We All Like Rewards, But Do They Work in Marketing?

Opinion: Brands can boost visibility without breaking their advertising budgets

Rewards-based marketing is still an emerging tactic for many brands RichVintage/iStock

Rewards are a time-tested, effective way to motivate people: Think about the child who will clean dishes, vacuum the house and tidy their room just for a few allowance dollars.

We love receiving rewards, especially when the work necessary to secure whatever object or compensation is being offered is simple or convenient. This drive and love of “free stuff’ is exactly what makes rewards-based marketing, particularly on social media, such a great tactic to engage the everyday consumer and incentivize them to share your brand message.

We’ve seen social media grow as a preferred platform, with studies from Deloitte confirming that about 47 percent of millennial consumers trust social media recommendations when making their purchase decisions.

It started with celebrities highlighting brand sponsorships, and then influencers came into their own through paid and unpaid product recommendations. But now, consumers are taking a stronger role in promoting their favorite products on social media—and marketers have found that this is the key to pushing for closing sales.

Who would you trust more when deciding to buy a new gadget, beauty product or book: a celebrity who you’re aware has been paid, or your friend/cousin/sibling/etc.? There are many everyday consumers who are willing to tweet, pin a brand item or share a Facebook post to their follower if given some form of incentive. From free songs or book downloads, to gift cards or coupon codes, the value of sharing a new product with their audiences far exceeds the cost of the incentive.

Why incentives provide value

Incentives are an easy and often cost-effective way to gain social shares that help to get your message or product out there. Getting a new album or book launch to go viral is what every marketing team wishes for. But in order to build a healthy buzz around a product, you have to have people talking about it on social media. To do that, you use rewards and incentives.

In many cases with social media marketing, brands focus on the top few social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. While it’s important to boost traffic and get consumers to share information for rewards on these high visibility sites, there are actually close to 200 social networks out there that brands can leverage to further spread the word, and let’s not forget other valuable tools, including email and text messaging, which can also be used within a social media marketing campaign.

Rewards-based marketing allows you to expand your reach to potential consumers by tapping into audiences across multiple platforms.

For example, while an influencer or an ad may cost a certain amount of budget dollars to appear across a few platforms, brands can add multiple goodies to their rewards lockers for consumers who choose to share across a wider scope of their networks. This helps boost visibility not only on the main websites, where content is often pushed down by paid advertisements, but also within other more niche networks, allowing brands to reach a wider network of people.

Not only is the potential for widespread exposure greater with rewards-based marketing, but the incentives are also low-cost and easy to provide to consumers digitally as a “thank you” for sharing a code, link or other source of information.

Whether they’re coupons, music downloads, digital movie files and trailers, sweepstakes, ebooks, etc., since they’re digital, brands don’t have to worry about printing or shipping costs, and instead can give consumers access to songs or books for sharing with 10 to 20 people within their networks. More exposure means more potential to purchase and, with this tactic, brands are increasing their odds. And for the consumer, the more they share, the more rewards they earn.

What’s next for rewards-based marketing?

Rewards-based marketing is still an emerging tactic for many brands, but its advancements are constantly evolving to cater to new demands for measurement, immediate rewards and new or emerging platform measurement. In 2018, we expect to see many new innovations, including:

  • An added push at the point of sale: While online retail has continued to grow, brick-and-mortar stores are still our go-to at Grabbr for those looking to immediately have the product in their hands. Interactive, rewards-based marketing at the point of sale will only continue to expand, as “shelf talkers”—visual displays that distinguish products from similar competitors—integrate social for immediate rewards. These shoppers are looking for immediate satisfaction, so shouldn’t their rewards be immediate, as well? Whether it’s a coupon for a link share, or a contest entry, shoppers will be incentivized right at the store shelf.
  • Mobile marketing and scan codes will become a staple in our everyday lives: We use our mobile devices to check everything and perform everyday tasks, so naturally, if there is a new product out that looks appealing, the first thing we generally do is Google it. To take advantage of this, more brands are starting to incorporate rewards-based advertising into the everyday scenery around us to drive product demand. This includes mobile displays on semi-trucks that offer QR codes, SMS response and Bluetooth beacons on board mobile displays and using individuals as walking advertisements through temporary tattoos and ink-pad stamps at events. These help to get the word out and offer rewards to the masses who are willing to share products and links with their networks.
  • Tracking from ad to purchase: Measurement is extremely important in determining the actual value of a campaign and attributing sales to a specific ad or effort. Incentives-based marketing is no different, as we’ve seen recently with major movie distributors. Getting consumers to leave their homes and head to the movies has become increasingly difficult, particularly with so many streaming services at the ready. As this marketing tactic has grown, it’s enabled tracking for movie marketing, from the initial placement of the ad all the way to the actual ticket purchase. Through specific billboards, social media posts, posters, etc., marketing teams are now aware of which ads and which social shares are actually leading to sales.

Rewards-based marketing is a valuable tool for any marketer looking to gain a significant amount of exposure and provide campaign measurements, all for a lower cost compared with traditional social media marketing efforts. The potential for marketing with incentives is great, as we know that consumers are willing to share with their networks in return for compensation. By continually tapping into this drive, brands are able to boost their visibility without breaking their advertising budgets.

Herman DeBoard is chief marketing officer at social referral marketing platform Grabbr.