An Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) survey of incentive program end users found they are strong believers in the merits of non-cash rewards, and that the sentiment is broadly shared among their executive teams.

Voice of the Market, Part 1: The Use of Non-Cash Rewards & Recognition surveyed 50 end users who spent anywhere from $25,000 to millions of dollars annually on programs that included one or more of the following types of rewards: travel, award points, merchandise, gift cards and branded items. The survey found a broad range of program complexity, industry awareness, vendor reliance and experience managing incentives.

“The great news is that end users are strong believers in the merits of non-cash rewards, and just as important, they report this positive sentiment is broadly shared among their executive teams,” says Melissa Van Dyke, IRF president. “We gathered so much insightful information from this series of interviews with end users, and Voice of the Market summarizes these 50 case studies in one comprehensive report.”

The study also found that investments in non-cash rewards are seen as complementary to cash-based rewards, and often serve a completely different purpose. Non-cash rewards are viewed as vehicles of celebration, fun, memorable and more easily discussed socially than cash.

Respondents told the IRF that incentive spending is often decentralized across office branches or facilities, with little coordination, sharing of best practices or corporate guidelines. Program owners report their biggest challenge is keeping programs fresh and energized year over year.

The survey also found that gift cards can be easily targeted to specific audiences. Restaurant cards are popular for employees with families, while grocery and gas cards are powerful rewards for a minimum-wage workforce. Incentive travel is highly appreciated by employees, their families and executives for the attention and energy generated from offering the reward.

For more on the study and its findings, click here.