No Merit to Millions

You don’t need millions of items in your reward catalog. Here’s why.

The idea that a broad selection equates to a better experience is a firmly held belief by some in the incentive industry, too. Many of our competitors design programs that advertise millions of reward items, the idea being that it’s the only way to truly deliver something for everyone.

At QIC, we respectfully disagree with the “more is better” approach. It is a statistically unsupported philosophy that does not promote optimal results. Program value is attained by creating the right balance between rewards selection, service, and price. Any two without the other can create a disincentive for the participants and lead to overall program dissatisfaction. Too many rewards can be confusing to participants, negatively impact expected service level, and create additional program costs that are unnecessary to achieve successful program results.

Here’s a closer look at why we don’t believe there’s any merit to offering millions of rewards.

1. Option overload.

In his book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz contends that there’s a point at which having too many choices is unhealthy. Schwartz, the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, explains that when faced with a huge number of options, people often become paralyzed and unable to act, or they may question the choices they’ve made, resulting in stress, angst and feelings of worthlessness. (Not exactly the kinds of outcomes you want from a program designed to motivate people.)

As experienced professionals in the rewards selection process, QIC understands the types of rewards that motivate participants and drive behavior to achieve program results. “Millions” is not the solution. Our philosophy is to focus on quality, not quantity: Name brand, top-drawer products…a depth and breadth of options… a wide range of price points…all across a spectrum of categories, where participants can find a vast-selection of appealing rewards, regardless of demographic.

Consider this: A 12-month analysis of QIC program participant activity shows that 55 percent of the selected reward items came from a core of about 60 brands, including Sony (the single highest brand redeemed); Hamilton Beach; Coleman; Dooney & Bourke; Nikon; and Oakley. This demonstrates that participants gravitate toward high-quality, aspirational brands. Even more startling is that 80 percent of the number of items redeemed was concentrated in about 10 percent of the total QIC reward offering. We use this insight to continuously refine our reward offering for maximum attractiveness and value.

2. Volume spreads you thin.

Offering millions for millions sake is really just a simple “See What Sticks” approach, lacking focus and strategy. This volume of items can’t be effectively supported with the level of service required to yield a successful program. The more rewards you offer, the wider the range and variety of product redemptions you’ll have to deal with — and the harder it will be to achieve the program economies of scale necessary to lower rewards/program costs without sacrificing service and/or quality.

3. “Rewards catalog” and “retail store” aren’t synonymous.

Many companies that offer “millions” do so under the guise of a “Retail Solution.” QIC fundamentally disagrees with this approach. The incentive business is not the core business of retailers. There is much more to providing program administration and rewards fulfillment to clients and participants than just offering an assortment of retail products. Retailers are business to consumer (B-to-C) entities, and their entire infrastructure is designed to support that model; whereas, full-service incentive companies like QIC have a unique infrastructure. We simultaneously offer business to business (B-to-B) services to sponsoring program clients and B-to-C-like services to program participants.

There is not a “one-size fits all” in the world of incentives and recognition; therefore, incentive companies have to be flexible and nimble in order to successfully provide a wide array of customized program services. With the “retail” approach, the service often stops with fulfilling and shipping of the products — which means returns and other related services beyond the initial order often become a hassle and left up to the program participants to handle, not unlike other retail purchases.

Conversely, QIC works directly with manufacturers and other selected incentive industry supply partners, thus providing a “wholesale” approach to the rewards offering. This allows for a better price-to-value rewards proposition as well as a broader rewards selection, because we are not limited to one retailer’s specific products.

4. “Millions” puts you at the mercy of others.

Are incentive companies that offer “millions” of items really in control of their rewards offering? We think not. The majority of these “virtual incentive companies” are totally at the mercy of third-party specialty retailers, big-box discount retailers and internet-only retailers who make it possible to provide such scale. The offering is only available “while supplies last” — and redemptions are often limited to one of a given item, especially when offered at a discount.

5. A concierge provides the ultimate choice.

Think about why you’re compelled to offer millions of rewards. Are you trying to satisfy that person who has everything? The truth is, there’s no guarantee that providing “the most” reward items (even “millions”) will be enough. QIC’s answer to this is our “Just For You” concierge shopping service.

In the event that a high-value item is not offered in the core reward selection, the Just For You service ensures that participants can source exactly what they want. And this isn’t limited to “items” either: our Just For You participants have enjoyed all sorts of unique rewards, from landscaping services to pedigreed pets. Typically, those providers that rely on a “retail-esque” offering do not offer this type of concierge service.

So there you have it: Five solid reasons to consider a more strategic approach to reward offerings. Scale back, be more strategic about your portfolio of offerings, analyze the redemption behaviors of your participants, and continually adjust your catalog and your sourcing to ensure the optimal balance of selection, service and price. What you don’t offer in “millions” of rewards, you’ll retain in “millions” of happy, engaged participants.