by Kathy Randall, Maritz Motivation Solutions | December 21, 2015
Many people overlook an obvious way to save cash, and well-timed communications are proving to be a welcome reminder.

In early December, a global company sent emails to more than 13,000 U.S. employees in its employee recognition program. The program provides a way co-workers can recognize peers for helping with a project, meeting a deadline, achieving a goal, or maybe celebrating a service anniversary. The email was sent to participants with at least five points in their account to encourage people to use them, saying, "You've earned the points, now reward yourself or someone special." The email included links to several different offers on the client-branded online reward site.

According to Kim Abel, employee solutions leader for Maritz Motivation Solutions, "Monthly statements around reward earnings or targeted communications during the holidays serve to reinforce the benefits of great work. On-going program lifecycle communications further engage participants in an organization's purpose and goals with reminders about their earnings coupled with great opportunities or specials to redeem." When employees can supplement their holiday gift selection process with their reward and recognition earnings, Abel adds, "It has a multiplier effect in that families and loved ones get to share in the benefits of their great work and accomplishments."

Whether communications remind participants to use their points, provide special offers, or alert participants to points that may expire soon, emails, kiosks, or any form of communication can drive significant engagement in loyalty, incentive, and employee recognition programs. In the situation above, the campaign achieved an 80 percent open rate; point redemption doubled in the week following the emails.

In a different case, targeted emails to more than 3 million members of another company's consumer loyalty program saw jaw-dropping results. Globally, the program experienced a 1,347 percent increase over the average daily rate experienced during the already increased holiday shopping season. In the U.S., it rose 572 percent -- and it had already been running at twice the norm since early November, when holiday shopping traditionally picks up.

An even more impressive stat is the percentage of participants on the site who actually redeemed points. This is often called the "conversion rate" -- the percentage of sessions from desktop or from mobile devices that resulted in an order. This increased to 15 percent, compared to 10.65 percent throughout the previous two months. To put that in perspective, The IBM Watson Trend Report for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2015 revealed a conversion rate for the US retail market of 4.2 percent on Black Friday and 5.3 percent on Cyber Monday. Given the sheer volume of visits to this Maritz client's website from the large email distribution, to see this ratio improve almost 5 percentage points, or 50 percent, demonstrates the success of the email's call to action.

According to Barry Kirk, consumer loyalty solutions leader at Maritz Motivation Solutions, you can't take for granted that consumers are going to remember that they have points. Kirk says, "We found the best way to get the highest response rate from program members is to include in the subject line of the email that they have points available to redeem. When customers redeem their loyalty points, they are engaging with the brand which reinforces their loyalty."

The campaigns are driving record activity to the Maritz online reward site in what is traditionally an already-busy time for point redemption. The "Twelve Days of #maritzwishlist" Twitter campaign featured 12 items Maritz buyers predicted would be the most popular on RewardSphere, Maritz's online shopping site. The social media campaign encouraged people to redeem points to #savemoney and #usepoints. Award items that were highlighted range from a FitBit HR activity tracker and GoPro camera to Beats by Dre earbuds and a Kate Spade watch. Points could be donated to charity as well.

When it comes to merchandise, the FitBit HR leads the pack as the most redeemed item on RewardSphere this holiday season. Ranking second is a phenomenon Maritz Motivation buyer Lynne Watson called before the season started: providing clean water to someone in need. Going into the last week before the holiday, a record number of people are using their points to give back in a way that makes a social impact. It seems the spirit of giving is alive and well this holiday season.