The Dos and Don’ts of Incentives

The Dos and Don’ts of Incentives

Whether you’re rewarding research respondents, employees or customers, a good incentives program reaps big returns. But if it’s done wrong, it could leave you in the lurch with bleak response rates, disgruntled employees or apathetic would-be brand loyalists. That’s why we’ve put together a convenient list of dos and don’ts when it comes to incentives. Consider the following guidelines your cheat sheet for happier recipients and better results.


  • Deliver rewards quickly. No one likes to wait, especially in this age of instant gratification. Engagement is a two-way street, so respondents or customers shouldn’t have to stand by for weeks or even hours to see the benefits of their participation. That’s the beauty of Virtual Incentives: instant delivery truly means zero waiting.
  • Add a personal touch to interactions. People like to be treated like individuals, so personalize your messaging — even if it’s simply calling out a recipient by name. It’ll make them feel acknowledged and valued, which pays huge dividends.
  • Track your program’s success. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Always report the success of your incentives program and optimize along the way. Not seeing the results you want? Better to know that early on so you can turn things around.
  • Set achievable goals. This applies across the board — streamline surveys for higher completion rates, put brand initiatives within customers’ reach and set realistic goals for employees.
  • Customize it to your brand. Create a consistent brand experience through every stage of your users’ journey, including the rewards program. Establishing a familiar look and feel will create a more enjoyable experience, and ultimately better engagement.


  • Reward the wrong behavior. For a reward program to work, make sure you approach what you’re rewarding correctly. For example, a global coffee chain suffered a big hit to their loyal fan base when they switched their rewards program from focusing on customer visits to the amount spent.
  • Offer irrelevant or weak rewards. From employee appreciation to respondent rewards, nobody wants to engage with a program if it’s not worth their time. Virtual gift cards are a flexible option that lets you offer relevant and worthwhile rewards.
  • Target the wrong recipient. Always make sure your incentives are aimed at the right people. Once upon a time, a well-known fast food chain ran a summer rewards campaign that convinced their loyal fans to visit more regularly. Unfortunately, it proved too complex for the casual visitor — a group that makes up 75% of their business.
  • Add too many stipulations. A reward program becomes meaningless if a bunch of rules and fine print strip away all the benefits. Remember, just because it’s called a “frequent flyer” program doesn’t mean that points have to expire after a few months of inactivity.
  • Get a recipient’s details wrong. If you go the extra mile to personalize a reward, make sure you get it right. Even worse than sending out a generic reward is addressing it to “Jake” when the recipient’s name is “John.”

Guidelines are a good idea because they give you guardrails when building or modifying your incentives or rewards program. To learn more about how Virtual Incentives can launch your program into the future check out our different types of solutions.