Earlier this year, we set out to determine what today’s reward buyers and incentive program managers want and need from reward providers like us. We knew going in that our subjects have had their budgets (and patience) stretched to the max as they’ve worked for the past several years to appeal to increasingly savvy deal-seekers. What we wanted to find out was how they’ve been able to stay in the game, and how we might better equip them for success.

Through the course of our interviews with these incentive program pros, we learned that their biggest challenge has been figuring out which rewards to offer to keep participants engaged, and attract new participants—and how to do it without the whole thing devolving into a discount race to the bottom.

From what we saw, our group of rewards program managers had been relying on what amounted to a “throwing spaghetti at the wall” approach to reward selection, rather than strategic curation. That’s not the worst way to go about it, but it’s not exactly the most efficient or cost effective either.


Revisiting the data

The answer here was not a simple one. We couldn’t just point to our grand offering of rewards and say, “Choose.” It was the choosing they needed help with. Spaghetti on the wall was taking too long, and they were essentially looking to us for a fast-forward button.

Since we had also recently conducted a large study on reward preference, we knew we had the answers, and just needed to look a little harder to find them. This time, instead of looking at our preference data based on program type, we looked it at based on demographic. That’s when the lightbulb went on.

Millennials are the largest US market segment, spending roughly $600 billion annually.1 A 2017 Goldman Sachs report2 echoes the stats that have become familiar to us all in recent years—that Millennials are holding off making large purchases, and that they prefer brands that offer the most convenience at the best price. And once they find a brand they like, they stick with it.3

What this means for incentive program managers and the people in charge of selecting the rewards is that if they can offer rewards that Millennials find motivating, they will have cracked the code.