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Incentive programs are a popular and effective way for businesses to motivate and reward their employees, customers, or partners. One crucial aspect that requires careful consideration when designing an incentive program is the selection of awards. Choosing the right motivational awards can significantly impact the program’s success and the participant’s motivation level, but not all awards are created equal. Several factors go into selecting the best award choice for your program. We’ll explore some of the most incentivizing awards in the market and break down the elements of your incentive program to find the best fit for your audience.

Let’s ask the age-old question before we get into the different award options. Is cash king? The answer is complicated. If you ask participants if they want cash the answer is almost always “yes,” but will it be memorable? Academic research shows that non-cash awards serve as a better motivational tool and are more memorable than cash awards. Let’s dive into the benefits of non-cash awards.

Benefits of Non-Cash Awards

I mentioned earlier that non-cash awards are a better motivational tool than cash awards. There are six key reasons why this is true.

Daydream Value
Non-cash awards have a higher perceived value. We want awards that have daydream value because if you promote something that participants can aspire to, it will be more valuable to them when they reach their goal and earn the award.

Guilt-free Spending
Participants are more likely to indulge in their award if they have non-cash options. They will tie more positive memories to the designer watch they won vs. the credit card bill they paid with their cash award. We want participants to enjoy their award.

Cash awards will eventually get mixed in with standard compensation and create entitlement. If you run a quarterly sales contest that awards points for merchandise, you will have the option to turn that contest off in the following quarter. Lowering someone’s expected compensation might lead to disgruntlement.

Social Reinforcement
Physical items like a flat screen TV or a new grill have trophy value. You can tell your friends about what you did to win the award.  You are also much more likely to post on social media about the VIP suite to your favorite sporting event or concert. Bragging rights matter.

Halo Effect
This is the lasting reminder you get from winning a memorable award.  It provides positive brand association and a long-lasting performance boost.  This is a powerful factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. Participants will have a positive perception of your brand without even realizing why.

Lastly, non-cash awards are more promotable. You can build a program theme around the awards that is easily marketable. Consider the timing of your program. A ski trip is the perfect award leading up to winter, and a new grill and patio furniture provide great motivation for the summer months.

As you can see, non-cash awards tap into several social and psychological factors to provide a long-lasting positive impact on recipients.

Non-Cash Awards

eGift Cards
Single load cards that can be used at specific retailers, businesses, or online platforms. Think of a gift card to your favorite restaurant or clothing store. These are also available in physical plastic, but we strongly recommend using eGift because it’s eco-friendly, more cost-effective, and is delivered within 24-hours of issuance.

Prepaid Cards
These are single-use or reloadable cards that work like a debit or credit card. They can be co-branded with your company logo or fully customized. Reloadable cards are a great choice for programs with recurring payments, while virtual prepaid cards are a better fit for international programs.

This could be a single item like a TV or electronics, or allow your audience to choose from an exciting array of merchandise in a catalog with a collection of items, similar to any other online shopping experience. Items are shipped directly to the participant’s doorstep.

Travel Packages
A great option for a grand prize, travel packages often cover the cost of hotel and airfare for the winner and a guest. Kick it up a notch by covering expenses from airport transfers, tickets to an event, and spending money so they feel like a real winner.

Great when paired with travel packages, experiences range from a relaxing day at the spa to skydiving, or tickets to a headlining concert or blockbuster sporting event.

For more information, our Awards Matrix details the pros and cons of each award type.

What to Consider

Know Your Audience
You need to consider traditional demographics like age, gender, income, and location. Higher-income earners need high-end award options like Nordstrom gift cards, luxury items, and exotic vacations. You’ll want to curate an eGfit catalog to match your audience as well. Programs with a larger female audience tend to have higher redemption rates at retailers like Sephora and Lululemon, while we usually see home improvement stores and sporting goods in the top 10 of programs with male audiences.

Global programs require multiple options, so you can ensure all participants have access to awards in their region. Prepaid cards can’t be delivered everywhere due to financial regulations and merchandise needs to be sourced locally to ensure they’re delivered in a timely manner.

Program Type & Structure
The award choice is also impacted by the program type and structure. Awards offered in consumer promotions like sweepstakes and rebates need to be easy to understand. Single-use prepaid cards are perfect for rebate and referral programs because the messaging is simple. “Submit your rebate and get a $100 prepaid card.” Exciting awards like vacations, VIP sports experiences, and backyard makeovers are great for sweepstakes. They drum up excitement and are easy to build a promotable theme around.

Consumer promotions are almost always closed offers that have a specific end date. On the other hand, channel and employee incentives tend to be open-ended. Participants will enroll in a program and stay enrolled as long as they are selling the product or service that the program is rewarding for. These are often points programs that allow participants to stack points over time. Merchandise or eGifts are a great fit for this. This provides plenty of choice and allows participants to work towards the goal of saving enough points for a flat screen TV or a $500 gift card to an electronics store.

Choosing the right award choice is crucial to your program. If you know the different award choices and their benefits, and consider these 3 key factors, you and your program participants will be set up for success. Now that you know the different award options and why they are so powerful. Let’s discuss what to consider when choosing the awards for your program.

Let Us Help You Enhance Your Sales Performance
Brightspot is dedicated to helping you optimize your incentive programs and boost sales. We provide quality advice to make sure you stay ahead of industry trends and changes. Contact us for support in creating engagement strategies and exploring incentive reward alternatives that ignite and motivate sales efforts.

Steven Kearl

Author Steven Kearl

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