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Know Your Options: The Different Ways to Reward Customers

Americans want to be rewarded for their purchases, meeting professional goals, and a variety of other behaviors. Yet retailers, employers, and other organizations face a conundrum—people want rewards, but what kind? One size doesn’t fit all and it can be hard to keep up with the possibilities.

There are several popular payment tools available today that can accommodate different recipient preferences and redemption styles, including:

eGifts: Mercator research found that in the last couple of years, egift use has grown rapidly. Additionally, 90 percent of people who have received egifts report they are easy to redeem, according to Blackhawk Network research . Versatile and convenient, egifts are essentially digital versions of physical gift cards that are delivered to consumers via email or text. People love the speed of delivery, digital nature of egifts. They are delivered more quickly than physical rewards; can be redeemed online, in person or on mobile devices; and many can also be incorporated into mobile wallets. As technology continues to elevate the shopping experience, egifts have become a great go-to reward option.

Virtual prepaid: Different from egift, virtual prepaid can be spent anywhere traditional credit card brands are accepted online—unlike an egift, which can be redeemed online or in-store, but only at a single retailer. In addition, some providers offer recipients the ability to request a physical version of the prepaid cards if preferred. According to a 2016 Forrester report , 244 million consumers browsed or bought online in 2015. The report also predicted that these numbers will rise. For that reason, virtual prepaid rewards could be a great fit for consumers who prefer shopping online.

Physical prepaid rewards: Despite the rapid adoption of digital rewards, physical cards aren’t going away any time soon. In fact, research by Blackhawk Engagement Solutions found consumers often prefer prepaid cards to other rewards. Plastic gift cards can be redeemed at specific retailers; prepaid cards are accepted by merchants that accept the major network brands. Prepaid cards can also act as tiny billboards in peoples’ wallets when customized with the sponsor’s brand.

Traditional payments: Despite the popularity of egift and prepaid rewards, some people may still want a physical check or other form of direct payment such as PayPal. For some consumers, holding a physical check and depositing it into their bank account provides satisfaction. However, reward providers should take into account that checks offer less branding opportunities than other rewards.

Travel and merchandise: Rather than receiving a monetary payment, travel options and merchandise from select retailers appeal to some audiences. However, according to Mercator’s Retail Gift Card Trends in the United States: 2015 in Review research , incentive cards may compete “…with the trophy value of a vacation or big screen television.”

Rewards can be meaningful incentives that motivate and engage consumers, employees, and clients. By familiarizing yourself with the choices available today, you’re well on your way to providing reward recipients with the best selection to accommodate their lifestyles and preferences.

The right partner can help you shape the best reward strategy to meet your program goals and customer demands. Reward preferences can change by value and demographic, application and experience, so find the right partner to deliver the right reward.

  1. The “Gift Cards are Dematerializing” research is a survey released by Mercator Advisory Group in August 2016.
  2. The “eGift Misconceptions Survey” was released by Blackhawk Network in September, 2016.
  3. “U.S. Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, 2015 to 2020” is a report published by Forrester Research in January 2016.
  4. The “People Prefer Prepaid Study” is an Internet-based survey conducted by Blackhawk Engagement Solutions in March 2016. The sample size included 1,688 American respondents, ages 18+ at the 95 percent confidence level would equate to + or – 3 percent margin of error had this been a random sample.
  5. The “Retail Gift Card Trends in the United States: 2015 in Review” is a survey conducted by Mercator Advisory Group in January 2016.

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