Seize the day: There’s never been a better time to focus on incentives
As President of IMA Europe, the EMEA division of the Incentive Marketing Association, Brian Dunne knows how important incentive and reward activity is to businesses of all types, and how shared insights and interaction can lead to inspired solutions.
A combination of factors has created a growing need for businesses across Europe to focus on their incentive and recognition activities, says Brian. “What’s really interesting is the movement of people’s expectations and technology, in tandem,” he says. “There’s a young population out there that now make up the majority of the UK workforce, and they’re all people in highly incentivisable spaces – call centres, stores and so on. They expect immediacy. They want to listen to a song and be able to download it, or to download a book instantly. Their method of shopping has changed too: they look an item up online, purchase it and then either click and collect or get it delivered. Those changes that we’re seeing in people’s behaviours are driving changes in incentives.”
For many countries in Europe, incentives and rewards also bring financial benefits. “There’s a number of tax-efficient programmes in different countries,” explains Brian. “One was recently introduced in Germany, where people can earn €44 a month tax free. There’s a similar programme in Ireland, and France has operated one for years. So there’s a significant advantage to companies in Europe who want to incentivise and that’s why the industry is growing so much.”
A look at the gift card market alone suggests just how great the demand is for incentive products and services, says Brian: “In the US, 18% of all the gift cards sold are B2B. In Europe, which has a population about four times the size of the US, that figure is over 50%, and we’re witnessing significant growth in the motivation and reward space across the continent.”
The personal nature of any incentive activity, and the importance of getting it right for each recipient, makes it especially important for reward managers and solution providers to meet face-to-face, says Brian. “When you buy an incentive or reward product, what you’re buying is trust, reliability and integrity,” he says. “This is a world where people’s wisdom counts for a lot, and the way to extract that wisdom is through face-to-face conversation.”
“This is not like buying an item that will look the same wherever you get it from. You’re buying a service; you’re buying the integrity to deliver something that’s got great passion behind it. Because in essence, you’re giving somebody something for being wonderful, whether that’s a ‘thank you’ for being your best customer; your best employee, for being loyal to their credit card programme, or anything else. Whether you’re giving someone a coffee machine, a gift card or an experience – it’s all something that’s very special for somebody. These are your best moments and it’s critical that the rewards you give are delivered with tremendous precision.”
Inspiration and insight
Brian’s passionate belief in the value of shared insights and face-to-face discussion has seen him travelling to events across the world to meet and exchange knowledge with other incentive, reward and recognition professionals. Motivate Europe Live – Europe’s only exhibition and conference dedicated to incentives, reward and recognition – couldn’t have come at a better time, he says.
“The US has a very vibrant Motivation Show, which provides a place for people to do business, to meet professionals and companies who want to buy, to sell and to learn,” he says. “The demand for a similar type of place where incentive professionals can learn and do business has been there for some time in Europe, but it has grown with the industry, in response to the requirements of businesses. Now, with Motivate Europe Live, we have that space.”
“This is a very collaborative and vibrant industry with a lot of new start-ups as well as established players. Just as technology has driven the demand for more new, immediate forms of reward, it has also made it easier for companies to start up and innovate in the incentive space. Look around the exhibition: you’ll see global organisations, local organisations and pan-European organisations, and a diverse mix of visitors with different roles and levels of expertise, each with a responsibility for incentive and reward activities. There’s a real variety, and they’ve all got something to learn from each other.”
That exchange of ideas and experiences is critical to the growth and innovation that characterises incentive and reward activity in Europe today, says Brian. “There’s an absolute desire for companies to learn more about what to do and how to do it. We have never had the speed of change that we’re seeing today, and those businesses that have the ability to learn, to understand and to adapt will be the ultimate winners. The incentive companies that are doing wonderfully and providing desired solutions for their customers are the ones that are out there listening, embracing new knowledge and adapting. They’re learning from the different demands that are out there and working to supply to that demand – those are the companies that will continue to provide successful and innovative incentive and reward solutions, and they’re the type of companies you’ll see Motivate Europe Live.”