AccuList’s many incentive and recognition products marketing clients should take a look at The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2019 Trends Study” for tips on where the market is headed this year.
Room for Growth With a Corporate Culture Stress
With economic growth and optimism strong, companies are continuing investment in incentive and recognition rewards, with considerable room for market expansion for product suppliers: 84% of businesses are now using non-cash rewards, but past studies show close to 60% of merchandise and gift card rewards are still sourced through retail versus specialized agencies or providers. One factor pushing the recognition market is the trend to “talent culture” creation by C-suite executives, with “The Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study” finding more employers than ever offering non-cash rewards aimed directly at building relationships, encouraging inclusion and knowledge-sharing, and promoting engagement. Why? IRF’s studies as well as academic research are finding that when executives combine economic incentives with recognition and well-designed non-cash rewards, they promote “corporate citizenship” behaviors and work environments that attract and retain top talent.
Continued Spending for Merchandise and Gift Cards
Overall use of merchandise rewards is expected to increase, per IRF, particularly among corporate audiences, with a net increase of 33% compared to a net 20% of suppliers and third-party providers. The use of logo’d brand-name merchandise dominates, with 75% of corporate programs using these items as rewards. Other popular rewards are electronics (63%) and clothing/apparel (59%). The average merchandise reward value is pegged at $160, pushed up by the small part of the market that spends more per reward; in fact, nearly a quarter of respondents indicate their average merchandise reward is $100, and half of respondents reporting average merchandise reward values falling between $1 and $100. Meanwhile, gift cards continue to be a popular option within reward and recognition programs, with open loop cards (that can be used anywhere) and brand-specific cards both enjoying high utilization. Plus, e-gift cards are gaining momentum, with half of large enterprises and 58% of medium enterprises using them in 2018.
Analytics and AI Are Changing the Landscape
Of particular note, IRF’s most recent study urges reward program designers and suppliers to understand how predictive analytics and AI are changing the market: “In the incentives field, predictive analytics and machine learning are helping program designers understand who is drawn to which types of rewards, and how those rewards should be shaped and presented to produce the best outcomes on an individual basis. Organizations are using analytics and AI to see patterns in peer-to-peer recognition so they can encourage greater participation. Some are using it to personalize learning. In the near future, algorithms will spot patterns and correlations between past rewards and incentives and the desired behaviors and outcomes that define a high performer.” Read the full IRF trends study for more, including data on incentive travel and event gifting.
The “2019 Ad Impressions Study” by the Advertising Specialty Institute has many nuggets to help AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients woo targeted buyers. For example, promo products purveyors can point out how their items beat other ad media not only with high ROI, thanks to a cost per impression as low as a tenth of a cent, but also high impact, with consumers under age 55 preferring promo products over all other media for advertising, including newspapers, radio, magazines, television, internet and mobile. In fact, consumers are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products compared with online advertising, per ASI.
Not All Promo Products Are Created Equal
When it comes to consumers’ favored promotional products, ASI’s study shows the highest ownership for writing instruments (89%), drink ware (88%) and T shirts (80%). Looking at numbers alone, outerwear is a big winner with the most impressions (6,100), the greatest memorability (85% of consumers remember the advertiser giving branded apparel), and the greatest staying power (outerwear is kept an average of 16 months compared with 9 months for writing implements, for example). But winning even with a popular category means keeping up with trends. Among the latest spotted by Promo Marketing Magazine at the 2019 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo is the boost in re-usable, environmentally friendly products now that cities and states are banning single-use plastic bags and straws. A return to natural and vintage is not surprising in this anti-plastic mode, with a rise in the popularity of wooden pieces, from cutting boards to awards. Plus, multi-function items continue to grow in popularity, with suppliers adding tech functions to classic promotional items, so that water bottles double as Bluetooth speakers and business card holders can be used to prop phones.
Design-wise, Think Retail Quality, Bundling, USA-Made
The marketers at Delta Marketing Group (DMG) get even more specific about trends in design affecting a range of product categories. As more retail brands become available as customizable promotional products, even non-brand items are starting to emulate the retail look and feel, the agency points out. Quality over brand-logo-blasting also is taking hold, for example with branded apparel using small embroidered patches, subtle custom tags, and understated tone-on-tone colors instead of large logo imprints. Creative materials and refined finishes are forecast to come to the fore in 2019, with bright colors, matte and soft-touch finishes, and heathered and burlap fabrics. DMG also predicts that gift sets packaging several cohesive promotional items together will peak in 2019. Watch for desktop accessories to gain popularity, such as branded mousepads, coasters and phone stands, etc., often bundled as a new-employee or a new-student welcome kit. Plus, with the advent of experiential marketing for events, promotional products are trending toward event-specific giveaways that complete the brand’s event experience. Finally, the made-in-the-USA trend stays strong, per ASI’s study. About 53% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product is made in the U.S. versus elsewhere, and that sentiment is especially strong in New England, where 73% of consumers prefer buying made-in-the-USA items. For details from the ASI study, see https://www.asicentral.com/news/web-exclusive/january-2019/2019-ad-impressions-study/
For AccuList USA’s nonprofit fundraising clients and fundraising consultants, 2019 will be another challenging year. Successful direct marketers will need to adapt to changes in demographics, technology and donor targeting, to name just a few trends recently cited by the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog.
Move Over Millennials; Here Comes Gen Z
Donorbox is sounding the alert ahead of the next demographic wave. While the Millennial generation is still the biggest cohort in the workforce, Gen Z is arriving. Born after 1996, they now make up an estimated 27% of the population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. How are they different? The “2017 Global Trends in Giving Report” found that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes, especially those involving youth, animals and human services. But to win the attention of these digital natives, messaging must be concise and engaging, offering an immediate experience that cuts through the marketing noise they routinely filter out. Gen Z is also the first mobile-only generation, so website, e-mail and donation forms must all be optimized for mobile. Plus, Gen Z likes visual-based platforms, so fundraising creative should use photos, videos and infographics to tell stories that grab attention.
Donors Expect Hyperpersonalized, Targeted Messaging
Accustomed to sophisticated digital technology that tailors messaging a la Amazon and Netflix, today’s donors expect a personalized, targeted approach that takes into account demographics, giving history and even psychographics. A generic appeal will fall flat. That means segmenting donor and prospect lists and using variable data printing to specialize messaging to account for generational differences and other demographics. It means tailoring the “ask” to the prospective donor’s income and giving history. It means refining giving/donation pages to highlight projects and wording that will resonate with the target donor group.
Donors Embrace E-mail Fundraising If Done Well
E-mail has gotten a bad rap recently because of crowded mailboxes, spam filtering and low response rates, but there is a lot to be said for revisiting e-mail strategy in 2019. For one, research shows that donors willing to donate through e-mail rose from just 6% in 2012 to 28% in 2018. Second, low-cost e-mail has an ROI of 122%, much higher than direct mail, social media and paid search. Finally, a backlash against social media abuses, including among the mobile-first generation, is improving e-mail’s digital appeal. But e-mail needs to be done well to deliver donors. Personalization and targeted messaging is expected, so, again, segment the audience by demographics, desired communication frequency, giving status, etc. Make sure there is a clear call to action, a compelling subject line, simple attractive visual design, and, most of all, impactful storytelling.
AI Can Help Turn Data Into Dollars
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in our society, and that will include fundraising. AI broadly refers to programs, computers and machines that perform “intelligent” tasks such as planning, learning, problem-solving, communication and more. AI can help nonprofits gather more data and use it better to advance missions and marketing. For example, one of the simplest uses of AI is a chatbot that interacts via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. A nonprofit can create a chatbot to handle donations, register members and distribute information about programs and services. AI also can be used to personalize donor journeys with tailored, personal messages based on real-time donor behavior and timed to encourage contributions. Finally, AI can weaponize data for more cost-effective donor development and marketing. For example, a donor’s giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and data from wealth screening tools can all be analyzed to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift.
See the complete list of eight fundraising trends identified by Donorbox.