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Choosing the best rewards mix for your incentive program needn’t cause your brain to itch.

Establish an optimal mix that stays within your budget by familiarising yourself with each reward type. They all have advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look.

We’ve listed some top-line considerations that should stimulate thought whether the reward type is ideal for your purposes or not.

Merchandise rewards

Merchandise rewards are tangible, non-cash rewards, like refrigerators, bicycles, televisions, coffee machines or camping gear. Having something tangible to work towards is highly motivating, especially if the rewards have been tailored to your target audience, making them both meaningful and memorable. To get the low-down on merchandise rewards, read How to do merchandise rewards right and Why we love merchandise rewards.


  • Desirable. Be mindful that merchandise rewards are highly prized, so ensure you provide a broad enough selection to choose from.
  • Perceived value. A tangible merchandise reward, like the latest and greatest flat screen TV, is perceived to be more valuable than a cash equivalent.
  • Shared experience. Merchandise rewards can be shared with friends and family, creating meaningful and memorable moments.
  • Hand delivered. A distribution service that delivers the reward to the participant’s home or office ramps up the perception of increased value, and it makes participants feel much more rewarded.


  • Challenging to administer. You need skilled people and the right technology. Merchandise rewards demand that detailed systems are in place to administer accounts, issue incentive points, if required, negotiate with suppliers, and of course, manage warehousing and fulfilment. Your best bet? Employ the services of a professional outsource agency.
  • Fulfilment costs can be high. Logistics come into play when you have to distribute merchandise. Shipping can be costly and often difficult in rural areas.
  • Not appropriate in some cases. Rewards are meant to motivate and reinforce behaviours that improve work performance, not plug an income gap. Where an employee’s salary does not at least meet his or her basic needs, they need a raise, not a reward.

Travel rewards

Usually awarded to groups or individuals, travel rewards can range from domestic return tickets to full-itinerary getaways. Group incentive travel is more high profile and generally geared to high earners, like automotive salespeople, for example. However, individuals do earn points and can use them for booking private travel.


  • Massively desirable. For most people, not just incentive program participants, travel rates extremely high. Again, it checks all the boxes of making a reward meaningful and memorable. Also, people who have recently travelled have that serene glow around them that others envy (or is it the tan?), so travel has high ‘trophy value’.
  • Personally meaningful. Travel can be personally enriching or have a social purpose. For those seeking personal improvement, transformational travel or edu-travel are just the ticket. Individuals seeking to leave the world a better place will be interested in voluntourism or eco-tourism, where their travels actually have a positive impact on the world around them. Travellers don’t just have an indelible experience in a new, exciting space, they actually leave it improved! Can you think of a better way to make a reward more meaningful?
  • Self-funding.  In the context of a travel incentive program, well-managed travel rewards can pay for themselves  Because the trip is directly linked to a  program with an accurate system of measures, performance targets are set upfront to generate a positive return on investment. Careful monitoring of the program allows for immense refinement and adjustment to achieve goals. Ultimately, increased income and lower costs should be sufficient to fund future incentive travel rewards.


  • It is expensive. Although travel rewards can be self-funding (see above) when used in the correct circumstance, companies with relatively small incentive budgets need to be realistic about their funds and objectives. What can you do about it? Consider local destinations, shorter durations, off-peak bookings. And find a planner skilled in negotiating the best rates.
  • Key staff are out of action. True, which can be a particularly sensitive point if you’re losing top sales staff. But the time out is more than offset by the longer-term benefits to their performance (rested, rejuvenated, high on the experience and your company). Also consider that the people who didn’t earn a spot this time around will be inspired to work a bit harder next time. Limit sales downtime by scheduling the trip during quiet periods in your sales cycle and include weekends.

For more on the ins and outs of incentive travel, see, Why you need an incentive travel planner
in your life.


Walking with elephants would constitute an experience. So would lunch in the sky. Exciting experiences outside our usual comfort zones stir us to the core. Without new experiences something sleeps in us, and rarely awakens. You can wake giants with experiential rewards. Read more in Rewarding in the experiential age: 5 reward strategies for success.


  • Great experiences create brand fans and loyal employees. Personalised, relevant experiences can be life-altering to the extent that the recipient becomes an advocate for your brand or an avid, hyper-engaged employee whose enthusiasm is positively contagious.
  • Wide range.  You can find a wide range of experiences on offer in every corner of South Africa. Culinary adventures, extreme sports, romantic weekends, you name it!


  • Not everyone likes elephants. Experience rewards are easy to get wrong if you don’t know and understand your target audience. Do your research, ask the right questions and aim for a truly personalised experience. Or, avoid the decision and offer a range of choices specially selected for your objectives and your audience.


“The global gift card market is going nowhere but up, a new survey finds. Persistence Market Research predicts that the international market for gift cards is likely to grow to $506 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 6% from $318 billion in 2017.”


It’s not just gift cards that are massively popular! GET Rewards offers gift cards, shopping cards and online shopping cards, all essentials in any rewards mix. The GET Rewards suite of cards gives access to 250 000 retailers across South Africa and puts the gift of choice in the hands of your recipients. And the online card opens up a whole new world of reward choices from South African online merchants.


  • Convenience. Cards can be ordered in bulk and you can choose the value of each card. The GET Rewards card is packaged to look and feel like a premium reward and allows for the inclusion of a personalised hand-written note to make the recipient feel really special.
  • Choice. Personal choice is the ultimate reward. Cards have you covered.


Most things we want are available instantly and electronically. And that’s why rewards like digital vouchers can be so effective as part of a rewards strategy. They satisfy that need for convenience and immediacy.


  • Easy. Giving a voucher is as simple as sending an SMS.
  • Versatile. Like cards, vouchers can be used in competitions, giveaways and promotions, or even product launches.
  • Perfect on-the-spot rewards. It’s as simple as sending an SMS, remember, which makes it easy to dish out surprise and delight the moment you recognise desirable behaviour.
  • No shipping. Electronic distribution is virtually instantaneous.


  • Must be relevant. If the voucher is not relevant the reward is underwhelming and actually defeats the purpose of rewarding.

Learn more about vouchers when you read Why digital vouchers make great rewards.

Lastly, there’s cash

Be sure to check out the advantages and pitfalls of cash rewards, covered in detail in our previous blog, Why gift cards create a sense of value at work.

Here’s a quick summary


  • Recognised commodity. Cash is universally desirable.
  • Simple administration. May be appropriate for small teams and individuals.


  • No trophy vale. A cash reward can be a bit ‘meh’, to use modern parlance. People tend to not talk about cash.
  • Is soon seen as salary. Withdrawing a reward that gets confused with pay may have a negative effect on intrinsic motivation.
  • Only has face value. Cash is cash. Non-cash rewards can be perceived to be far more valuable than their equivalent in cash.

Be sure to consider all these rewards in the right measure and in the right circumstances in your rewards mix and always strive to make rewards moments personalised, meaningful and memorable experiences.

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