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How to Implement Incentives That Actually Work

Incentivising good behaviour is backed by years of evidence. It’s incredibly effective at motivating further good behaviour – which is, of course, what you want from your customers, from your employees, and from your channel. The better your employees are encouraged to be, or the better you are at rewarding customers, the better they can be; and any argument that presents an opposing view can quite frankly be left behind in the Victorian era those thoughts belong.

Why? Because encouragement trumps discouragement any day.

But it’s not always that simple. The phrase, ‘incentivising your channel/customers will promote positive behaviours’ is a relatively simple one, but in order for incentives to be the powerhouse they can be, you have to look closer and deeper into how to achieve behaviour. What does ‘incentivising’ even mean? There are many different ways to incentivise; from offering a child sweets for bringing you an item you needed from another room, to offering someone a knighthood for their international charity work. The incentive has to be representative of the effort required to complete the action and offer something relevant to the individual to ensure the incentive lands with the desired force and impact. And believe us when we say it's relatively easy to get this soooo wrong.

Although, does anyone ever turn down an incentive reward?

Understand your audience

That’s where we come in. It’s all about tailoring the entire programme to what you know and understand about your audience so that the experience feels seamless, true to your brand, and genuinely valuable to its users – your customers and/or employees.

A great incentive programme launches with a bang to create excitement and achieve early adoption… so use this to gather a little insight about them; make it all about them. After all who doesn’t like it to be all about me, me, me, especially when shiny rewards are the topic of conversation.

From there ensure the incentive programme stays on the radar day in day out. Activating communications at the right time will support you in gathering deeper insight into your user base. When you push individuals to read a post or sign up to learn about a new feature in the product range will help inform you about who is engaging with you.

Identify what the single next step at each junction then use the right messaging to help users climb the steps one by one. Some will fly and do this naturally, others will slip so help them get back up with the right encouragement… just like teaching a child to take its first steps.


The importance of choosing the right reward

We’ve all heard stories about – or even experienced first-hand – bosses who attempt to reward their employees, only to have it backfire. An incentive like unlimited PTO is pretty controversial in the business world, while classic incentives like bottles of champagne are only suited to those of us who actually drink.

Or, alternatively, how about businesses that attempt to incentivise customer loyalty with, say, a 2-for-1 voucher? Not only are these so common that they’re easily forgettable, but they’re also only worth saving some of the time. 50% off nappies is only useful if you’ve got an infant at home, while BOGOF on meat products is only going to be appreciated by the actual meat eaters – and, even then, how are they going to remember it two weeks from now?

That is, after all, the key consideration when it comes to incentives. Yes, plenty of things can feel like a little unexpected reward, but they’re only going to motivate you over the long term if they appeal to a more emotional part of the brain. The right incentives will be memorable, and, over time, those memories will teach us to favour a particular brand on a more personable level – and that’s how loyalty is made.

So, how do you know which incentives will work?

A big part of that is picking the right rewards, and that’s something we have been doing for businesses for a long time now: curating tailored rewards catalogues that will truly incentivise your customers, or your channel and employees. These incentives can be redeemed using points, accrued through positive performances and behaviours.

From luxury holidays and other memorable experiences to books, jewellery, and tech, these rewards catalogues work because they offer a rich array of the sort of products your users will be genuinely interested in – and, in turn, you’ll be rewarded by a much more significant, valuable relationships.

But it’s not enough to have a well-curated rewards catalogue. How do you go about implementing those incentives?


Implementing incentives for the strongest results

Even the best rewards will prove to be sources of frustration and disinterest if they’re buried behind a complicated and unreliable user experience, or points distribution is inconsistent or just downright rare. How long can you maintain interest in a losing game, even if you really want the prize? For the majority of us, the answer is probably, “Not that long at all.”

So, how do you ensure your reward catalogue works? The platform needs to emphasise…

  • Clarity
    Or no one will know what you’re offering, or how they can get those rewards.
  • Consistency
    Or no one will stay engaged. No points allocated for a month, followed by 50 over the course of 3 days? Just not worth the energy.
  • Seamless Integration
    Things won’t end well if users are left waiting and waiting for their points total to go up, have to remember multiple sign-ins and navigate multiple sites
  • A strong UX
    How is a user going to feel when faced with an experience that has not been optimised for their language or region (an issue we successfully circumvented for Rubbermaid Commercial Products, who were looking to incentivise a multilingual, international distribution network)? If the experience feels generalised, it won’t hit home the way you want it to.
  • Communication
    Always, always take advantage of those marketing channels. If you’re looking for a focus for your email marketing campaign, then this is the stuff dreams are made of. There’s no use in offering incentives if you don’t communicate them to your customers.


Implementing incentives that actually work isn’t just a case of choosing a good set of rewards that appeal to your customers and give them a reason to keep coming back and collecting points and, ideally, recommending your brand to others. Successful implementation hinges on your ability to make the process of acquiring those rewards into a memorable and pleasant experience for your customers. Without every star aligning, you won’t be able to realise the full potential of incentives.

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