By Lisa McKenzie, Client Development Lead at Hawk Incentives
What happened in 1989? The Berlin Wall came down, SKY TV launched in the UK, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ was a box office hit and Madonna topped the charts with ‘Like a Prayer’. It was also the year that I started in this industry meaning I’ve now worked in the incentive business for 30 years. As I hit this milestone in my career I thought I would look back on how the world wide web, also launched by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, has transformed this industry.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you remember the late 80’s and early 90s the office looked very different. Laptops were instead chunky AS400 terminals with reports on green striped paper and your inbox was a desk tray full of paper that had to be replied to by post. Calls were made on landlines or huge mobile phones that cost the equivalent of almost £4000 in today’s money. There was no Google or LinkedIn, all diaries, addresses and contacts were kept on paper, in a rolodex or Filofax.
You could say my passion for this industry started young, my Dad worked for Xerox in the 70’s and I and can remember him bringing home a catalogue of merchandise for his sales incentives. The catalogue was full of merchandise to order, from sporting goods to furniture, clothes, jewellery, household goods, luggage and of course the ever-present range of watches - the age-old recognition tool for long service.
By the time I joined the workforce and started my career, merchandise was still the most prevalent mechanism for rewarding employees or customers. They would be sent a printed catalogue in the post and if they wanted to redeem for an item they would need to post off their order with proof of points.
Tracking and reporting on incentive programmes was a very manual task too. I can remember us monitoring printers over weekends to produce performance reports for a national food and beverage company, these were then collated and mailed by hand.
By the late 90s reward selection websites were introduced making the process of redeeming rewards quicker and simpler for participants. At the same time, catalogues were becoming costly - imagine having to reprint an entire catalogue each time an item was added or removed. The digital revolution was truly underway.
The internet would soon revolutionise incentive programmes for ever; enabling us to track progress, run promotions, create electronic reward mechanisms and most importantly enable participants to track their progress, see their rewards and redeem them all online.
The world of rewards and incentives continued to evolve and by 2007 there were over 70 gift cards available in the UK. Digitally distributed gift cards soon followed and today it’s possible to send a Select eCode
and personalised message almost instantly to a customer or employee that they can exchange the gift card or voucher of their choice. When you think about it times really have moved on from the days of physical catalogues and the associated lead times of the process of redeeming for a reward.
I’m not sure I had the same impact as Sir Tim on my world but by taking stock of the last 30 years it’s easy to see how much of an impact he has had on my everyday life. Now, with Generation Z entering the work place to join the Millennials there’s been a shift in employee and customer rewards; to provide maximum choice. This explains why multi brand vouchers and gift cards such as our Choice vouchers and Select eCodes are proving increasingly popular; they offer employees and customers countless choice whilst making them feel recognised, rewarded and valued.
What am I most excited about for the future? Continuing to increase the speed and choice with we are able to offer engagement solutions. No longer does it take months to launch a programme - it now takes days or even hours.