone or Bluetooth device, and two auxiliary inputs for connecting a turntable or any other wired device. The unit delivers 2x17W (RMS) and operates on 120V AC power. Leave no note unheard.
You might have noticed that virtually every audio component listed so far features some kind of connectivity. That connectivity is not limited to traditional electronics. Look for more and more gadgets and tools that empower consumers to stay connected to their homes, too.
"Consumer electronics has traditionally been entertainment," Anderson said, "but over the past few years you are seeing more and more integration to assist with everyday functionality, be it tablets with the power of PCs or smartphones with apps galore that folks can use to control their furnace to their garage door opener, or even peek in their refrigerator before leaving work to see if they need to stop for milk on the way home. Consumer electronics is making great progress from basic entertainment to supporting our daily lifestyle activities."
Berg agreed. "We're seeing more interactive electronics, like Wi-Fi home security cameras that allow you to monitor your home from your smartphone, tablet or PC from anywhere, and even let you talk two-way into your home."
"Products featuring Alexa technology are extremely hot right now, and it will be exciting to see how different manufacturers incorporate the technology into various items, which will make great strides in expanding the Smart Connected home category."
Similar to Amazon's Echo, you can look for more devices like this soon, Berg said. "Google is now licensing Alexa, which is its technology similar to Amazon's Echo, which lets you ask questions, which the device then looks up on the web and speaks back to you," he explained. "So lots of companies, including us, are coming out with Alexa speakers."
And when things go awry and your home becomes disconnected? There's a market for that too, with emergency power stations and charging devices like the Kaito Voyager XL Digital Emergency Power Station, Weather Radio, Light & More. It's the ultimate portable communications and emergency tool. With multiple power sources, the Kaito Voyager XL keeps you connected to your world during emergencies, in the great outdoors, at home, in the office or on the road. Power sources include a hand-crank motor, rechargeable battery, built-in revolving solar panel, USB or AC (with optional adapter). It packs digital AM/FM, 24/7 NOAA National Weather Service with 'Weather Alert,' MP3 music player, micro SD card slot, built-in Bluetooth, digital radio recorder, digital voice recorder, 3-LED flashlight, 5-LED reading lamp, clock/alarm, backlit LCD display, and a portable USB charging station for cellphones and other devices. Also features a large dynamic speaker and a water-resistant, shockproof rubberized protective case.
What's In a Name?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
"When in doubt, go brand name over a tier 3 brand," Anderson said. "It will add credibility to your programs and cut down on headaches involved with cheaper-produced goods."
While there are some categories of merchandise where you might not focus as heavily on brand names, in consumer electronics, the right brand is crucial.
"Consumers want name brand products that look great and help to improve their quality of life, either by keeping them connected or simplifying everyday tasks," Fishman said. "Millennials are the most technologically engaged generation compared to generation X or boomers, and they are also the most loyal generation to their favorite brands. It may seem strange, living in a world of limitless options sitting right there at the consumer's fingertips, but it's true. With social media expanding, millennials are not influenced by advertising, but by the tremendous information they can view online of personal opinions of others and their take on a product."
He added, "Electronics appeal to a broad scope of demographics since they are so ingrained in our way of life. With a majority of individuals owning cellphones, laptops and desktop computers, it comes as no surprise that electronics will continue to be the focal point in the market."