Incentive Research Foundation Releases 2017 Trends Study

Washington, DC (January 20, 2017): The Incentive Research Foundation is pleased to announce the release of its highly-anticipated 2017 Trends Study. The study highlights ten key trends that will affect organizations, their products and services, and the workforce in 2017. From growth areas to consolidation to globalization, the study identifies key areas of change and their implications to workforce engagement, incentive travel and recognition.

“At a time when the pace of economic change continues to accelerate, the IRF is tracking some essential shifts in the industry,” said IRF President Melissa Van Dyke. “The 2017 Trends Study also provides actionable suggestions so that business can leverage these trends to gain a competitive edge in a rapidly changing business landscape.

The Top Ten Trends for Incentive Travel, Reward and Recognition Programs in 2017 are:

  1. The Increasing Demand for Non-Cash Rewards and Recognition
    The number of all U.S. businesses using non-cash rewards has risen from 26% in 1996 to 84% in 2016.
  2. Mastering the Changing and Challenging Regulatory Environment
    Almost 60% of respondents in the latest IRF Pulse Study said they agree or strongly agree that government regulations are making it more difficult to design reward and recognition programs.
  3. Incentive Travel Market: Growth and Challenges
    Nearly 40% of U.S. businesses now use incentive travel in some manner to reward and recognize their top performing employees, salespeople, and channel partners.
  4. Merchandise and Gift Card Expansion
    Merchandise and gift card programs continue to expand in the United States with 60% and 70%, respectively, of all U.S. businesses using these reward types in some manner.
  5. Shifts in Safety Perceptions and More Frequent Disruptions
    Zika. Terrorism. Hurricanes. Almost 60% of planners have experienced some form of disruption in their events, estimating that almost a quarter of their events have been affected in some way.
  6. The Emerging “Next Level” of Experience: Individualized Experiences and the Importance of Emotion
    Tapping emotional engagement through a strategic choice of rewards and incentives is a powerful way for businesses to motivate their stakeholders.
  7. Technology Changes
    Almost 90% of large businesses report having some sort of technology in place to support their incentives and reward programs.  Technology trends include a drive toward social, wearable, predictive and view-altering technologies.
  8. The Evolving Design of Reward and Recognition Programs
    The Incentive Federation measures over 12 different reasons organizations are running employee reward and recognition programs and 9 different objectives for sales programs.
  9. Industry Consolidation
    The incentives and rewards industry continues to consolidate, not only on the supplier side but also among incentive houses and meeting service providers.
  10. Globalization
    Once thought of as only affecting the incentive travel side of the market, globalization now influences all types of reward and recognition programs—merchandise and gift cards included.

The IRF officially released the 2017 Trends Study this morning at Incentive Live in Las Vegas, where IRF President Melissa Van Dyke presented key findings during the event’s opening education session.

To view or download a copy of the full study, please visit: 

About the IRF:
The Incentive Research Foundation ( funds and promotes research to advance the science and enhance the awareness and appropriate application of motivation and incentives in business and industry globally. The goal is to increase the understanding, effective use, and resultant benefits of incentives to businesses that currently use incentives and others interested in improved performance.


Andy Schwarz
IRF Media Relations