Judging a book by its cover

You invested countless hours planning and executing the perfect sales incentive program. The awards selection captured attention immediately. The goals were carefully selected to require growth and be attainable. The communications and tracking campaign kept participants engaged for the entire program. Now, your people are just receiving those packages of awards. Your colleagues and management have been patting you on the back since the final program results come out, but the sound of silence from your participants is deafening. Why aren’t they sending thank you notes? Why aren’t they raving about the program and their rewards? What’s going on?

The answer could be as simple as your shipping box.

A couple of years ago, an Incentive Research Foundation study discovered “40% – 50% of the reward experience has nothing to do with the award.” What that means is the way you deliver or present an award to a person is as important as what you’re giving them. Trends in the workplace are showing more and more people work remotely. Sales personnel are especially on the cutting edge of this trend. Why invest in office space when field sales should spend most of their time in front of customers anyway?

The problem is people start feeling isolated. Plus, it becomes more difficult for managers to recognize achievements. So, we began wondering if the packaging of an award sent to the home could make a difference in how the recipient felt about the sender.

We then decided to recruit sales incentives, employee engagement and consumer loyalty program participants for focus groups. Attendees were told a reward was shipped to their home for their performance or in appreciation of their service or patronage. Each then opened four shipping boxes and provided their thoughts on the packages and the sender. The containers ranged from a standard brown corrugated box sealed with brown tape and filled with Styrofoam to white boxes with thank you tape and tissue paper inside to custom packaging with a gift-wrapped box inside.

What we found stunned the research team and was consistent across the groups regardless of their background…

  • 88% described the brown corrugated box was plain, ordinary and cheap and did not make them feel appreciated.
  • Just changing to a white shipping box sealed with tape imprinted with “Thank You” drastically changed things with nearly 90% saying they felt appreciated. Add tissue paper inside and they began calling it a gift, and those in consumer programs said they would spend more with the company.
  • Gift wrapping, however, changed things. Instead of feeling appreciated, they began focusing on small details with 81% pointing out components in need of improvement.

This means program sponsors can get lots of mileage from just a few relatively inexpensive upgrades like white boxes instead of brown and a message on the sealing tape. But, be warned: there comes a point of diminishing returns when you start gift wrapping awards.

Visit www.hinda.com to download the entire Reward Delivery Experience report. You’ll find it under “Resources” and then in “Industry Research”.

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