November 03, 2017

The consensus is that incentive rewards are growing steadily. Is that just a perception? Or do the statistics bear that out? If the industry is growing, how much is that growth? Luckily, an IRF (Incentive Research Foundation) survey has real numbers to track the success of the industry and turn perception into reality. 

The increasing demand for non-cash rewards and recognition.   According to the IRF, over the last 20 years there has been a dramatic jump in the number of U.S. businesses using non-cash rewards, rising from just 26% of all U.S. businesses in 1996 to 84% in 2016. 

Follow the money.   Budgets for incentive rewards and events continue to grow with over one-third of planners having per-person budgets from $3,000 to $4,000. Better yet, almost 40% of planners have per-person budgets of $4,000 or more. Additionally, the net outcome of planners increasing versus decreasing budgets in 2017 is 30%. 

Merchandise and gift card expansion.   Merchandise and gift card programs continue to expand in the US with 60% and 70%, respectively, of all U.S. businesses using these rewards. The IRF found that U.S. businesses now spend almost $23 billion annually on name-brand and logoed merchandise for reward programs. For gift cards, the spend is more than $24 billion annually. That growth is taking place primarily in sales and employee programs. "Curated with the business community in mind, the Seiko Special Markets Collection offers timeless styles backed by exceptional precision and durability," said a Seiko rep.

Budgets for gift card and merchandise programs continue to trend upward--a net 35% of respondents said budgets will increase going forward. In addition, a net 41% of respondents anticipate an increase in the number of participants earning a reward.

Hot categories.   More program owners report using every category of merchandise and gift card IRF measures. Electronics and apparel lead the way with 75% and 67%, respectively, of respondents saying they see them being included in incentive programs. This is an interesting finding given the typically strong showing of electronics in times of economic expansion. "Seiko offers a variety of flexible solutions for any incentive program, occasion, preference or budget. Since 1881, discerning consumers have trusted Seiko performance. Today we encourage you to do the same for corporate professionals you'd like to commemorate," the Seiko rep continued.

Go for emotion, experience. The IRF's survey shows that tapping emotional engagement through rewards and incentives is a powerful way for businesses to motivate their employees. One of the primary ways to tap emotion is through experiences. This has held true for all types of reward and recognition programs.

For more information on incentivizing with merchandise, visit