Thoughts from Incentive’s Annual Roundtable

By Sheree Thornsberry, General Manager
Blackhawk Engagement Solutions

I was thrilled to be one of twelve incentive leaders from around the world who gathered to discuss the state of the industry at Incentive magazine’s 15th Annual Roundtable last week.

My high-level perspective on incentive trends: people have become accustomed to being incented, and now they expect it. Shoppers don’t buy without a promotion. Employees consider incentive programs when accepting a new job. Now that incentives are so engrained, it’s about making them smarter, faster, more intuitive and easier to redeem.

Technology is really shaping the future of consumer incentives, just like it’s affecting all areas of shopper behavior and purchasing patterns. Consumers now demand things like omnichannel connectivity, mobile shopping, fast shipping, social commerce and one-click ordering from the stores and brands they patronize. Incentive programs must be just as nimble and connected. Innovations like egift and virtual prepaid rewards, mobile and online-enabled rebates and seamless integration of incentives programs with loyalty programs are responding to these demands.

When thinking about the sales and employee incentive landscape today, I think giving incremental and meaningful rewards is valuable. Most programs fall flat because they’re too aspirational and hard to achieve. It’s also important to reward employees not just for achieving big milestones like a certain number of sales closed, but also for other important behaviors, like demonstrating innovation, training, lead follow up, etc.

I spent a lot of time at the Roundtable discussing prepaid incentives and the trends in that category. A few key points I shared: a robust egift portfolio has emerged as a major requirement for all prepaid incentive programs, which is not surprising as 69% of consumers are now familiar with egifts. Another important discussion: virtual rewards and egifts are expanding the reach and value of prepaid incentives. eGifts are not replacing physical cards, but rather are a strong complement to them. There are different situations when each is appropriate. For an incentive delivered in person, a physical card is still nice, and it can be added to a greeting card. However, in instances of incenting globally or rewarding a younger demographic that predominantly lives a mobile and digital lifestyle, an egift or a virtual reward makes more sense.

It was a privilege to discuss these and other issues with my incentive leader peers at the Roundtable. Watch for the Incentive cover story resulting from the event this fall!



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