Earlier this year, we conducted a Canadian corporate incentive trends survey. We learned a few things from our survey, which we'd like to share with you.

We learned that Canadian businesses are looking for more effective ways to attract and retain customers and employees. We also learned that many of these companies are looking for more innovative incentive programs that are cost-effective, more personalized and that can be tailored to each company or business unit's specific business goals.

If that's what Canadian businesses are looking for from their incentive programs, then we believe there's definitely a case to be made for prepaid corporate incentive cards. Our CEO David Eason puts it this way: "The specific rewards used in incentive programs, and the degree to which they are valued by recipients, will determine recipients' level of engagement -and ultimately program results."

And what did our respondents rank as the incentive they believed to be valued most by recipients? Almost three-quarters (74%) said prepaid corporate incentive cards. This was followed by retail gift certificates (55%), individual travel (51%), and experiential events such concerts and special events (42%). Traditional incentives like company-selected merchandise ranked extremely low at 4%.

It would appear that traditional, "old school" incentive programs such as company selected merchandise and catalogue are falling out of favour with many Canadian companies, and we have some theories as to why.

"Paper-based" rewards such as bonus cheques can be motivating, but issuing and reconciling cheques can be an administrative headache, not to mention quite costly to the company. Meanwhile, company-branded merchandise is losing its appeal among employees, and it can be very time consuming to pick out T-shirts, tote bags, canoes, or travel mugs. Plus it hardly conveys the personal touch most companies are aiming for today.

To add a client perspective, a sales and marketing executive at Canpages recently told us that "It was becoming impossible to anticipate the type of incentives that successfully motivated each individual member of our team, and as a result, we gave our employees the option to select their own rewards via a prepaid incentive card."

For employees, customers, and channel partners, gift cards are a viable incentive option. But the problem is that you're handing out a card branded with another company's logo. Why would you want to promote someone else's brand? With prepaid incentive cards, it's your logo emblazoned on the front. Alternatively, customer reward points are sometimes used to reward customer loyalty, but some customers don't like that the points can be used in only one store, one catalogue, or in some cases even toward only one product.

At the heart of the matter is this: Each customer and employee is different. No two people are motivated by exactly the same things. What seems like a great incentive to one person may be completely undesirable to another. Prepaid corporate incentive cards can be used to buy anything, anywhere Visa is accepted. We believe it's hard to go wrong with that.

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