Incentives used to be a staple of marketing. Whether this meant discounted products or services, bonuses for referring a friend or even a free pen, there was no shortage of brands offering incentives for choosing their offering over that of a competitor. Yet as customers have grown weary of meaningless brand interactions and demanding of a more personalised service, the role of incentives as a marketing tool seems to have shifted. So how can you ensure that incentives still work?
According to an article by IncentiveMag, for incentives to be worthwhile as a marketing tool brands must keep the goal of generating engagement at the heart of every decision that is made. The article interviews Mark Prine, vice president of BlackLab Media, who argues that ‘in order for [incentive programs] to be effective […] the goal of these programmes must be engagement, whether it be direct employees, salespeople, third-party sellers or end-user customers.’ Prine adds that ‘increased engagement drives increased profits, retention, improved service, and overall satisfaction in the relationship,’ suggesting that incentive programmes still have value if they are properly executed.
Importantly, Prine believes that ‘the thought that the rewards are enough and will drive your audience is both outdated and simply ineffective.’ This means that in order to drive engagement you have to tell your brand story effectively. Prine explains ‘engagement is an emotional connection to your brand: You need to tell a great story to get your audience there and spark that connection.’ In this way incentives can still have a place in a wider marketing strategy, so long as the focus and intention is sound.
Marketing Week points to MoneySuperMarket, the price comparison website that offers information on everything from travel insurance to mortgages, as an example of the need to look beyond basic incentives to drive engagement.
According to Marketing Week, MoneySuperMarket is ‘hoping to “unlock” growth by boosting engagement with the brand outside the core times when people are looking to switch, which it hopes will improve loyalty.’ In order to achieve this, the brand is focusing on personalisation as a key differentiator. Pointing to the fact that many of its competitors use incentives as part of their marketing strategy – for example CompareTheMarket’s 2-for-1 cinema tickets and cuddly toys - MoneySuperMarket hopes that by providing added value it will set itself apart.
One way it hopes to do so is through its app. Marketing Week points out that MoneySuperMarket is ‘the only price comparison site to have an app that offers the same functionality as its website.’ To expand this functionality, the brand plans to add features like ‘offering complementary services, for example free MOT and car tax reminders’ that can be of benefit to users outside of the times they’re searching for one of the site’s offerings. In early testing, ‘68% [of users] made use of the functionality,’ suggesting customers are looking for more personalised and helpful incentives.
The role of incentives hasn’t disappeared, but it is definitely changing. As the modern customer demands more than meaningless, impersonal incentives, brands will have to reassess the extent to which the incentives they offer drive engagement and provide added value for their customers. Failing to do so could mean time, money and effort wasted if your incentives do not drive the required results, so considering carefully before embarking on an incentivisation strategy is a must.