by Martin Hood | January 22, 2018
How can we start to sway consumer decisions and impact behavior? It's a question more and more marketers and brands are asking in an age when it is becoming increasingly harder to make any kind of meaningful connections with target audiences. I believe that one clear path to a real, tangible connection with individuals lies in digital rewards and incentives. They fill all the demands: immediacy, personalization, ease-of-use, and custom delivery. But how to know for sure if these methods really work?

A new study by market researchers called "The Future of Rewards: How Consumers Value Rewards and Incentives" unveils some key insights. My company, Virtual Incentives, teamed up with Koski Research, Lenny Murphy of Greenbook and Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) to develop and field a survey that looked at consumer mindset about rewards and where they believe rewards will be moving in the future. By doing research like this, we can start to create fair value exchange reward systems and fundamentally transform our industry for the better.

The study, which collected responses from 1,000 U.S. adult general population respondents during a 10-minute survey, covered reward-centric topics such as delivery channel preference, consumers' perceived value, and role in brand engagement.

Some of our key findings included:

• Consumers place high value on instant, digital delivery, as well as flexible spending options, wanting the option to spend their incentives anywhere. In fact, 78 percent prefer rewards and incentives delivered online/direct to mobile immediately, while only 22 percent prefer to receive their rewards/ incentives later in the mail.

• Incentives can boost brand engagement. Behind price, incentives tied with reviews/recommendations for second place at an impressive 28 percent, beating out brand by a considerable margin. A whopping 75 percent of our respondents said that they feel more favorably toward a company that provides incentives. 

• Consumers place high value on incentives. The majority of respondents see incentives and
rewards as additional income, but a substantially significant portion views them as a necessary piece of their income. In fact, incentives have such a large influence on behavior that 70 percent of consumers participated in activities (like loyalty programs or customer surveys) solely for the incentives themselves.

In today's increasingly virtual world, where consumers demand instant satisfaction, it is important for the rewards and incentives space -- one of the most concrete ways to connect with today's audiences -- to remain ahead of the curve and stay relevant in a fast-paced marketplace. For a complete summary of the study findings, visit https://www.virtualincentives.com/future-rewards-study/  

Martin Hood, who has recently joined Virtual Incentives team in a leadership capacity, brings decades of experience in the rewards and incentives space. As senior vice president for ViPartners, the company's reseller division, Hood specializes in business-to-business relationship building in the rewards and incentive space.