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How to optimise your reward strategy for success


The GET Rewards team dedicates this guide to those looking to reward their customers, channel partners and employees in ways that build meaningful connections and valuable relationships.

In a world where people are seeking a deeper rationale for their brand loyalties, rewards are the ideal instrument to demonstrate loyalty’s true worth. Why? Because we experience rewards emotionally.

This is important because what we’ve learned from neuroscience is that decision-making is both rational and emotional. So knowing how to bond people to brands through rewards is good business.

We hope the insights we provide in this digital guide of ‘How to Optimise Your Reward Strategy for Success’ goes a long way in helping you to realise the value of purposeful rewarding in theory, and to see the returns in practice.


The GET Rewards team


We’ve filled this guide with content for people who are in the business of rewarding their customers, channel partners and employees. Our intention is that every reader finds the content relevant and insightful. To ensure that the collection is instantly accessible and easily digestible, we’ve created a series of reader tools – from short-and-sweet success stories about reward usage and applications, to quick-fix summaries and pre-practice check lists.

Think of it as a handy guide to understanding and implementing the right rewards, at the right time, and for the right people.

With GET Rewards as your guide, you can’t go wrong!

Smart start

In this guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Develop a reward strategy that works
  • Match the right rewards with the right people
  • Time your reward frequency for the biggest impact
  • Utilise reward distribution channels cost effectively
  • Measure reward effectiveness


Chapter 1: The science of rewards

Chapter 2: Putting people at the centre of rewards

Chapter 3: Aligning rewards with your business strategy

Chapter 4: Optimising your reward strategy


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Chapter 1

The science of rewards

Rewards and the brain – the neuroscience of rewards

Rewards activate pleasure pathways

The human brain comes with a built-in reward circuit, which when activated triggers the release of a powerful neurotransmitter, called dopamine.

This chemical stimulates feelings of attraction, desire and reward, and produces an intense rush of pleasure in the brain. Its effects have been likened to taking A-grade cocaine!

But what’s really interesting about this brain chemistry – particularly for marketers and advertisers, and anyone involved in the business of rewards – is that this pleasure circuit activates, not once a reward is received, but in anticipation of it.

The key understanding here is that we seek the pleasure of rewards, essentially, because we want to satisfy our craving for them. Inside our brains, we make a causal connection between a pleasurable result or reward, and the actions or behaviours associated with getting it. And what drives our actions is the all-powerful, pleasure-seeking trigger of dopamine that makes rewards the billion-dollar industry it is today.

STORY SHARE Sarah works in a software design studio. Six months ago the company introduced a new reward system aimed at improving sprint outputs. Every week, two tickets to a special event – be it a music festival, stage production, sports or business networking event – go up for grabs. In the time since these rewards were introduced, management has noticed an improvement in performance, and morale. Sarah won the latest set of tickets: “What a rush – I can’t believe it! I’m going to Web Summit; it’s the event of the year. All the best brains in the industry attend. I can’t wait!”


Rewards are experiential

Why we value rewards

We live in a world of things and experiences

There’s a simple reason we fill our worlds with the things we love, and with experiences that we think will add meaning and memories to our lives:

We are wired to accumulate.

In former times, human beings were hunter gatherers – our survival depended on our ability to amass enough provisions to see us through the coldest of winters, and into the season of spring, when food and supplies became abundant once again.

But as our species developed, we transitioned from a basic hand-to-mouth existence to one characterised by food and resource security. This is when our possessions started to take on new meaning. Because we started to invest our objects and possessions with sentimental value.

The simple truth is that our stuff defines us as a species; a life without them would be barely recognisable as human.

We all derive pleasure from things, some things more than other things, and different things for different people. Yet what we all share is the value we place in things because they tell the story of who we are.

The latest studies in neuroscience tell an even more interesting story: that, while we love getting new things, we soon grow accustomed to them, whereas we remember experiences long after they have happened. The value of experiences is that, like our stuff, they define and shape who we are. But they also live on in our memory and become a living part of us.

Understanding this anthropomorphic perspective helps us to see rewards in a powerful new way – as a means of furthering the story of who we are. And what it means to be human.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Human beings have an instinct to accumulate things. Human beings attach sentimental value to things and experiences. Possessions and experiences are identity-forming. We out-grow things, but not experiences. Rewards play a powerful role in the human story.

Rewards are emotional

Why we feel rewards

We are what we do, and feel.

Neuroscience shows that extrinsic motivation – actions and behaviours that are driven by our anticipation of being rewarded – determines many of the choices and decisions we make in life.

But while we are able to apply a great degree of logic, reason and rationality in the performance of actions that we think will lead to a reward; it’s our emotions that dominate once we receive a reward.

Just consider the words we associate with the experience of receiving rewards: excited; energised; thoughtful; thankful; cheerful; hopeful; proud; respected; important; confident; appreciated; loved; successful; wonderful; worthwhile; satisfied; content; trusted; nurtured.

It’s important to remember that rewards are experienced in that part of an exchange or transaction – be it person-to-person or between a brand and a person – when pleasurable emotions are at a peak.

This insight is all-important for people who reward their customers, channel partners and employees. Because we can see the power rewards have to create positive emotional states, and, as a result, positive associations with the people and brands that give them.

In an age when brands are focusing on emotional motivations to connect with people authentically, there isn’t a single marketing strategy in which rewards don’t belong.

STORY SHARE A year ago, Simon signed up for a new health rewards program. To encourage a more active lifestyle, the program sets its members a personalised, weekly points goal, based on physical exercise and activities. Simon has been meeting his weekly goal consistently and, besides earning free gym membership every month, he’s also accumulating other rewards, such as discounted flights and vouchers to his favourite coffee shop. “The program helps me stay motivated, and it feels great to be fit again. What I didn’t expect are all the added rewards. I love being a member!”


What drives us?

The Four Drive Model

Towards an holistic reward strategy

The science of human motivation and engagement benefitted from a contribution made some years ago, by the late Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, together with Harvard Business School, when they developed a fascinating new theory on the biological drivers of human behaviour. (Lawrence & Nohria, 2002, Lawrence, 2010)

The theory, which translates into a model, is that at any given time, some combination of four drives determine a person’s behaviour.

According to the model, we are driven by:
  1. The drive to acquire stuff, status and resources
  2. The drive to bond and collaborate with others
  3. The drive to create and learn towards self and social improvement
  4. The drive to defend status, stuff, ideas and relationships

What Lawrence and Nohria stressed, is that these drives are rooted in powerful emotions, so they carry influence over our choices and decisions.

Strategically including rewards that appeal to these multiple drives can deepen relationships and build loyalty for longevity.

Based on the work of Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria at Harvard Business School ©2015 Maritz. All rights reserved.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Human beings are motivated by four different drives. The drive to acquire is about accumulating stuff, status and resources. The drive to bond sees us collaborate and build communities. The drive to create and learn has its focus on self-actualisation and social improvement. The drive to defend centres around protecting what we’ve earned – our status, stuff, ideas and relationships.

The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards

How to establish an effective reward system

Make the connection, meaningfully.

Human beings are complex, that’s why it’s important for reward strategists to gain a deeper understanding of human motivation. Whether you want to motivate and reward customers, channel partners or employees, adopting an holistic approach will take your strategy further, and your loyalty deeper.

The Four Drive Model of Motivation was presented by Harvard Business School professors, Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria in 2002. Holistic in design, the theory posits that human beings possess four basic drives: To acquire, to bond, to learn and create, and to defend.

Looking at rewards from the perspective of this model helps to explain the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.

At a simplistic level, extrinsic rewards are physically tangible and usually, monetary-based. In the workplace, these rewards serve to recognise and appreciate employees’ contributions to the organisation.

They take the form of things like certificates, trophies, medals, badges and awards.

Typically, they are accompanied by some kind of financial benefit, such as a salary raise, a bonus, a gift card or a travel trip. Importantly, extrinsic rewards serve as symbols of accomplishment and, as such, activate our drives to acquire and defend.

In the marketplace, extrinsic rewards trigger exactly the same two drives. Just think back to all the consumer competitions you’ve entered over the years… to win a new car, a dream holiday, a kitchen make-over. Truth is, our lists of longed-for items and experiences are almost endless!

So, as long as we desire things, extrinsic rewards will always spark our motivation to get them.

Intrinsic rewards, on the other hand, are less obvious because they are physically intangible and non-monetary in nature. In recent years, the study of intrinsic motivation and rewards has revealed some radical, new findings.

In his book, ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’, Daniel H. Pink uses scientific research to demonstrate that money is not the best way to motivate people. Instead, Pink asserts that the three elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose are truly what motivates people.

Factoring into a reward strategy the three-way intrinsic motivations of self-direction, self-learning and self-transcendence will help them become more creative and socially orientated. The result is richer, more robust engagement, and rewards that work holistically.


Reciprocal loyalty

The science of why we give and take, and give back.

The gift economy

It was in the early years of the twentieth century that social anthropologists first started conducting research into what they termed ‘gift economies’ – communities established around a model of exchange where items are not traded or sold, but instead given without expectation of payment.

Their studies demonstrated that, in place of the greed, competition and social inequality that typically categorise market economies, communities built around gift economies were more equitable, stable and socially cohesive.

On deeper inspection, what the social anthropologists found, is that at the heart of a gift economy lies a simple human truth: people feel indebted to those who give them rewards, or who do something for them. This is the concept of reciprocal loyalty.

For psychology and marketing professor, Robert B. Cialdini, the concept has huge implications for brand loyalty. There is a motivational component within reciprocal loyalty that can be leveraged to make users perform a certain action.

The thinking is simple: When you reward customers, channel partners and employees, they feel predisposed to give something back, or to do something beneficial, in return.

So, loyalty is a two-way street. And for marketers, this makes rewards an all-important vehicle for engagement.

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Chapter 2

Putting people at the centre of rewards

People-centred reward strategies

Successful strategy takes its inspiration from real people

Building relationships around rewards

Design thinking powerhouse, IDEO describes human-centred design as “a creative approach to problem solving that starts with the people you’re designing for, and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs.”

This thinking applies as much to product and solution design, as it does to strategy.

Taking a holistic approach to strategy development means gaining a full understanding of the people for whom the strategy is intended; also of how the strategy would work within an existing market and technological environment.

A good indicator of a sound reward strategy is when every touchpoint has been considered as an opportunity to surprise, delight and deliver benefits to the people using the product or service, and interacting with the brand.

Another key focus area for strategy is ensuring that it aligns with the overall objectives of the business. Be sure that you have identified the key actions or behaviours that will impact business performance, and then match those actions with rewards that your user groups favour.

It is vital to define relevant measures of the ROI in your reward strategy. Metrics don’t have to be complicated: A simple cost-to-benefit ratio is a good starting point. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that customer, channel partner and employee satisfaction scores are ‘soft’ metrics. They’re not. Remember, a human-centred reward strategy includes live and continuous feedback from users throughout the implementation stage.

Finally, be sure to identify and compare your results with your competitors. Research shows that loyalty and reward programs are on the rise. According to a mobile loyalty report released by 3Cinteractive, 64% of brands reported an increase in loyalty program membership in 2017.

As the brand loyalty arena becomes more and more competitive, having a strategy that aligns business and people for performance is the benchmark for success.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Start with the people you’re developing the strategy for. Take an holistic approach: People, markets, technology. Align the reward strategy with the overall business strategy. Define relevant measures. Compare results with competitors.

Longevity loyalty

How to achieve long-term loyalty with rewards

Growing relationships for life

Long-term loyalty has a simple premise: The more people feel known, understood and valued by a brand, the higher the return of their loyalty.

The rise of data-driven, customer experience marketing has brought with it a new generation of loyalty and reward programs. These programs seek to connect with customers, channel partners and employees, personally; and to build enduring relationships and brand communities.

They achieve these objectives by moving from the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to loyalty and rewards, towards a more personalised model that factors in a fuller experience of human motivation.

Essentially, this is the shift from the old, transactional model of loyalty and rewards i.e. ‘Do this, get that’, to a more human-centred, relational model, in which it is understood that people are driven by different motivations, and that they have different reward preferences.

A reward strategy based on this model would typically include deep segmentation, a refined member life cycle and data-driven communication cadence.

The result is a given: Highly personalised, highly effective rewards that build loyalty for life.

Story share Kifilwe first remembers shopping at a certain clothing retailer when she was a little girl. Her mother would take her into town on Saturday mornings, where she would settle her accounts and buy provisions. Two and a half decades later, Kifilwe’s experience of the retailer is different: She is a VIP member of the retailer’s reward program; she receives special discounts and notifications about pre-sale opportunities, as well as invites to new product launches. “This store is like my family. I love it!.”

Surprise & delight

Why just reward when you can surprise and delight?

Rewards bring joy to life

It used to be that rewards were the last stop in the cycle of attracting, retaining and growing loyalty among customers, channel partners and employees.

The truth is, they still are. Only, what’s changed is that today we don’t simply aim to reward brand users, we strive to ‘surprise and delight’ them. And science tells us why we should continue to strive.

Inside the human brain is a built-in reward circuit. It activates in anticipation of a reward, and stays active even after having received a reward. We are so driven by this pleasure-seeking practice that we quickly learn what actions will lead to a reward, and repeat them.

However, when the brain’s reward circuit encounters something new or novel, it seizes on this unexpected stimulus and releases a really powerful load of the pleasure hormone, dopamine.

What’s more, neuroscientists have found that the more random and unexpected the rewards, the more pleasure people get from them. This ‘surprise and delight’ phenomenon is, today, a key feature of reward strategy.

Creating sporadic reward opportunities to ‘surprise and delight’ your customers, channel partners and employees is an easy way to establish a joyfully-charged emotional connection.

#surprisesurprise #happiness #awesomeness #whatamoment #purejoy #justforyou #happybirthday #workanniversary #yourgift #weloveyou

Instant gratification

Rewarding in the age of ‘now, now, now’.

There’s no time like now.

It’s a fact: Life is speeding up. Take the internet, for example. There was a time when we would wait minutes for a website to load… our patience extending long enough for images to appear, pixel by pixel. Today, we bounce in less than four seconds when we don’t see what we want.

This accelerated rate of expectation and gratification is well understood in the world of online shopping and digital retailing. Entire sites are designed around ease of purchase and speed to checkout.

No different with rewards.The risk is real for reward marketers who don’t adapt to this environment of instantaneous reward selection and fulfilment.

Fortunately, the last few years have seen incredible innovation in transactional software development.

Thanks to new technology in online, offline and mobile payment issuing and processing, reward recipients are able to interact with the brands and businesses giving them rewards, in ways they value and appreciate.

For time-constrained customers, channel partners and employees, innovation around the digital display and distribution of rewards is obviously beneficial; for convenience, simplicity and a one-to-one, immersive experience.

Yet, the most significant benefit is in the way that reward wishes can now be gratified, instantly.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS People are becoming increasingly used to getting things in seconds. Technological innovation is changing the way we experience and appreciate rewards. Rewards and reward distribution channels are being designed for instant, mobile consumption. Instant gratification can finally be satisfied.

Making rewards personal

Personalisation enhances the reward experience

Authenticity is the new reward currency

In a world of look-alike reward programs, there’s a lot to be said for those brands and businesses that practice personalisation effectively.

For one, they help create a virtuous cycle of engagement with their customers, channel partners and employees. The more personalised the brand interactions, the more likely it is that people will provide further personal data, thereby further improving the quality of engagement, and with it the depth of loyalty.

So, what does it take to reward the people who matter to your brand in truly personal ways? In the age of big data, basic segmentation is no longer adequate because it doesn’t yield the nuanced insights necessary to understand users from different angles.

If you’re currently running a reward program, we recommend augmenting registration and member-harvested data, as well as transactional and redemption data, with ethnographic and psychographic research, plus syndicated survey research, towards the creation of a truly customised segmentation model.

Personas – fictional representations of your customers, channel partners or employees – are also useful in sharpening the focus of personalisation. They also help shape your content marketing, and enrich your brand narrative.

Personalisation is the key to fostering authenticity and gaining trust. For your reward strategy to work, it’s really a no-brainer.

Story share Thato is a data analyst, who joined a large business management consultancy a year ago. During his onboarding process, he completed a survey about his personal interests. Thato is an avid hiker. On his first year anniversary, he received a reward voucher from his employer to spend at a popular outdoor and adventure retailer. “It feels great to know this company values me beyond my work skills; that I’m more than my job description.”

Rewards for different generations

Rewarding across the generations

Rewards shaped by time

Never before have there been as many generations represented in the global workforce than right now. From Baby Boomers, through Generations X, Y, and Z, knowing how to reward people in these different age groups begins with an understanding of what motivates them.

Baby Boomers love prestige

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are also known as the ‘Me, me, me’ generation. Ambitious, materialistic and goal-orientated, Baby Boomers like monetary rewards and promotional opportunity. In terms of non-monetary rewards, they prefer high net worth rewards, such as luxury travel and experiences.

Gen X for independence

They arrived between 1965 and 1980 and, because they saw their parents overwork and burn-out in the corporate world, they’re big on work-life balance and entrepreneurship. In fact, this generation makes up the highest percentage of start-up founders. As far as rewards go, anything that gives them freedom of choice is going to be appreciated: shopping cards, gift cards and vouchers, both retail and experiential.

Gen Y for disruption

Born between 1981 and 1994, Millennials represent the world’s largest living adult generation, and they dominate the workforce right now. Fiercely disruptive, Millennials’ digital aptitude is changing the workplace, and the world. They’re passionate about social and environmental causes, so the best way to capture them is with digital rewards that tag to social responsibility and sustainability.

Gen Z for the future

Born after 1995, Gen Z are digital natives and born gamers! Motivated equally by badges of accomplishment and real-world experiences, they seek personal growth through mentorship and collaboration. Living with purpose is high on their agenda, so social rewards are a must. Determined to create a better world, health and welfare rewards work well too.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Baby Boomers love prestige, power and promotion. Cash bonuses and luxury travel score high as rewards. Gen X is big on work-life balance and entrepreneurship. Be sure to provide rewards that offer freedom of choice. Gen Y is digitally disruptive, so rewards should be digital (duh), and preferably linked to social and environmental causes. Gaming and gamification are high on Gen Z’s agenda, as are social rewards.

Rewards & exclusivity

Reward to make people feel special

Rewards and status

First there were VIPs, now there are VVIPs and in the world of rewards, these labels of exclusivity and privilege are all-important. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to feel special? Or, more aptly, who doesn’t want the privileges and rewards that come with being a VVIP?

There’s interesting psychology behind the principle of status and the exclusivity it affords. It has to do with how human beings construct social value.

According to current thinking among psychologists and ethnologists, people rank others according to how they see them being treated.

In the context of rewards and reward programs, tiering is about rank and functions at two levels: For those at the top, the position provides a feeling of superiority. For those in between or at the bottom, the tiers are aspirational and serve to motivate upward mobility.

But back to the principle of social value. It’s a complex concept because it incorporates other human values, such as dignity, respect and a sense of belonging.

Increasingly reward strategists are working to convey these values within each reward experience, and for every reward recipient. This, so that every person who receives a reward, experiences the value of being unique – not in relation to where they rank, but simply for who they are.

The feat here, is to make every reward an exclusive experience, ensuring that for the person experiencing it, they feel like a VVIP.

Story share Vernon is loyal to a particular technology brand. He’s always first to own the latest-release phone or laptop, and regularly posts comments and articles on social media in support of the brand. Recently, Vernon was invited by the brand’s social community manager to attend a trade show in his home town. The reward included a pre-show screening of the brand’s latest innovation in wearable technology. “This is out-of-this-world awesome; what an experience! And they gave me a special discount on the new smartwatch too – how incredible is that!”


Rewarding preference

How to ensure your rewards aren’t just liked, but loved!

Rewards that super-please

Not everyone loves coffee. This was the realisation that changed the course of commercial history for a much-loved, global coffeehouse chain. Because they added teas to their menu. And smoothies, and sodas, and bottled drinks. In doing so, this beloved coffee company invited customers with alternative preferences to become loyal brand fans.

For reward strategists, there is much we can learn from this story. Because when we deepen our understanding of the reward preferences of our customers, channel partners and employees, we add meaning and value to our relationships with them.

With so many different types of rewards, and so many different ways to distribute them, it helps to think about rewards – in the context of preference – in three different scenarios: attraction, retention and motivation.

Attraction is the all-important reward scenario. Apply whatever data analytics you have, together with the buyer personas you’ve developed, to offer a reward of relevance. And give it freely! A positive reward experience will make the recipient want to give you something in return.

Once your reward has enjoyed usage, apply a preference analysis across any sign-up, transaction and/or redemption data you have. The sooner you can map the preferences of your customers, channel partners and employees, the faster you can tailor your rewards to their lifestyles and around their lifecycles.

To keep your users motivated and engaged, remember to apply the power of surprise. The novelty factor of random rewards activates the brain’s pleasure circuit and have been shown to produce higher affinity and deeper engagement.

We can’t say it enough: the more you know about your customers’, channel partners’ and employees’ preferences, the higher the impact your rewards will make. The intention is not simply to please, but to super-please with surprise and delight.

Let’s hear it for: #firstchoice #myfavourite #bestofthebest #topchoice #optionone #prideofplace

Ready, steady, reward

How to time your rewards for maximum impact

Rewards that arrive in perfect time, every time.

In a world of instant everything, ensuring that your rewards arrive on time is critical to the total reward experience. Too delayed and your customers, channel partners or employees may feel deflated. Even let down, a little.

You know the feeling. Your birthday’s been and gone, when suddenly a belated gift arrives. It’s a nice surprise, sure. But somehow there’s that niggling feeling that you just weren’t top of mind. Or worse. You were forgotten.

The same principle applies in the world of rewards. Timing is everything. But what is the right time to deliver your rewards, exactly?

To answer this, we must look to employee motivation and engagement. In the workplace, recognition has been shown to make the biggest impact when it is given fast. As in, same-day fast.

This finding is based in science. Neuroscience, to be exact, where researchers have studied the brain’s reward circuit in response to rewards within a given time frame. The sooner a reward is received for completion of a task, for example, the more dopamine is released in the brain.

You can picture this reward chemistry in the brain like this: Either it lights up like a Christmas tree with the pleasure of instant gratification, or it emits a dull glow, as if from a torch losing battery power. No doubt, we’re all after the Christmas tree effect, yes?

Here’s a couple of ways you can ensure that your rewards receive a jolly response:

Think digital, think instant.

Incorporate micro rewards, such as downloadable music, books, magazines and games into your reward mix. These digital rewards are especially useful in rewarding your customers, channel partners or employees at the start of an engagement lifecycle. They’re delivered instantly and lead to instant gratification.

Align your reward strategy with a communication strategy.

Whether you’re delivering rewards singly, in batches or in bulk, it pays to coordinate your reward releases with a pre-designed (and approved) communication plan. Otherwise you may find yourself playing catch up in trying to tailor your reward messaging.

Whether it’s customers, channel partners or employees, there really is only one golden rule when it comes to sending rewards: The sooner, the better.

Story share Vanessa works as a call centre agent, where employees have to swipe their access cards on arrival, and again on departure, from work. After a month, Vanessa’s attendance and punctuality earned her a digital voucher for her favourite fast food outlet. “I got this reward sent to my cellphone just five minutes after I got to work this morning. How awesome is that!”

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Chapter 3

Aligning rewards with your business strategy

Types of rewards

People are motivated differently, that’s why there are different types of rewards.

The science behind psychological rewards

The fields of neuroscience and neuromarketing are constantly revealing facets of human behaviour that can help marketers to build closer connections with their customers, boost brand recall and recognition, and build loyalty.

Here we share some of these scientific findings in the interests of making your reward strategy resonate with meaning, and effect.

The brain loves novelty

It’s a fact: The brain is hardwired to notice what’s new or different. That’s why it’s essential to introduce rewards that surprise and delight. Surprise gets people’s attention, and delight reinforces the positive association. Also, don’t forget to keep people interested in your rewards; when the brain is curious, it goes in search of knowledge as a reward in itself.

The brain remembers best

According to Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and author of Thinking Fast and Slow, people are more likely to remember “short periods of intense joy”. These apex moments are worth factoring into your reward selection suite, and channels of distribution. The more immediate and intense the moment of reward, the better for business.

Status is a reward in itself

We’ve known for a while that people strive for status as a means of gaining social power, respect and authority. Tiering is a good example of how loyalty marketers have applied this behavioural finding to their reward programs. But what’s new from the research of neuroscientists, is that status can be a reward in itself. So, bring on the rewards that function as status symbols. And the more visible, the better!

Reward rituals

Research in behaviour science points to an interesting finding: the brain imbues special meaning and value into otherwise ordinary, everyday objects or events, only because there is a strong social ritual around the object or event.

So, look to find interesting, new ways of building rituals around your key rewards. For example, don’t simply leave a birthday card or gift on a staff member’s desk. Compose a company birthday song and get everyone to sing it. Ritual joy!

Get more social

An interesting finding in social neuroscience is that the brain’s reward circuit fires up when a person receives real engagement and empathy from another. As reward strategies increasingly tend to centre around experiences that matter, be sure to include opportunities for authentic human connection.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS The brain is hardwired to notice what’s new or different, so look for ways to surprise and delight. The more immediate and intense the moment of reward, the longer it will be remembered and cherished. Status rewards will always attract attention and desire for ownership. Build unique rituals around your rewards to make them more meaningful. The brain experiences empathy as a reward, so give your rewards the human touch.


Cash vs non-cash rewards

It’s not all about the money, honey

The benefits of stuff

It might seem like a cash reward is the obvious choice when it comes to rewarding customers, channel partners and employees – after all, who doesn’t need a bit of extra spending money? But there are many compelling points around the benefits of non-cash options.

In a paper for the Incentive Research Foundation, Dr Scott Jeffrey unpacks four reasons why non-cash rewards can pack more of punch than cash rewards of the same value. Here’s a quick summary:

1. Evaluability:

Because it’s harder to put a monetary value on non-cash rewards, people perceive the reward to have a higher value than it actually has.

2. Separability:

In the workplace, it’s easy for employees to lump cash rewards in with their overall compensation, but that’s much harder to do with tangible rewards – so they stand out more.

3. Justifiability:

While someone might not be able to justify forking out a large sum of money to buy a luxury item, they may very well jump at the chance to earn it as a reward.

4. Social reinforcement:

Not only is a non-cash reward a tangible and visible sign of achievement, the recipient may also feel more comfortable talking about it than about a cash reward.

According to a 2016 Incentive Federation study, 84% of US businesses use non-cash rewards (like reward points, gift cards, incentive travel and merchandise) to recognise and reward their target audiences.

Good evidence that, in the ongoing debate between cash and non-cash rewards, the benefits of tangible, non-cash rewards win. Seems that cash is no longer king!

Source: The Benefits of Tangible Non-Monetary Incentives,


The difference between rewards & incentives

Nope, they’re not the same.

It’s all about the how and why.

In the workplace, people often talk about incentives and rewards as though they’re the same thing – and while they may be similar, there are some key differences.


Incentives are used to motivate employees to reach specific goals, and then to reward them when they do. For example, they’re often used to encourage sales staff to hit their targets. Incentives are always communicated upfront, so people know exactly what they need to do and by when in order to earn them.


Rewards are generally used to recognise and reward employees for excellent performance or specific behaviours which have already been demonstrated. They can be used to express appreciation for a job well done and can be given on an ad hoc basis – to surprise and delight – and form part of a structured rewards system.


The difference between gifts & rewards

Treat your team and build company culture

No strings attached

True, rewards come in all shapes and sizes. But not all rewards require that their recipients have to earn them. This is when a reward becomes a gift. Gifts in the workplace are typically given without conditions or expectations attached – in other words, no specific performance or behaviour is required.

Gifts that arrive on people’s desks (or desktops) can be a handy way to express and reinforce company culture, especially when used in fun and creative ways.

How you choose to use them will depend on your brand and corporate culture

Here are some ideas:

  • Branded calendars, desk pads or personalised coffee mugs to start off the new year.
  • Chocolates or holiday-themed cupcakes to celebrate fun ‘Hallmark Holidays’ like Valentine’s Day or Halloween.
  • A coffee voucher for International Coffee Day.
  • Health or fitness-themed gifts, like a water bottle or branded pedometer to mark awareness days like Global Move for Health Day.
  • Bonsais or small pot plants to add a bit of greenery to work stations. These could be given to mark World Environment Day.


Rewards and employee engagement

Adding value to your overall strategy

The role of rewards

Here’s a disturbing statistic. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, only 33% of US workers are engaged in their jobs.

That’s pretty much the opposite of what companies hope for, as engaged employees are likely to be more motivated and productive, and less likely to leave for another job.

One of the factors that has a positive impact on engagement is recognition – employees want to feel appreciated and that their contribution is valued. But that same Gallup report found that only 3 in 10 employees strongly agreed that in the past seven days they’d received recognition or praise for doing good work.

So where do rewards fit in?

Rewards form a key part of a company’s recognition strategy. While thanks and appreciation are effective, tangible rewards – as part of a recognition program have a huge impact – and can add value to an already positive organisational experience.

Remember, when deciding on employee rewards, take into account who you’re awarding (will it resonate with them?) and what it is you’re recognising (is the value appropriate?).


Team rewards

Everything is awesome, everything is cool…

When you get rewards as part of a team

Within an organsiation, rewards aren’t reserved just for individuals – there’s also huge value in rewarding teams for productivity and positive behaviours. In doing so, you can motivate performance, celebrate achievements and promote a sense of team spirit.

Here’s how you can implement team rewards in your business:

  • As an incentive for teams that need to meet specific objectives, like completing a difficult project on a tight deadline or exceeding a challenging sales target.
  • As recognition and reward for a job well done, for reaching a significant milestone or for excellent teamwork.

Depending on the accomplishment, rewards can take the form of anything from gift cards and vouchers to merchandise, experiences and travel.

Not only do these rewards show the team that their hard work is acknowledged and valued, it can also help to foster company loyalty.

Here’s an example. A local digital marketing agency landed an important international account. Their team worked hard throughout the year, managing to exceed targets and expectations. Their reward? A week-long trip to Mauritius – an experience they enjoyed with their team members, and not one they’ll forget in a hurry.

Finally, remember that publicly recognising and rewarding specific team performance is likely to have a powerful motivating effect on other teams in your company.


Merchandise rewards

People love things

Why you can’t go wrong with tangible rewards.

From our earliest history as hunter gatherers, human beings have always loved finding, receiving and collecting, things. Neuroscience tells us why. The things we have serve an ancient anthropological purpose: They tell the story of who we are.

There has long been debate as to which rewards lead to better performance: cash or merchandise. Study after study reveals that participants in programs where tangible rewards are on offer consistently out-perform participants in cash-based reward programs.

The benefit of merchandise rewards is that they apply to absolutely every reward scenario.

Here’s what we mean:

  • Points-based reward programs
  • Consumer competitions
  • Event give-aways
  • Trade promotions
  • Brand activations
  • Product launches
  • Prizes
  • Workplace sprints
  • Work anniversaries
  • Workplace appreciation
  • Staff birthdays
  • Long-service awards
  • Loyalty club draws

If you’re looking to add merchandise to your reward mix, be sure to consider efficient delivery of rewards as a crucial aspect of your total reward experience.

48% of people find guaranteed delivery dates important when checking out online.

Every brand wants to offer superlative experiences. What merchandise rewards offer is something for everyone, and something everyone will love.

Source: UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper White Paper (2016)


Reward cards

Freedom of choice, included.

A world of almost endless reward choice

Retail gift cards enjoy a monopoly in the rewards market for some very good reasons: They’re popular; widely accepted at retailers; and relatively easy to distribute and activate for spending.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of retail gift cards is that they offer recipients a world of reward choice. Whether in the hands of customers, channel partners or employees, reward cards give people the freedom to pick whatever they want.

Still, there are some who claim that reward cards are losing their rank on the reward hierarchy. They say that the ‘novelty’ of gift cards has worn off; that they’re impersonal; and worse, that the givers simply opt for an easy (read lazy) option.

We say reward cards rock for the way they surprise and delight! The spend opportunities they afford is reason enough to include them in your reward suite. With users able to redeem their points for rewards at virtually any store nationwide, what’s not to love?

For members of points-based reward programs, online shopping cards add an exciting, new dimension of spending opportunity. Accepted by local e-comm sites, including entertainment booking sites, users can book tickets at sports events, music festivals, stage productions, concerts and exhibitions.

Also, thanks to the advances in mobile payment technology, the online shopping card opens up the world of informal trading. Apps like SnapScan and Zapper enable online card users to spend at festivals, flea markets, spazas and pop-up shops.

Millennials are going love that, right?

Still another benefit of shopping and gift cards is that you can choose to limit usage to a single or select group of merchants. Doing so, aligns your brand with partner brands for a win-win outcome. Essentially, this is coalition loyalty without the risks, or associated costs. Nice!

STORY SHARE Mzi belongs to a reward program run by a manufacturer in the electronics channel. He regularly earns points on his shopping reward card but recently logged on to the program website and ordered an online shopping card. “I went online and ordered a bunch of flowers for my Mom – it was her birthday. I just typed in the card details at the checkout point of the online florist. Simple, easy, and my Mom loved the roses!”

Voucher rewards

Brand activation in one simple mechanism

Building loyalty on the back of big-name brands

Vouchers are fast becoming the reward of choice by savvy brand managers and forward-thinking loyalty marketers. The reasons are simple; they have high personal appeal, and they make an instant impact.

Whatever your reward scenario, vouchers will bring instant gratification to the experience, not to mention surprise and delight! That’s what makes them great for building engagement and driving sales in the consumer space; and attracting and retaining staff in the employer branding arena.

The many advances in mobile transactional software means that vouchers can be redeemed simply and seamlessly at point of sale. From airtime and data, and unforgettable experiences to in-store shopping at popular retailers and fast food outlets, vouchers point the way to the future in the new loyalty landscape.

Another reason to highlight and include vouchers in your reward mix is that you can reward customers, channel partners and employees with vouchers for specific stores or experiences. Aligning your brand with consumer brands they love creates a network of reward partners, without the effort of setting up a coalition loyalty program.

Lastly, vouchers are distributed digitally, which means you have the added benefit of supporting your reward with a personalised message or brand-building communication.

Convenience. Simplicity. Choice. Vouchers are an all-in-one awesome rewarding experience.

#ilovevouchers #purejoy #borntoshop #rewardsrock #allmine #brandlove #spoiltforchoice


Experience rewards

Rewards make people happy. Experiences make people happier.

Experience rewards motivate, inspire and empower.

A study conducted at the University of San Francisco about the value people place on material things versus experiences, revealed a fascinating finding: We derive greater happiness and wellbeing from experiences than we do from material objects, plus we think experiences are worth the money we spend on them.

For anyone in the business of rewarding customers, channel partners and employees, this is a true ‘Aha’ moment. For, in general, reward programs offer a traditional mix of rewards: access to an online catalogue of merchandise and gift cards. A few may even veer into the territory of experiential rewards, and offer travel rewards.

But it is the new generation of loyalty and reward programs that are placing experiences at the core of their reward offering. They’re doing it well, and they’re doing it with good reason.

A 2016 study found that 72% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. Given that, today, millennials are the largest generation in the global workplace and marketplace, it’s not surprising that we have seen the rise of what is termed ‘the experience economy’.

So, experience rewards are on trend. Super. But which experiences will give your brand the loyalty boost you’re looking for? That’s where data mining comes in. The more you can learn about the people you want to reward, the more impact and appeal your experience rewards will have.

Also, in selecting a reward supplier, be sure to check that their experience rewards span multiple categories. You don’t want to end up with quad bike racing as the sum total of your experience rewards! Today’s experience reward providers cater to every human interest and taste, from couple’s massage to cookery classes.

Whatever experiences you add to your reward suite, adrenaline and dopamine come along for the ride. And that’s exactly where the real reward value lies.

Source: Harris Group Report (2016)

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS People derive greater happiness from experiences than material items. New generation loyalty and reward programs place experiences at the core of their reward offering. 72% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than things. Shape your experiential rewards around your user preferences.

Travel rewards

The world over, travel is rated as the ultimate reward.

Travel rewards take people, and loyalty, further.

Let’s face it. Given the choice between a toaster and trip to Bali, the odds aren’t exactly in favour of the two-slicer, right? That’s because, universally, travel is regarded as the ultimate reward.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a long-term, points-based reward program or a seasonal consumer competition, travel will always attract attention and draw participation.

In the world of rewards, incentive travel is about motivating and rewarding a specific group of people, be they your high-value customers or your top-performing channel partners or employees.

Incentive travel is a powerful reward because, unlike cash rewards, the experience creates a lasting, emotional connection with your brand.

The benefits are three-fold:

1. You create connection.

Incentive travel provides people with an opportunity to form friendships. Friendship is a key trait of brand loyalty and retention.

2. Everyone loves travel.

Research shows that travel consistently ranks in the top three rewards on people’s wishlists.

3. Travel can be cost efficient.

Flexible destination options, package deals and special, group discounts come with a trusted group travel provider.

Unlike incentive travel, individual travel rewards target participants of points-based programs. Points can be redeemed for local and global flights, destination deals, hotels, car rental and other travel services.

It’s important, if you’re considering adding individual travel to your reward mix, that you partner with an experienced travel rewards provider. Look for professional accreditations, and whether or not the consultants are certified as travel agents.

If it’s an incentive travel agency you’re looking to partner with, ask prospective agents for some case studies and client testimonials. Reviewing feedback from travel participant surveys will help you to decide on the best-fit partner. And after deciding that, your biggest problem will be to think about where in the world you want to go…


Why digital rewards are essential

Wherever your brand fans go, be there with them.

Get personal with digital

We live in a digitally transformed world. A world in which, thanks to mobile technology, the ability to establish a personal partnership with your customers, channel partners and employees, is not only possible… it’s essential.

Mobile transactional technology, especially, is enabling customers, channel partners and employees to interact with businesses and brands in ways that could never have been imagined.

The fact that people are connected to multiple platforms, continually and simultaneously, means that rewards can be experienced instantly, personally and immersively.

What’s more, because of the ubiquitous nature of social media, these highly personalised reward experiences can easily be shared – turning a personal experience into a moment of collective celebration.

There isn’t a single brand that doesn’t stand to benefit from rewards designed for our modern, mobile world. From mobile vouchers for airtime and data, to in-store shopping and unforgettable experiences, digital rewards guarantee instant impact and high personal appeal.

Screenshot 2018-10-28 at 17.45.23


Because behaviour change deserves rewards

Ready, steady, play.

Not long ago, gamification was the new ‘buzz’ word. Today, many say that gamification was nothing more than a passing fad, a trend that came… and went. Yet, this belies the truth of what gamification is, really. Gamification is motivational design. And, as long as people need motivation to do more, and achieve more, motivational design (read gamification) will always have a place.

And, of course, wherever there is motivation, there are rewards.

Typically, gamification incorporates two types of rewards: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic rewards include things like points, badges, levels and leaderboards… what you see when you look at any gamified interface.

But the real role of these rewards is what they trigger, intrinsically. Think about it: What does a leaderboard demonstrate but status, power and influence? Suddenly, we’re talking about intrinsic rewards; rewards that deliver an experience of autonomy, mastery and purpose. And more besides; the intrinsically rewarding experience of belonging, accomplishment and empowerment.

An effective gamified solution will incorporate a compelling balance of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. However, this is not to say that gamification excludes rewards as we know them traditionally – things like merchandise, gift cards, vouchers and travel.

These rewards can serve a gamified solution brilliantly, because they too are motivating and inspiring. So, next time you hear the word ‘gamification’ bandied about your office, get involved and join the conversation. It may just be the start of a great, new opportunity to motivate and reward the people who matter to your brand.

Story share Busisiwe is participating in a gamification program at the contact centre where she works. Already, she’s completed all 10 micro-learning modules required of her, earning her a ‘Master of the Class’ badge. Her performance also qualifies her for entry to a ‘Top of the Class’ lucky draw, in which she stands to win a voucher for a popular fashion retailer. “My eyes are on the prize. There’s a denim jacket with my name on it!”


Micro rewards

Why go big when you can go smart?

There’s great value in micro rewards.

Reciprocal loyalty is simple: When you reward someone, they tend to want to give you something back in return. All around the world, this quintessential human exchange is played out daily, across thousands of loyalty and reward programs.

Yet, as simple as this exchange may be, loyalty marketers are looking to offer their members an ever-widening and complex range of rewards. Not to mention more expensive and extravagant rewards! All in an attempt to secure the loyalty of their member base, and to ward off competitors.

However, there is a trend emerging in the world of rewards, towards less. Less extravagance. Less ostentatiousness. Yet, more meaning. And more purpose. Welcome to the world of micro rewards!

With the technological advances in transactional software, it’s not surprising that, for the most part, micro rewards are of the digital kind. Think music, e-books, e-magazines and games.

Today’s loyalty marketers and brand strategists, particularly those who are targeting Millennials and GenY, use micro rewards to bolster their reward frameworks, and boost their loyalty.

The benefits don’t end there. Downloadable micro rewards are cost-effective. Typically, the purchase is made in bulk, with delivery via digital channels. Buying digital micro rewards in bulk comes with smart user analytics that can help advertisers and marketers to sharpen the focus of their strategies.

Another benefit is the immediacy of the reward experience. Gone are the days of reward program members passively accumulating reward points. Thanks to micro rewards – and the digital technology that supports their distribution – loyalty is on the rise, and in a rush!

Don’t get left behind!

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Micro rewards offer a fast, affordable and effective way to motivate and engage your customers, channel partners and employees. Mobile rewards are mostly digital and include downloadable music, books, magazines and games. Micro rewards have a high take-up rate among Millennial and Gen Y users.


A fresh take on fulfilment

Striving for flawless fulfilment

Ready, steady, redeem.

From the point of view of a loyalty, incentive or recognition program owner, fulfilment centres around logistics. Yet, for the members of those programs, it represents something else entirely. For these individuals, fulfilment is when rewards are made real and redeemed. Depending on the program’s capability in this area – this can be a moment, either of surprise and delight, or disappointment and dismay.

Reminding ourselves of the value of the redemption experience from the perspective of a program user helps us to appraise reward fulfilment differently. If you’re looking to appoint a full-service fulfilment partner for merchandise rewards, here is some criteria on which your search should be based:

Merchandise fulfilment

Whether yours is a full-scale reward program or a once-off campaign with rewards, check and see if the prospective company provides end-to-end services.

Typically, these would include:

  • Product and stock sourcing and procurement
  • Secure, centrally-located warehouse storage facilities
  • Picking and packing, including a custom packaging option
  • Dispatch operations, including nationwide delivery
  • Contact centre support to assist with queries, orders and returns
Digital fulfilment

If your reward suite is mainly in the digital space, there are key check points to consider when selecting a fulfilment provider.

You will want to partner with a provider that has reliable, scalable and secure systems in place to make redeeming easy and convenient.

Specifically, find out whether the systems:

  • are already or easily integrated with reward partner retailers
  • includes online and in-app delivery of digital vouchers
  • have a proven effective track record of up-time

Outsourcing the logistics complexity of your fulfilment to a specialist means that you can concentrate on your core business, with complete peace of mind. What’s more, your program benefits from maximum efficiencies. Bonus!


Delivering rewards effectively

Deliver on time, every time!

Make every reward experience exceptional

You may be running a customer loyalty program, or a channel incentive program, or a recognition program for employees; whichever your program, your mission is to make your participants’ reward experience 100% delightful.

Key to providing an exceptional reward experience is ensuring that your rewards are delivered perfectly and seamlessly. Making sure that your reward delivery is flawless encourages repeat business, improved performance and enhanced loyalty.

Today, reward program owners and marketers have a wide range of channels through which they can offer and deliver rewards. This is because the landscape of rewards and fulfilment has changed so much with the arrival of smart, new transactional software and mobile technology.

So, knowing which rewards to choose, and deciding how to distribute them can be daunting.

The essential elements for great delivery of rewards

Three quick steps will ensure that you’re making smarter decisions about the delivery of your rewards:

1. Tailor your delivery options to your participants’ preferences

Analyse your participant data and see what technology your highest-value participants are using. Notice that they all use smartphones? Excellent; consider distributing your rewards via a mobile app or electronic voucher.

2. Consider the benefits of a complete supply chain for merchandise rewards

To get your merchandise rewards delivered inrecord time, look at partnering with a specialist in the field. From product sourcing, stock control and speedy delivery to having a dedicated contact centre for orders, queries and after-sales, outsourcing simplifies and sustains high service.

3. Keep an eye on your competition

There’s a lesson to be learned from e-commerce; it’s all about competition. Be sure you keep abreast of what your competitors are offering in terms of reward delivery and distribution. Use what they’re doing to explore innovative, new ways you can differentiate your reward experience.

Take the time to review your current reward distribution and delivery strategy – your customers, channel partners and employees will thank you for it!

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Faultless reward distribution and delivery encourages repeat business, improved performance and enhanced loyalty. Tailor your delivery options to the preferences of your high-value participants. For merchandise rewards, consider the benefits of a complete supply chain. Take inspiration from your competitors, and improve your delivery experience.


Choosing the right reward channel

The right channel affords you reach, impact and efficacy.

Is it time to switch the channel?

There’s a lot to learn from new-generation brand managers and loyalty marketers. For one thing, they’ve booted the outdated model of transactional loyalty in favour of a more engaging, connection-seeking and authentic loyalty experience. The results are astonishing.

According to the research report, Reinventing Loyalty produced by Adobe and researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, “organisations incorporating the new loyalty measures into their customer experiences outperform those using traditional loyalty measures by 14%.”

The common denominator across both these measures and their results, is that digital is driving the change.

With customers, channel partners and employees simultaneously connected to multiple digital platforms, trying to determine the best channel to offer and distribute your rewards isn’t easy. But, by adopting a data-driven approach, you can eliminate speculation and gain accuracy and clarity. Great for building relationships, and bottom lines!

3 Ways to get channel selection right

Apply these three thought starters before you select a channel to offer and distribute your rewards:

1. See where your participants spend their digital time

Gather this information via analytics, surveys, existing program data or in focus groups; just be sure to find out what platforms your high-value participants are using, and in which order of preferential use.

2. Harness social media data and intelligence

Today’s customers, channel partners and employees are immersed in social media. This can be a treasure trove of findings, as you can follow people’s likes and dislikes across reward categories and channels.

3. It’s OK to get it wrong

Once you’ve decided on your reward channels of choice, experiment. Again, follow the data to determine whether your selection is right and be open to iterating until your channel mix meets its mark.

Story share Mila, 27, is proud to be an advocate for a sports apparel brand. She is an active contributor to the brand’s fan page on Facebook, and regularly updates her daily training pics to Instagram. When the brand launched a new interactive training program online, they offered Mila a voucher for a new pair of gym trainers. She received the voucher via direct messaging. “It was perfect timing. I’d just finished a cross-fit session at gym, when I got a notification via Facebook. I’ve always loved this brand. Today, even more so!”


Selecting a reward supplier

How to find the right reward partner

Finding your best match

To engage your customers, channel partners and employees fully, you need to offer the right rewards at the right time. But do you know which rewards work best? Or when they will have the highest impact? And what about distribution – have you factored in the time and costs to deliver your rewards effectively?

Time and again, companies that run their own loyalty, incentive and recognition programs make the mistake of managing the rewards internally, and often at the cost of the programs’ engagement and efficacy.

There’s a lot to be said for outsourcing your reward supply and distribution. For one, it frees you up to focus on your core business. For another, it puts control of your rewards into the hands of experts. But how do you choose the right reward partner?

Start with ascertaining what a prospective reward partner offers. You want to work with a supplier that can provide a complete range of reward options. Specifically, determine whether they are a single-source supplier. That way you will have a single line of contact and control.

Next, compare suppliers along the lines of their reward offering and the cost of their distribution channels.

Once you’ve made a shortlist, ask the companies the following questions, to ensure that their capabilities match their claims:

  • What approach do you take to rewards, and why?
  • What range of solutions would you consider for my specific needs?
  • Can you provide case studies of the types of solutions you have provided for other clients?
  • Who will make up the reward team and what is your organisational capacity to deliver what is required?
  • Which of your services are performed inhouse; what is outsourced, and why? How strong are your outsourced partnerships?

Finally, ask your prospective supplier for a few client references, so that you can gain an objective view of their performance.

In an industry that is growing rapidly, there are plenty of reward suppliers to choose from. But remember, cost isn’t the only criterion of selection. Look for a partner that will help you achieve sustainable success with your program.


Chapter 4

Optimising your reward strategy

Building a compelling reward strategy

5 Steps to an effective reward strategy

Towards a well-structured reward strategy

There are many ways to approach reward strategy development, but in our experience, strategies that encompass the following principles prove to be more effective.

Principle #1 – Purpose sets the course for success

We can’t emphasise it enough. A strategy developed around a clearly articulated, creative purpose will out-perform a tired, textbook version every time. What do we mean by creative, exactly?

Look at the following purpose statement developed for a medical aid reward program, and see how it is geared for high-involvement, brand-aligned action:

Discovery Vitality Rewards

Get healthy. Get rewarded. Get Vitality.

Compelling? Tick. Powerful? Tick. Purposeful? Tick! Tick! Tick!

Principle #2 – Know who you are rewarding

Again, it seems obvious. But you’d be surprised how many reward strategies emerge without a segmentation model, let alone user journeys and personas.

In the old days, users of rewards were classified into broad categories, such as age, income and location. Today, with unprecedented access to data, and with technology made for a mobile world, strategies can be shaped around specific users and user contexts.

Context – the way rewards are designed for experiential impact – marks the difference between hit-and-miss-style, broad-range rewards, and strategically targeted, perfectly timed and highly personalised reward experiences.

Principle #3 – Selecting the right rewards

It doesn’t matter whether they’re customers, channel partners or employees, people want to feel known and valued by the brands and businesses they’re involved with. So, it stands to reason that a reward mix that is inclusive of individual preference and personal choice, stands a higher chance of authentic connectivity.

A word of advice is to test your rewards and your reward distribution channels as early as possible, and definitely before you scale up. Usability testing keeps your strategy focused on the people who count: your customers, channel partners and/or employees.

Principle #4 – Selecting the right reward supplier

There’s a lot to be said for outsourcing the curation, communication and distribution of your rewards to an expert supplier. For one, it frees you up to focus on your core business.

Secondly, it gives you the assurance that your strategy is optimised for success. Look for a single-source supplier that can offer you a comprehensive range of rewards via a diverse and cost-effective range of channels.

Principle #5 – Identify how your reward program will be assessed

You should approach reward evaluation with an understanding that, while your program may have a specific lifespan, feedback and assessment is a continuous process. As such, it is good practice to keep asking the question, ‘Is our reward strategy still relevant and effective?’ Your mix of quantitative and qualitative measures will depend on the type of program you are running, but what matters more than the mix of measures, is that you source as much business data in your assessment as you can. Also, that your assessment culminates in a cost-benefit analysis.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Build your strategy around a compelling and creative purpose. Research your reward users, develop personas and incorporate user journeys. Curate a reward mix that is inclusive of individual preference and personal choice. Consider appointing an external reward partner, who can offer expertise, range and cost-effective delivery. Use as much business data in your program/campaign assessment as you can.


Building brand relationships with rewards

How to use rewards to create enduring relationships

Put values at the centre of your rewards

Today, the challenge facing loyalty marketers, advertisers and brand strategists alike, is how to connect with customers’ emotions and values, when every other brand is trying to do the same thing.

We all know that the world of loyalty is moving from a one-dimensional, transaction-based model of engagement, to a more holistic and relationship-driven model, steeped in experience.

The secret to securing customers’ involvement in deeper and more valuable relationships is to build the experience of your reward program in such a way that the brand values resonate with the personal values of your customers.

In this way, customers come to participate in, and contribute to, the shared purpose of your brand, and engage in choices that align with their personal value system.

Here’s a checklist towards building meaningful engagement with your rewards, and turning customers into brand fans:

Make it relational

When you offer or distribute your rewards, take the opportunity to have real, one-to-one conversations with your customers. Keep the content relevant. And keep it personal.

Look for opportunities to surprise and delight

Break the boredom and mundanity of your existing brand relationship by introducing rewards that surprise and delight. Breaking the predictability of your reward program introduces unique, new moments to bond with your customers.

Develop a platform for shared interest and participation

Look for ways to leverage your brand’s values off your rewards. Provide opportunities for customers to express their shared identity with your brand, and alignment with your brand values. Link your reward program with social media, and create sub-communities and special interest groups, where like-minded customers can participate in your brand narrative.

Focus on creating highly personalised reward experiences, and explore opportunities to further connect customers together in a shared experience of your brand.

#bexceptional #bexperiential #getreal #sharevalues #heartsmart #brandlove #brandfan #rewardsrule


Brand love

Exploring the connection between brands, rewards and love.

Is it really love?

That’s the question a team at Bergische University asked when they undertook a study of the emotional nature of brands and interpersonal love. Their findings? That unlike human love, which is at its heart unselfish, brand love is very much tied to the benefits and rewards customers receive from brands.

In other words, it’s not about what the customer can do for a brand, but what a brand can – and should do – for the customer. Loyalty marketers and brand managers should be asking:

  • How do our rewards enhance our customers’ lives?
  • How do customers feel when they experience our rewards?
  • Is there a positive association with our brand because of the reward experience?

Carroll and Ahuvia explain that, “brand love includes passion for, and attachment to a brand, as well as positive evaluation of the brand, and even declarations of love for it.”

As such, brand love is the pre-cursor to brand loyalty, and to ensure that customers remain in love with a brand and by extension, loyal, brands needs to navigate the fine line between staying current, and staying true to their core values.

Till death us do part?

The good news is that people who love brands tend to be more forgiving than us mere mortals – at least when it comes to giving brands second chances. That said, anyone in the business of rewarding their customers, channel partners and employees, needs to work hard to keep their brand fans in love. That means ensuring exceptional reward experiences time after time.

These are South Africa’s best-loved brands:

1. Kiwi
2. Coca-Cola
3. Sunlight
4. Maggie
5 & 6.Koo
7. Clover
8. McCain
9. I&J
10. Hullets

Source: Ask Afrika Icon Brands Survey (2017)


Who are your brand fans?

Rewarding your brand devotees is all-important

How to turn customers into brand advocates

There are brand fans, and then there are brand superfans! Take the Apple lovers who queue overnight just to be one of the first to buy a $1 000 iPhone. Or Adidas superfan, Jemuel Wong, who’s spent $20 000 on his Adidas collection and has an Adidas logo tattooed on his ankle. As he told

“I like Adidas because they are a brand that keeps on trying, innovating and seeing how they can do things better.”

In the world of rewards, why is it so important to have brand devotees?
  • They don’t just like your brand, they LOVE it.
  • They market your brand for you – they’re invested in it and that inspires them to advocate for it.
  • They’re loyal to your brand and that shows up on your bottom line.

So, how do you convert loyal customers into brand superfans? Simple! Micro reward them!

Search them out on social media. Look for individuals who mention your brand to others and who like, share and comment on your content. Then send them a micro reward – a digital voucher, a music download, a game or an VIP invite to a brand event.

Also, look out for repeat customers – if they keep coming back, they’re clearly happy with what they’re getting. And that’s precisely why you should give them more!

Find online reviews of your product and reward the people who’ve given you an outstanding one. They’re not simply promoting your brand, they’re advocating its features and benefits. Now that’s got to be worth a reward!

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Search out social media for brands fans who are actively engaging with your content, then reward them for their engagement. Analyse your data and identify repeat customers. Again, reward them for their loyalty – and do publically, via social media. Identify your brand gurus – people who take the time to post positive reviews of your product or service online. These advocates are worthy of rewards, and continuous involvement in your brand narrative.

The stages of brand love

How customers fall for brands that reward them

Building customer retention and loyalty

Today, loyalty marketers and brand strategists know that conversion marks the beginning of the customer lifecycle – a unique relationship that exists between a brand and customer, and which bears a strong resemblance to a love-based, human relationship.

In a human romance, the early stages are filled with opportunities to declare our love and show our affection towards the significant other. So too in the world of rewards, when smart marketers offer rewards that – in the eyes of their customers, channel partners or employees – are perceived as high value.

Then, as the relationship deepens, marketers must look for ways to reward true loyalty. Access to user data is key to identifying high-value customers, channel partners or employees. Once they have been identified, reward strategies should be shaped around their unique choices and behaviour patterns.

The more personalised the reward strategies, the more meaningful the reward experience will be for your end user. And, naturally, the deeper their love for your brand.

Story share Russell is an HR manager and was tasked by his HR director to source staff recognition software. His search led him to a company that provided him with a free guide to social recognition in the workplace. More than this, they also sent Russell a digital voucher for a free cup of coffee to enjoy while reading their guide. “From my first interaction online, I knew I was dealing with a company that puts its customers first. I’ve gained knowledge and a free gift, just from making a product enquiry. That’s incredible service!”


Aligning rewards with brand values

You’ve decided to reward your fans.

What’s your next step?

An effective rewards strategy can help keep fans loyal, and get them talking about and sharing your brand within their circle of influence. To make this happen, it’s key that you reward your brand fans with something they not only want, but are motivated to share with others, too.

As they’re already fans of your brand, they’re likely to be emotionally connected to your brand values. That’s why it’s so important that, however you choose to reward them, it’s in ways that are closely aligned to what your brand stands for.

The knock-on effect of aligning your rewards with your brand values is that as your brand fans engage with, and share their rewards within their social network, your brand values are being reinforced in the marketplace.

Here are some examples:

Let’s say your brand values are closely linked to the principles of sustainability. In this instance, your reward mix should reflect these principles. So, say you decide on an international travel trip as a reward; it makes sense that you select an eco-tourism destination. And if yours is an exclusive brand, ensure the reward reflects this, too. Make the destination aspirational and the accommodation, luxurious.

An excellent real-world example of a brand that’s remained true to its values, is Red Bull. What immediately comes to mind when you think about this global energy drink? Extreme sports and high adrenaline experiences, right? Over the years, Red Bull has brought its fans into this world through big wave competitions, crazy races, travel challenges, and even a space jump! And what’s consistently on offer at each event – rewards that amplify the extreme experience.

It doesn’t get more extreme – or brand relevant – than that.

#brandfan #superbrandfan #iheartbrands #brandloyalist


Rewards that do good

Do good, feel good.

It’s all about giving back.

So, we know it’s important for brands to align rewards with brand values. Let’s take a look at how important it is for them to be socially and environmentally responsible.

The answer is VERY important, if you take this statistic into account:

“91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.”

In other words, every brand should seriously be looking at what it can do to tackle social and environmental concerns (if it hasn’t already), if it hopes to win the approval of its customers, channel partners and employees.

But, it doesn’t end there because according to an international study conducted by Unilever:

“A third of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact.”

Which means that brands have the potential to increase their bottom line if they align themselves – and their rewards – with social and environmental causes.

Nedbank was well ahead of the curve when it introduced its Green Affinity program back in 1990, giving clients an opportunity to support the environment every time they used their account.

Since its inception, the program has raised over R237 million for the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.

UK-based rewards program, Ice, is taking a slightly different approach to environmental matters by rewarding consumers who choose stores that “do their bit for the environment”. How are they rewarded? By receiving points every time they shop at an eco-partner retailer, which they can then use for future purchases.

The point we’re making is a simple but all-important one:

Today, customers, channel partners and employees are looking for more empathy and humanity from the businesses they choose to buy from and to whom they offer their loyalty.

Any brand not factoring this development into its reward strategy is missing out on the opportunity, not only to create deeper connections with their customers, channel partners and employees, but also to create a better world together with them.

Sources: 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study Unilever – Brand Purpose: Fad or Future? Europanel, 2016


Ensuring the right reward mix

Rewarding the right people with the right rewards

Reward the people who keep you in business

Finding the proper mix of rewards and reward mechanisms to delight your customers, channel partners and employees is no easy task, especially given the current economic climate and prevailing business conditions.

Your reward suite should be precise enough to ensure alignment with your brand purpose and values, yet broad enough to cater for personal preferences and individual choice.

So, how do you strike a healthy balance?

A great place to start is by articulating the objectives of your reward strategy. Ask yourself, ‘What is the strategic intent of this strategy?’ Is it about attraction, retention, motivation or social engagement?

Next, be sure that your objectives are defined in such a way that they can be measured, both during and after your strategy’s implementation.

Then, define your reward purpose or philosophy. By this we mean the principles that govern and support your reward strategy. Consider whether your rewards should link a social or environmental cause; or whether your rewards are all about fun, excitement and enjoyment.

The optimal mix of rewards should be shaped around the data you have about your customers, channel partners or employees. Remember, people are complex. What motivates and inspires one person will not necessarily motivate and inspire another. So, find out all you can about your brand users.

The more you can customise your rewards, and tailor the reward experience for individual preference, the more likely it is that you’ll build longevity into your loyalty.

Be sure to factor into your reward design the lifecycle of your customers, channel partners or employees. What may seem appropriate as a welcome reward at the start of your brand’s relationship with someone may not be a year or two later, when their loyalty has deepened (or dwindled).

Finally, your rewards should be cost effective and cost efficient. Here, you should look to outsource the sourcing, supply and distribution of your rewards to an expert partner. The relationships these partners develop with suppliers means that they can often offer you flexible options, package deals and even special discounts on rewards.

A final checkpoint for an effective reward framework is to ensure that it is holistic in its design. It should state your strategic intent; it should resonate with your brand’s purpose and values; it should go beyond segmentation, to personalisation, based on deep user insights; and, finally, it should be geared for high ROI, with cost-effective reward solutions.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Build your reward framework around strategic intent by defining the key business and reward objectives. Develop the framework around your brand purpose and values. Mine your data to ensure that your framework is holistic and focus on personalisation and individual preference. Consider outsourcing your rewards to an external expert, who can offer cost efficiencies as part of their service offering.


Supercharge your reward suite

Give your engagement the boost it needs

How to make your rewards innovative

Today, there isn’t an area of business in which innovation isn’t being used to competitive advantage. The world of rewards, especially, has taken a giant leap forwards, thanks to advances in both transactional and loyalty software.

So, perhaps it’s not surprising that it is among the start-up companies developing this software where we’re seeing a real shake-up with respect to rewards and reward strategy.

The obvious example, of course, is Kickstarter, which, as far back as 2009 was helping self-starters to find venture capital and funding. These enterprising, small businesses would attract people to their unique projects and products using… you guessed it! Rewards!

The principle is simple: For every donation above a certain amount, donors receive something in return. It goes without saying that the bigger the donation, the larger the reward!

What’s so fascinating about the Kickstarter concept is that at the heart of the reward strategy is creativity. The rewards are unexpected, clever and, in every instance, they serve to create a connection between the project owners and the donors.

From designer, branded t-shirts and autographed copies of the end product to VIP access to the project’s development process, donors are rewarded in ways that are involving and participatory.

There are two golden words here for reward strategists: Always look for opportunities to involve your users, and for ways to invite shared participation of your brand experience.

The stroke of genius is if, like Kickstarter, your rewards are experiential in, and for, themselves, it’s a boost your reward strategy will benefit from, and a bonus your bottom line will appreciate!

Screenshot 2018-10-29 at 08.26.51

Widen your world of rewards

There’s value in more, not less rewards.

How to make your rewards reach further for longer

Rewards, like everything, have a way of ageing. That’s why it’s crucial, both for loyalty marketers and for brand strategists, to look at the shelf life of their rewards. Chances are, there will be several rewards that have outlived their sell-by dates!

Very often, it’s only when a new strategist assesses a company’s reward strategy that the outdated content comes to light. We recommend that a quarterly review of your reward framework, your reward mix and your reward distribution channels will ensure a best-fit solution for your target audience.

A relevant example is of a large financial services organisation, which had been running the same staff recognition program for almost a decade. Following a series of interviews with staff members, and based on the findings of a group-wide staff survey, it was revealed that people were uninspired with the program rewards.

And, most critically, their boredom with the rewards pointed to a larger sense of apathy and demotivation in the workplace.

Things changed with the introduction of a new staff recognition and appreciation program. A key component of this program was that the reward strategy incorporated surprise and delight rewards and reward mechanisms. Things like spa treatments, gym sessions with personal trainers, free coffees and smoothies.

With weeks of its launch, staff members were posting messages of thanks and appreciation on the group’s internal social network, not only to one another, but to the program organisers, too. Their thanks were for rewards that were inspired, unexpected and individual.

So, look to introduce new and exciting rewards into your mix. And don’t forget to overhaul your channels of reward distribution, too. With the advances in mobile technology, there’s no reason why your rewards can’t be immediate, immersive and instantly gratifying!

#companyfan #iloverewards #exciteme #loyal4ever


Brands doing rewards brilliantly

They’re out there, setting awesome examples.

There’s a lot we can learn from today’s top 10.

The third edition of the Truth Loyalty Whitepaper (2017), presents a positive analysis of South Africa’s loyalty and reward programs. A significant finding, is that customer demand for loyalty is on the rise, with 8% more customers using loyalty.

Overall, 79% of consumers use loyalty programs. Add to this the fact that some 38% of respondents in the Truth loyalty survey said that they find loyalty programs, “useful and worth the effort”, and it’s clear that South Africans recognise the value in loyalty programs.

And, of course, people have their favourites!

Here are the top 10 most used loyalty programs in South Africa:

  1. Clicks ClubCard 67%
  2. Pick n Pay Smart Shopper 66%
  3. Dis-Chem Benefits Programme 44%
  4. Edgars Thank U 43%
  5. Woolworths WRewards 43%
  6. FNB eBucks 38%
  7. Spur Family Card 32%
  8. Discovery Vitality 23%
  9. Jet Thank U Card 15%
  10. Absa Rewards 15%

Coming in at number eight is Discovery Vitality, whose approach to rewards is both highly innovative and keenly focused on the program’s value proposition. In 2017, the group introduced Vitality Active Rewards. Once members have reached their personalised, weekly fitness goals digital vouchers are sent to their mobile phones via the Vitality Active Rewards app. These vouchers can be redeemed for products, such as a free cup of coffee, a smoothie or movie tickets. As the network of retail reward partners grows, members will have an ever-expanding range of rewards from which to choose.

Freedom of choice and micro rewards that surprise and delight. Two innovative components of a reward program that is gaining members, and meeting the group’s business objectives.


Measuring the ROI of your rewards

How to determine what your reward ROI is worth

It pays to measure what you put in against what you get out

Increasingly, brands are embracing the concepts of deep engagement and personal experience in the quest to win and retain the best customers, channel partners and employees.

Yet, while the intention to develop reward and engagement programs may be there, many businesses are unsure about how much they are willing to spend on rewards, or how to use program data to improve the reward experience. There’s also little knowledge of just how to track their returns on these investments.

Determining your ROI can follow three measurement tracks, either individually, or in combination, for a more holistic – and realistic – view of your returns.

1. Interaction data and analytics

This essential data will reveal who is interacting with your reward program, and to what extent. You can use this information to customise an individual’s experience of rewards, and to make your program more engaging.

2. Surveys and feedback loops

Direct quantitative and qualitative data is easily gathered through digital surveys and feedback loops. Be sure to include questions in your survey that tie back to your business objectives – you want to be able to measure the growth and gains in brand equity through people’s experience of your rewards.

3. Budget frameworks

This measure aims to help those businesses that are unsure about the value of a reward program against the cost of launching and managing one.

Creating a budget framework across your customer lifecycle, or across your customer value hierarchy, ensures that you can accurately track your reward spend and expenses.

An effective rewards program can be a game-changer in business. Being able to prove it, is up to you.

THE BIG TAKE-OUTS Set up measurement tracks for your ROI – the more you add, the more holistic your view of inflow costs against returns. Keep track of interaction data and analytics on your program. Regular analysis can lead to enhanced personalistion, as well as cost efficiencies. Introduce user surveys and feedback loops into your program. Mine this data for quantitative and qualitative insights into brand equity. Create a budget framework around relevant areas of business value, such as customer lifecycles and value hierarchies.


Assessing reward effectiveness

What you know, you can improve upon.

Find out what rewards resonate, when and how.

Traditionally, loyalty marketers will turn to a tried-and-tested formula to ascertain the efficacy of their rewards. Typically, this formula will include the dreaded focus group, in which participants are asked (read prompted) to rate their experience of a reward program, and its rewards.

Only, things have changed in the loyalty business, and today’s loyalty landscape looks nothing like what it did 10, even five years ago. A step-change in this new loyalty landscape has to do with looking at program participants differently. More deeply, and with a deeper intent in mind.

Today, marketers have access to reams of data about their customers, channel partners and employees. In the hands of the right data analysts, this information can help strategists to shape reward programs that are more engaging, more authentic, and infinitely more personal.

Then, there’s another way to observe participants, and gather rich data about them. It is through the lens of ethnographic research.

Ethnography, in its simplest definition, is the study of people in their own environment through the use of methods, such as empathetic observation and one-to-one interviewing.

These market researchers are trained in asking highly specific and practical questions. So, the focus on personal experience is sharp and highly relevant. The benefit for your reward strategy is obvious: you’ll learn which rewards work best and through which channel, as well as the optimum time to send them.

Ethnographic insight is the new frontier for loyalty marketers looking to take their reward programs to the next level of engagement. Don’t be left behind!

Story share Gaynor is responsible for the management of her company’s customer reward program. Recently, she approached a group of loyalty marketing specialists, who recommended that her company invest in an 8-part series of ethnographic interviews. Based on the findings, and the recommendations of the specialists, Gaynor is in the process of redesigning the structure, measures and mix of rewards in the company’s program. “This research marked a real turning point for us. I feel that we’re finally on the right track in attracting and retaining our best clients.”

By GET Rewards. © 2018 GET Rewards. All rights reserved

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