The Incentive Research Foundation, which funds and promotes research to raise awareness and advance the science and application of motivation and incentives in business and industry, reports in its recently released “Industry Outlook for 2020: Merchandise, Gift Card, and Event Gifting” high levels of economic net optimism during the Fall of 2019 and a positive outlook for 2020. The new study provides insights and benchmarks on non-cash reward types, average spend and how incentive programs are being administered.

“With projected increases in incentive budgets and use of gift cards, merchandise and experiential rewards, the IRF’s Industry Outlook for 2020: Merchandise, Gift Card, and Event Gifting reports strong optimism around non-cash reward and recognition programs for 2020,” says Stephanie Harris, IRF president. “As budgets and participation grow, expectations also increase. Reporting and analysis have increased dramatically this year, and participant satisfaction is emerging as a key metric.”

The IRF surveyed 377 industry professionals, including corporate, supplier and third-party segments, tracking key metrics over 10 years. The study provides trends in economic optimism, budgets, award types and reporting for incentive programs.

The report found that industry stakeholders have very strong expectations for 2020, with 85 percent reporting they expect their company to have strong financial performance, and economic net optimism is high for incentive programs, with the Fall 2019 Net Optimism Index for incentive programs standing at 41 percent, consistent with Fall 2018 (43 percent) and up from Summer 2017 (22 percent).

The IRF’s report also found that corporate users conducting analysis on how programs change behavior increased to 44 percent, compared to 25 percent in 2019, and that the average merchandise reward value is $160. Logoed brand-name merchandise and electronics are the most common rewards with corporate respondents, while sunglasses and electronics are the most popular among third-party providers. Gift cards from exclusively online retailers, like Amazon, are 2019’s most popular type of gift card (65 percent), ahead of coffee (61 percent), 2018’s top gift card type. Personalization and engagement in event gifting are also growing, as the marketplace experience has increased in popularity, with 58 percent of respondents reporting they use marketplace as an engaging way to deliver event gifts.

To view or download a copy of the “Industry Outlook for 2020: Merchandise, Gift Card, and Event Gifting,” click here.