AccuList’s many incentive and recognition products marketing clients should take a look at The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2019 Trends Study” for tips on where the market is headed this year.
Room for Growth With a Corporate Culture Stress
With economic growth and optimism strong, companies are continuing investment in incentive and recognition rewards, with considerable room for market expansion for product suppliers: 84% of businesses are now using non-cash rewards, but past studies show close to 60% of merchandise and gift card rewards are still sourced through retail versus specialized agencies or providers. One factor pushing the recognition market is the trend to “talent culture” creation by C-suite executives, with “The Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study” finding more employers than ever offering non-cash rewards aimed directly at building relationships, encouraging inclusion and knowledge-sharing, and promoting engagement. Why? IRF’s studies as well as academic research are finding that when executives combine economic incentives with recognition and well-designed non-cash rewards, they promote “corporate citizenship” behaviors and work environments that attract and retain top talent.
Continued Spending for Merchandise and Gift Cards
Overall use of merchandise rewards is expected to increase, per IRF, particularly among corporate audiences, with a net increase of 33% compared to a net 20% of suppliers and third-party providers. The use of logo’d brand-name merchandise dominates, with 75% of corporate programs using these items as rewards. Other popular rewards are electronics (63%) and clothing/apparel (59%). The average merchandise reward value is pegged at $160, pushed up by the small part of the market that spends more per reward; in fact, nearly a quarter of respondents indicate their average merchandise reward is $100, and half of respondents reporting average merchandise reward values falling between $1 and $100. Meanwhile, gift cards continue to be a popular option within reward and recognition programs, with open loop cards (that can be used anywhere) and brand-specific cards both enjoying high utilization. Plus, e-gift cards are gaining momentum, with half of large enterprises and 58% of medium enterprises using them in 2018.
Analytics and AI Are Changing the Landscape
Of particular note, IRF’s most recent study urges reward program designers and suppliers to understand how predictive analytics and AI are changing the market: “In the incentives field, predictive analytics and machine learning are helping program designers understand who is drawn to which types of rewards, and how those rewards should be shaped and presented to produce the best outcomes on an individual basis. Organizations are using analytics and AI to see patterns in peer-to-peer recognition so they can encourage greater participation. Some are using it to personalize learning. In the near future, algorithms will spot patterns and correlations between past rewards and incentives and the desired behaviors and outcomes that define a high performer.” Read the full IRF trends study for more, including data on incentive travel and event gifting.