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Hot Dogs, Sandwiches and Digital Rewards: How Incentives Are Changing Market Research


Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas Series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Jonathan Price will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 13-15 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX NA. Click here to learn more.

By Jonathan Price, CEO, Virtual Incentives

Have you ever considered whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich? There was a piece a few months in USA Today about this subject – a topic that has been raging on the Internet for years. In this particular article, the author attempts to put the debate to bed once and for all – yes, a hot dog is a sandwich. Served on a bun. Between two pieces of bread.

While this “controversy” is superficial it can be superimposed on some other business issues – particularly those that have been impacted by technology. In the rewards industry we can ask is the virtual card still a card? It isn’t the rectangular, plastic item that most think of when the word “card” comes to mind. However, the “card” is simply a medium to convey the value of a specific account. Does it need to be a tangible object in the hand?

Digitally based rewards fill today’s consumer demands for speed, convenience and personalization. Going virtual with the “card” is the natural reinvention of a product that has become almost antiquated. A traditional, physical card has limitations that are unnecessary in today’s technology-driven world. With a physical card you encounter issues like shipping, waste, production, timing and limits on personalization and engagement.

In the market research industry in particular, it’s important to take a close look at wielding every technological advancement we have at our disposal. Respondents have become fickle and are constantly pressed with multiple demands on their time. Our world is moving at breakneck speed. Rewarding respondents instantly and digitally is one way to gain a more complete data picture. Digital “cards” – of all kinds – benefit research companies by offering:

  • Speed: Instant gratification is the name of the game. With the right digital rewards provider, companies can deliver fast, customized incentive delivery in real-time or at least the same day. With no gap or downtime, digital rewards can fill the consumer demand for speed.
  • Customization: Delivering digital rewards allows the creation of a memorable interaction…ever more important as consumer attention spans become shorter and shorter.
  • Personalization: Digital rewards can provide the multiple touchpoints that respondents need in order to form a connection. Technology has allowed people to demand “me first” interactions on every level of their lives, and personalization isn’t just a nice touch anymore. It’s expected.
  • Mobile: Latest estimates show that there are 3 billion smartphone users worldwide and this number continues to rise. Virtual delivery of rewards allows for mobile delivery so recipients can use rewards directly from mobile devices.
  • Delivery: Emailing rewards is fast, easy and reliable. From delivery on multiple platforms all the way to managing lists and data, the delivery vehicle for your rewards program is key to a successful program and to measuring important metrics.

While a hot dog may have just been one more product that falls in the sandwich industry, a virtual card is an innovation that will likely push the physical card out of existence. Consumers need what they need when they need it. Companies need to appear savvy, modern and utilize technology to its full advantage in order to remain credible with their audiences. With instant delivery on multiple digital platforms, along with the opportunity for pushing out branding messages, virtual cards are only going to become more and more mainstream. I’d argue that they go beyond an additional to a category, and will eventually completely define the space. One last question: would you like mustard with that?


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