Today's economy is having a positive effect on the ability to plan and implement merchandise incentive programs, says the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF).
What products are being used the most today? Apparel tips the scale at 54 percent, followed by food and beverage at 44 percent, electronics valued under $100 at 35 percent, plaques/trophies at 30.94 percent, writing instruments at 29 percent, watches/clocks at 27.07 percent, desktop/office accessories at 27 percent, electronics valued at $100 to $499 at 25 percent, books/music/movies at 23 percent, leather goods at 19 percent, jewelry at 17 percent, luggage at 17 percent, cameras at 16 percent, and memorabilia at 15 percent, according to Incentive's "2014 Merchandise IQ" survey.
What makes certain incentives more effective than others? "The key is whether the product is high end and unique and creates an experience people will remember and greatly appreciate," says Saskia Galbraith, owner of incentive gifting company Saskia Aimee.
Collecting Data on Your Every Move
Electronic activity trackers are hot right now. "We believe that wearable technology should not only be functional, but fashionable," says Galbraith. "For example, Fitbit has partnered with Tory Burch to produce a fitness-tracking product into a fashionable accessory. Withings also has a beautiful fitness watch that is stunning and there are other types of bracelets that function as phone chargers that you'd love to wear."
Offering a variety of merchandise incentives is also ideal, says Galbraith. "Pop-up shops are hot. Employees or partners can pick out a gift based on a specific gift certificate amount. The shop has the latest technology products, jewelry, and many sports-related items like stand-up paddleboards, bikes, and golf equipment."
Food and beverage incentives, often shared with family and friends, serve as powerful reminders of the company that rewarded them. Omaha Steaks, Godiva chocolates, and Starbucks remain popular.
The versatile executive backpack is also trending strongly. Tumi has numerous styles of backpacks in its current collection, and they are the brand's fastest growing category.
Luggage remains popular as well. "Its versatility makes it attractive as it can be used for any type of program and for any type of audience because everyone travels," says Pete Mitchell, director, business-to-business sales, Samonsite and Hartmann. Samonsite, the world's largest luggage company, with brands such as American Tourister, Hartmann, and High Sierra, has incentive products for all price points. One of its most popular is an American Tourister collection called Fieldbrook 2 that is a nested set. It's a great value at $100 retail and consists of four pieces nested into a single box and is available in black, black/red, or purple/gray.
Photos from left to right: American Tourister Fieldbrook 2; Native Union Products, photo taken by Saskia Galbraith; Tumi backpack
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