Incentive programmes are increasingly incorporating state-of-the-art tools and techniques such as social media, community service, and gaming as a way of attracting and maintaining consumer interest, according to the Incentive Research Foundation's (IRF) '2012 Fall Pulse Survey', which found that gaming is gaining popularity over social media and community service strategies. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The survey found that merchandise, gift card and individual travel programmes are benefiting from current economic conditions as companies plan fewer group incentive travel programmes. Additionally, North American and Caribbean destinations remain the favoured selections compared to overseas destinations while, in terms of favoured merchandise, electronics, golf items, luggage and housewares remain the most popular rewards.

The bi-annual IRF Pulse Survey asks professionals their opinions about the latest trends affecting the incentive industry, covering budget changes, specific programme elements, incentive travel, merchandise and non-cash rewards, as well as other issues affecting programme planning and implementation.

When looking at the 'average incentive programme' in 2012, the study found that:

  • It is less likely to incorporate a social media and/or CSR component (compared to the year before);
  • It is more likely to incorporate a gaming component (up 6percentage points).

Meanwhile, the 'average incentive travel programme' was found to:

  • Most likely remains a domestic destination rather than overseas (45%);
  • Increasingly involves the company's procurement department (38%);
  • Have essentially the same budget (48%);
  • Include a destination in North America (53%) or the Caribbean (46%);
  • Involve more individual travel (32%).

The 'average merchandise/non-cash incentive programme' was found to:

  • Be positively affected by the economy (50%);
  • Have increased merchandise award values (36%);
  • Offer more gift cards (31%);
  • Include these types of rewards: Electronics (79%), Golf Items (68%), Luggage (66%) and Housewares (62%);
  • Be a points-based programme (82%);
  • Have a slightly higher budget (42%).

The full details of the study have been made available for free download from the IRF's web site - click here (PowerPoint presentation; no registration needed).