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The Incentive Research Foundation Resource Center

2012 Spring Pulse Survey: Incentive Industry Trends

To download the full study, click here.

Background and Survey Purpose

Since 2008 the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) has surveyed industry professionals to obtain their opinions about the more salient trends affecting the industry.  To this end, the IRF asked these professionals questions on trends with regard to incentive travel programs, merchandise non-cash programs, and budget changes forecast for 2012. 

Data collection was conducted March 5th through March 27th, 2011.   The survey received 205 responses. 

Highlights: Core Issues

The IRF has consistenly asked four questions regarding what business drivers are impacting the design and implemenation of incentive programs. These include (a) the company's financial forecast, (b) competitors reactions, (c) public perception, and (d) internal perceptions. Findings indicate that the trends have stabilized this period compared to the previous four survey periods. The overall trends continue to remain lower than reported in 2008. 
 

Current Topic: Industry Trends for 2011/2012

  • Incentive Travel Programs
  • Merchandise Non-Cash Programs
  • ROI – Budget Considerations

Perceived Impact of the Economy on Ability to Plan and Implement Incentive Travel Programs

Respondents in the current survey (March 2012) indicate they are more optimistic and consider the economy as having a “more” positive impact on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel programs when compared with the previous results.

  • Strongly negative 11% October 2011 vs. 0.7% March 2012.
  • All negative impacts 62% October 2011 vs. 22% March 2012.

In the coming year what impact will the economy have on your ability to plan and implement travel incentive programs? (N=142)

Note: The response categories were modified in the May 2011 and the historical data was adjusted to reflect these changes.

Perceived Impact of the Current Air Transportation Environment of Incentive Travel Programs

  • Most respondents (71%) have a negative perception of the current Air Transportation Environment and the impact on incentive travel plans.
  • Strongly negative- 12% March 2012.
  • All negative perception- 71% March 2012.

What impact does the current air transportation environment have on your incentive travel program planning?(n=142)

Techniques Used In Coming Year To Enhance The Air Transportation Portion Of Incentive Travel Programs, What Component?

  • 56% anticipate that “All costs for air transportation-related expenses”, are to be included components of Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
  • 55% indicate that “Only Tickets” will be provided.
  • 22% indicate that “Non-air options” will be included.
  • 10% indicate that seating upgrades will be included.
  • 5% indicate that “Airline club passes” will be included.

In the coming year, do you anticipate any of the following changes will be made with regard to choices of incentive travel programs? Check all that apply. (n=142)

Trending of Techniques Used To Enhance The Air Transportation Portion Of Incentive Travel Programs

The inclusion of both components are on a positive trend the past two survey periods and currently are above the May 2010 survey period.

• The trend to include “Only airline tickets” became a more prevalent techniques beginning in October 2010 and continues to increase until the current period.

Anticipated Changes In Coming Year With Regards To Incentive Travel Program Destinations

  • Most of the respondents (30%) anticipate no change with respect to the program destinations for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
  • 23% indicate that they anticipate a change from “International to Domestic” with regards to the travel program destinations.

In the coming year, do you anticipate any of the following changes will be made with regard to incentive travel program destinations? Check all that apply. (n=142)

Trending Anticipated Changes With Regards To Incentive Travel Program Destinations

There has been a siginifcant trend in program destinations from “International to Domestic” from 2010.

Anticipated Changes In Coming Year With Regards To Incentive Travel Accommodations

  • Forty-two percent of respondents anticipate reducing the “Total number of days/nights” for the accommodations portion of Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
  • 32% indicate “No Change”
  • 30% indicate that “On-site inclusions per participant will be decreased.”
  • 30% indicate the “Number of rooms will be reduced”.
  • 28% indicate a “Change to “all inclusive” pricing options”.
  • 18% indicate the “Number of room upgrades will be reduced”.

In the coming year, what changes, if any, will be made with regard to accommodations for incentive travel programs? Check all that apply.(n=142)

Trending Anticipated Changes With Regards To Incentive Travel Accommodations

The “anticipated reduction” of both components with regards to hotel accommodations have continued to increase the past two survey periods.

Anticipated Changes In Coming Year With Regards To Sponsored Non-Meal Related Components

  • More than half (55%) of respondents anticipate No Change with regards to Sponsored Non-Meal Related Components for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
  • 24% indicate that Sponsored Non-Meal related components will be Reduced to some degree, and
  • 21% indicated that Sponsored Non-Meal related components will be Slightly Increased.

With regard to the sponsored (paid by your company) non-meal related components such as airline tickets, transfers, gifts, etc for incentive travel  programs, what changes will be made in the coming year? (n=142)

Anticipated Changes With The Involvement Of Procurement And Purchasing In Travel Incentive Programs

  • Most of the respondents (42%) anticipate No Change with regards to involvement of procurement and purchasing for Incentive Travel Programs in 2011,  53% agree that procurement involvement will increase by some degree in the coming year.
  • 36% indicate that procurement and purchasing involvement will “Slightly Increase” in the coming year.
  • 17% indicate that procurement and purchasing involvement will “Significantly Increase” in the coming year.

In the coming year, do you anticipate the involvement of procurement and purchasing with regard to your incentive programs to…(n=142)

Anticipated Changes In Incentive Travel Program Budgets for This Year

  • Forty-nine percent (49%) of the respondents anticipate budgets for Incentive Travel Programs to “Remain Unchanged” this coming year.
  • 15% indicate that budgets for Incentive Travel Programs will decrease by some degree in the coming year.
  • 36% indicate that budgets for Incentive Travel Programs will slightly increase this coming year.

In the coming year, do you anticipate budgets for incentive travel programs in general to… (n=142)

Trend Strategy For The Consideration Of Award Strategy Moving (Either Temporarily Or Permanently) From "Group   Trips" To "Individual Travel Packages"

  • The majority (69%) of the respondents do not anticipate changing (either temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel packages" in the coming year.
  • A combined 7% indicate that the consideration of award strategy moving (either temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel packages“ in coming year to decrease.
  • 24% indicate that the consideration of award strategy moving (either temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel  packages“ to increase in the coming year.

With regard to planning and implementing incentive travel award programs, do you anticipate the consideration of award strategy moving (either  temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel packages" to…n=142)

Geographic Region Chosen as “Destinations" for Incentive Travels).

  • The majority (73%) of the respondents indicated that North America was their chosen region for Incentive Travel Destination programs.
  • Top regional destinations include:
  • The Caribbean (61%)
  • Europe (49%)
  • Central America (30%)

In the coming year, please indicate which geographic region you will choose as your "destinations" for your incentive travel program(s). (n=142)

Perceived Impact of the Economy on Ability to Plan and Implement Merchandise Non-Cash Incentive Programs

In March 2012, respondents anticipate the impact of the economy to have a “positive” effect on their ability to plan and implement merchandise non- cash incentive programs potentially indicating a positive trend in the coming year.

  • Negative impact 17% in March 2012 vs. 24% in October 2011.
  • No impact 31% in March 2012 vs. 27% in October 2011.
  • Positive impact 53% in March 2012 vs. 25% in October 2011.

Do you anticipate budgets for merchandise non-cash incentive programs in the coming year to…(n=114)

Note: The response categories were modified in the May 2011 and the historical data was adjusted to reflect these changes.

Anticipated Changes This Year With Regards To Merchandise Non-cash Incentive Programs Award Selections

  • Approximately one-third of the respondents anticipated the following changes in the coming year to Non- Cash Incentive Program Award Selections:

             “Included individual travel”

             “Increased use of debit/gift cards”

  • 31% indicate “No change” to the merchandise non-cash incentive program this year.
  • 29% indicated “Included experience-related (SPA, event tickets, etc.)”
  • 25% indicated “Increased merchandise award value”.

With regard to merchandise non-cash incentive programs, what changes,, will be made this year with award selections? Select all that apply. (n=114)

Merchandise Types Used Within Reward and Recognition Programs

Electronics (73%), Jewelry/Watches (61%), and Clothing/Apparel (61%) are the most common merchandise used in Reward and Recognition Programs.

More than half of the respondents indicate they use:

  • Open Cards (58%)
  • Luggage (55%)
  • Golf items (53%)
  • House wares (52%)

What types of merchandise are you using within your reward and recognition program? Select all that apply (n=114)

Use of Points Based System for Merchandise Non-Cash Incentive Programs

  • A majority (74%) of the respondents indicate they use a points based system for their Merchandise Non- Cash Incentive program(s).
  • 26% indicated they do not use a points based system.
  • Compared with October ‘11, more respondents indicate the use of a “Points Based System” for Non-Cash incentive programs.

Do you use a "points-based" system for your merchandise non-cash incentive program? (n=114)

Anticipated Changes In Non-Cash Incentive Program Budgets for This Year

  • Forty-four percent (49%) of the respondents anticipate budgets for Non-Cash Incentive Programs to “Slightly Increase” this coming year.
  • 11% indicate that budgets for Non-Cash Incentive Programs will decrease by some degree in the coming year.
  • 48% indicate that budgets for Non-Cash Incentive Programs will increase by some degree in the coming year.

Do you anticipate budgets for non-cash incentive programs in the coming year to...(n=114)

Anticipated Changes Incentive Program Elements

In general, respondents indicated that they anticipate most incentive program elements to remain the same in the coming year.

The following elements received “Increased” ratings of greater than 20% for 2011:

  • Number of total qualifiers (41%)
  • Awards budget (32%)
  • Incentive Company involvement (23%)

This year, do you anticipate the following incentive program elements will increase, decrease or remain the same? (n=114)

General Issues Of Interest to the Industry

Budget Changes for Incentive Program Elements 

Impact on Incentive Program As A Result Of The Current Economic Conditions

  • 48% of the respondents anticipate no changes to the budget for Incentive Programs in the coming year as a result of the recent  economic conditions.
  • 23% indicate that that budgets for Incentive Programs have been reduced as a result of the recent economic conditions.
  • 15% indicate that budgets for Incentive Programs have increased as a result of the recent economic conditions.
  • 12% indicate no budget change, but reduced the component and added or increased a merchandise incentive program component.
  • 1% indicate the program has been eliminated entirely as a result of the recent economic conditions.

 As a result of the recent economic conditions, have you made a change to your upcoming incentive program, and if so have you… (n=205)

Impact of Budget Changes on Employee Morale

Aside from the respondents that indicated an increase in the budget for the coming year, in general, respondents indicated that changes to their Incentive travel program will have either a “decreased impact” or “remain the same” on Employee morale.

You indicated that you have [inserted response on change to their program], what impact has this has on…

Impact of Budget Changes on Sales Results

The impact of budget changes on Sales Results indicate significant differences. For those that increased the budget, or replaced the budget with travel incentive, over 90% indicate and increase in Sales results. Conversely, those that reduced the budget or reduced the travel incentive portion, between 67-73% indicate that Sales Results have decreased.

You indicated that you have [inserted response on change to their program], what impact has this has on…

Impact of Budget Changes on Profitability Results

The impact of budget changes on Profitability Results indicate significant differences. For those that increased the budget, or replaced/reduced the budget with travel incentive, between 54-100% indicate an increase in Profitability results. Conversely, those that reduced the budget 60% indicate that Profitability Results have decreased.

You indicated that you have [inserted response on change to their program], what impact has this has on…

Use of Enhancement Tools/Techniques for Incentive Programs

  • Many of the respondents (74%) indicate they use Social Media tool/ techniques to enhance their incentive program.
  • 57% indicate the use of CSR components.
  • 37% indicate that they use Integration with Sales Management Tools.
  • 33% indicate that they use Gaming techniques.
  • 31% indicate that they use a Virtual elements component.

Are you using any of the following to enhance your programs? (Check all that apply) …(n=134)

Trending of Enhancement Tools/Techniques for Incentive Programs

  • While all components show increases in the enhancement of incentive programs, the “Integration with Sales Management Tools” had the most significant increase (24%) compared to October 2011 as an enhancement tool for incentive programs.
  • Social Media, Gaming Techniques, and CSR components each have significant increases as enhancement tools when compared with October 2011.

Are you using any of the following to enhance your programs? (Check all that apply) …(n=134)

General Perceptions of the Coming Year

Most respondents (73%) perceive “The Economy” to be either Slightly or Extremely positive in the coming year.

While the outlook on the Economy is largely “positive”, the respondents in general perceive “no change” or “negative” view with respect to:

  • Pre-Paid Gift Cards
  • Individual Travel

As you look ahead to the coming year, what is your view of the following. (n=138)

Impact of 2012 Presidential Election on Incentive Program Planning for 2013 and Beyond

  • Nearly two-thirds of the respondents (66%) indicate they not changing the current plans for 2012 or 2013 because of the upcoming  Presidential Election.
  • 25% indicated that changes may be made next year (2013) based upon the process/outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election.
  • Only 6% indicated that changes have already been made to this years program because of the upcoming Presidential Election.

Which of the following statements best describes the impact the upcoming Presidential Election will have on your planning for 2013 and beyond?…(n=205)

 

The IRF
Incentive Research Foundation
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