Archive for the 'gift cards' Category

RVOLPC is an acronym coined by Dr. Brooks Mitchell of the University of Wyoming and founder of Snowfly, an incentive company specializing in gamification.  RVOLPC stands for readily verifiable on-line price comparison.   

After years of study within the behavioral sciences field and firsthand experience in implementing incentive programs, Dr. Mitchell soon learned (as we have) that the traditional merchandise awards used in the incentive industry are extremely overpriced and the companies that use them run the risk of having unhappy participants, which can result in de-motivation. 

With RVOLPC it is easy for your employees to compare prices of your awards on-line and determine the real value.  Even with points based applications where the reward company attempts to hide the pricing, it’s not too difficult for an industrious web surfer to uncover the price.  Rest assured that not long after that all the employees know about it as well.  Do you think they will be satisfied with a wide screen TV that cost them (you) $3000, when they see it all day at Best Buy for $1699? 

  • Some of the negative consequences of having an incentive or recognition award that is priced higher than even the highest retail are:  
  • Your employees start to question many things about the program value.  They see the company wasting money at a time when budgets are scarce. 
  • They want to know why you are overcharging them, why you’re giving away money to the supplier.  They question your buying prowess and that can extend to many things. 
  • They are asked to cut costs or have to double work performance because of layoffs, but become disgruntled when they see this waste. 
  • If taxes are involved (which they invariably are) this adds insult to injury. No one wants to pay tax or see their company pay tax on items of dubious value. 

Overpriced merchandise awards are a fact in the industry.  If you are bound to use some of these types of systems in your incentive or recognition effort (especially long term years of service programs) you might want to consider giving your employees a gift card option.  Your merchandise award supplier will fight you on this with a lot of hocus pocus about trophy value, but your employees know better.  In the vast number of tests we’ve participated in, the redemption of gift cards well exceeds 75% and often approaches 100%.

10 9th, 2012

The September issue of Incentive Magazine published the results of their annual “Gift Card IQ” research.  The findings are much the same as in the past, with the added emphasis on the fact that gifts cards once again were more effective cash in incentive and recognition programs.  These results are as follows: 


Cards Compared to Cash Incentives 2011 2012
Gift cards are more effective than cash 27.8% 36.7%
Gift cards and cash are equally effective 45.7% 38.6%
Gift cards are less effective than cash 8.4% 9.3%
Do not use cash awards 18.1% 15.4%


 In the report there was indication that in 2012, companies increased the frequency of when they used gift cards throughout the year as well the size of the gift cards they were using.   

It was interesting to note how these companies were using gift cards in their incentive programs.  Or, what were they attempting to improve or reward?.  Following is a ranking comparing 2011 and 2012 on this question. 

How Do You Use Gift Cards?



Recognize performance



Sales Incentives 42.1% 45.7%
Business gifts 31.5% 33.8%
Service awards 32.8% 32.9%
Spot awards 26.9% 29.5%
Non-sales recognition Awards 26.7% 28.6%
Consumer promotions 17.1% 15.9%
Wellness  programs 11.7% 10.7%
Safety awards 14.7% 10.1%
Start/maintain business relationship 9.6% 8.4%
Dealer incentives 9.1% 8.4%
Other 6.7% 4.9


Most of these numbers were consistently up in each of the months preceding the holidays.  December continues to be the month when most respondents purchase their gift cards.  It is the time when many of these types of programs conclude, and the vast majority of clients purchase on a “just in time basis.”  This helps cash flow and avoids the security issues of thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards sitting in managers’ desk drawers. 

06 26th, 2012

From humble beginnings within the incentive industry over a couple decades ago, gift cards are now the leading award in certain types of reward and recognition programs. 

This research from the Incentive Research Federation is quite enlightening.  The main conclusion drawn from the survey is that respondents preferred gift cards over cash, 83% to 17%.  That’s really astonishing as for years and years the predominant award in incentives and recognition programs has been cash. 

Some might say that the survey was skewed a little because the value of the award they used was only $50.  We’re sure that detractors of the research (those who sell awards that compete with gift cards) will use this distinction with the assumption that the higher the amount, the more the survey will lean to cash or other merchandise awards.  That may be true to a point, but this is not the first research in the last few years that points to gift cards as the number one award of any other non-cash awards in the industry.  Actually, as the vast majority of awards used in programs today tend to be $50 to $100 items, this research is very straightforward and accurate. 

In many respects cash as an award has outlived its usefulness.  Gift cards as noted in the article are easier to administer than cash, are more thoughtful than cash and with gift cards the administrators cited their ability to match recipient’s interests.  Using cash in difficult economic times would seem to be the best possible award to use in programs, but the opposite seems to be true.  The article states: 

“The popularity of gift cards can also be linked to the economic challenges faced by many employees.  Recipients account mentally for that (the gift card value) money differently than what they do with their household budget, especially in a recession when the money is tighter, the concept of guilt-free spending – a reason not to spend on household bills – becomes more prevalent and more powerful.” 

The usage of open loop (bank cards) and closed loop (retailer gift card) in award programs is about evenly split.  Many like the convenience of using a bank card because of the unlimited options for redemptions, while others like to use gift cards because they don’t have the limitations inherent in using bank cards. 

 With Award of Choice, you have the best of both worlds, tremendous choice with over 500 of the most popular gift cards to choose from and no limitations when they are redeemed.

06 12th, 2012

We loved this post from the Ottawa Citizen last month.  Obviously as our business is selling a gift card system, we are always pleased to see another previously skeptic gift buyer embrace the value of using gift cards instead of picking out a specific gift for an individual. 

This blog post does a particularly good job of relating how giving and receiving gift cards can so easily fit into your everyday life.  Where one time gift cards may have been viewed as a poor choice of gifts, they are more accepted today than ever. 

For these same reasons, gift cards have become the overall #1 award used and requested by employees in recognition programs.  No other award even comes close.

The AwardofChoice gift card system gives your employees the choice of over 500 of the most popular gift cards to choose from.  It will guarantee that they will receive the award that they want.

05 1st, 2012

Some managers honestly believe that gift cards are not a good award to give to employees simply because they are too impersonal.  And in some cases maybe they are correct.  But the acceptance of using gift cards as employee awards has come a long way in the last several years.  In fact, Incentive Magazine has rated them as the #1 employee award for many years now. 

From our perspective it would be wonderful if managers who are in charge of employee awards had the time and knew their employees well enough to be able to purchase that award or collection of awards  that truly hit their hot button.  But realistically how often does that happen? 

I recall one time in a presentation when the VP of the department wanted to give all of his people an engraved sterling silver desk ornament for a specific goal achievement.  The ornament had a cost (value?) of over $50 each.  There were over 1000 people in the department.  To a person, every one of his managers in the room didn’t like that idea and wanted to use gift cards instead because a survey of the employees prior to the meeting indicated that they would have preferred to buy something for themselves. 

While we are certainly not opposed to monogramed or engraved or company identified items, the cost and limited personal appeal of these types of items rarely offer the kind of employee satisfaction for the money spent.  At times they can even be de-motivating.   

How many of these types of items are consigned to the desk drawer the day after they are received?  How many are found in the desk drawer or the trash the day after an employee leaves?  How many end up in garage sales or on EBay because they have no meaning to the recipient?   

Often it is how you present the gift card and the recognition surrounding the event that is more important than the gift card itself.  But the addition of a gift card along with the meaningful presentation can make it just as special as knowing  your employees and exactly what they want.  To avoid determining what gift card or selection of gift cards to use, you might want to review the over 500 card options available with the Award of Choice.  You can’t always give the perfect award, but this would come as close as any. 

Some frequent questions and answers about gift cards as awards can be found here from theIncentive Gift Card Council.  You will find  answers to questions such as the advantages of gift cards, how they provide trophy value, what makes them different from cash and other important questions.