How to create a compelling consumer incentive campaign

Incentive schemes have grown beyond comprehension since they started out. It’s all from a combination of their own success, the ability to mine data, the evolution of technology and an impressive decrease in costs. Saying that though, the psychology behind why they’re used and how to execute them properly has largely remained the same. We caught up with Chris Baldwin, Director of consumer promotions and loyalty at Sodexo Engage to learn how to create compelling consumer incentives.

What is your consumer incentive trying to achieve?

“First and foremost, it’s about knowing what you’re trying to achieve. Like any marketing initiative, without knowing the purpose, how can the right tools be pulled out the bag? Marketing incentives may be used to increase sales, introduce a new brand, launch a product or reach new audiences. The list is endless. Once you have this, you’ll know the audience demographic. This may seem like a step that can be skipped, but over time you can lose touch with a product’s audience so it’s worth running it through. There’s no harm in reaffirming what you believe to be true! Once this is all known, quantify the expectations and make sure it’s all agreed internally.

What resources are at hand?

Next up is understanding what resource is available. This should link back to what you’re trying to achieve and who’ll be responsible for it. It’s not just about monetary value. It’s important to know who will be project managing and how many ‘hands-on-deck’ there‘ll be. If there’s a big team internally, perhaps less needs to be outsourced. If there’s no social media team, is it really wise to run a social campaign that’ll need lots of responding to comments and sentiment tracking? It’s possible, but more needs to be thought through.

Consider the incentive risks

Before settling on what this resource investment looks like, consider what risks there are. With any investment there’s risk, and this is no different. This goes beyond cost. Will the increase in customer usage strain the website or cause a backlog in product deliveries? Assessing all this helps to identify what incentive may be best and how the business needs to prepare.

Now it’s time to look at the incentive options.

Incentive options for consumer campaigns

It’s vital at this point that the audience you’ve identified remains at the core of any thought process. That, along with the product itself. Are there any values that the brand promotes and looks to instil, and how could these impact what options are available? If your brand is all about being eco-friendly, it’s probably a bad idea to do something that involves lots of paper and printing. If you’re all about accessibility, don’t expect people to use complicated and expensive technology to apply. Equally if you’re all about creating local jobs for local people, maybe think twice about giving away freebies that were made oversees just because it’s cheaper. In this case, why not work with a small, local business and see how your corporate incentive could also benefit them?

Rebate or promotion?

Incentives come in all shapes and sizes, but at the core of most of them is either a rebate or a promotion. A promotion could be a financial incentive, such as Buy One Get One Free, or it may be a consumer promotion, such as free cinema tickets or prize draws. Rebates work slightly differently. Products with a rebate scheme give the user the chance to get their money back if they aren’t satisfied with the product. It normally involves filling in an online form and answering some standard questions about what didn’t quite hit the mark, but after this small amount of admin, the consumer would get their pennies sent right back to them. More recently, rebates have also included try-for-free options. This was a game changer – you only pay when you’re happy or when you decide to keep the product.

With all the information at hand so far, you should be able to identify which of these three categories complements your risk appetite, suits the product and feels appropriate for your target audience.

Digital or bricks?

At this point, it’s really about filling out the detail. Audience is crucial here. What are the traits of these people? For example, if you’re looking to increase online sales, then make the incentive digital. Those who like to pick off the shelves and take home goods are generally the ones that like instant gratification. Engaging in the incentive needs that same instantaneous feel. Don’t give them a voucher on the back of the packet to send in the post to then receive a ticket back through the mail two weeks later. Instead, give them a QR code that they can snap a picture of straight away and then their free tickets will appear on their phone within minutes! Another option is money-can’t-buy opportunities like seeing a film before general release. Loyalty can tie in here too. If you’ve got a membership of people or subscribers to a service, how can you give them priority over products when every man and his dog wants something? For example, let’s say you run an insurance product and a sunny weekend is forecast ahead. Why not partner with a retailer so that your loyal customers get first dibs on paddling pools or parasols?

Promoting your consumer incentive campaign

No matter how much thought goes in to the incentive, it’ll be a waste if it’s not being talked about. Nowadays people are pushing all sorts of boundaries to promoting incentives, particularly when targeting generations that are heavily influenced by social channels. Social media endorsement is huge, and consumers are happy to oblige. Giving away free temporary tattoos will get pictures shared on Snapchat and Instagram. Ink-pad stamps are another option that can create buzz. Other possibilities include Bluetooth beacons and billboards.

Trends are changing and becoming increasingly sophisticated. It’s not about putting on more incentives, its about making them better – more personalised, more accessible and more targeted. Results will be better and more effective, meaning results for the long term.”