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Decision Guide for Loyalty and Incentive Full-Service Platform Solutions

Top Must-Have System Features

This informative guide will help organizations understand the top must-have SaaS system features for 2022 and beyond. As technology evolves and becomes more cross-functional, user-friendly, and accessible on mobile devices – not to mention the vulnerability to data breaches – participants have come to expect more from the incentive platforms they share their data with and are engaging on. Businesses and organizations are now more than ever faced with delivering program incentives on Platforms that can provide enhanced capabilities securely to motivate participants to achieve increased targeted outcomes. As technology changes and business requirements evolve, managing programs and rewards can become more and more a challenge.

White Label and Compliance Standards:

There is several legal tooling that all good loyalty and incentive solutions should meet. First, it should allow you to create clear and concise terms and conditions for your incentive program and the reward products that are redeemed. Another is data privacy, primarily if you operate in the GDPR or CAN-SPAM applicable region, check to understand if the provider complies. Select an incentive system that allows the company to handle customer data in a responsive, transparent way. Letting the organization set the opt-in consents and marketing permissions. Otherwise, you can expect messages to go straight to the participant’s spam folder. Finally, if you are white labeling, the solution needs to accommodate your privacy policy.

Modular Design:

A Platform built in a modular architecture with product platform strategies enables companies to build a broader portfolio of incentive program offerings for clients and client customers. The system can include niche products at an acceptable cost with less effort. 

Facing stiff competition and ever-accelerating development speed, companies have broadened their incentive program portfolios and offered more tailored solutions, even for narrow customer segments in centralized modular Platforms. The resulting benefit is the operational efficiencies and lower incentive and reward costs. But to capture these advantages, companies must choose the right incentive Platform design for their incentive program development function and manage it strategically.

Dynamic Segmentation:

Dynamic segmentation adds participants to the relevant segment based on their data attributes. Every participant customer that meets the requirements will be assigned to the appropriate segment and access the relevant loyalty and or incentive campaigns. Dynamic segmentation in Platform services helps program managers target specific customer segments in real-time, saving them time doing the segmentation manually. With the advanced set of filters, managers can split the customer base into fine-grained groups like “region X,” “offer X product,” “milestone X,” and so on.

Multi-Lingual:

Are you planning to operate incentive programs in foreign markets? If it is time to consider it, moving into new markets is not as easy as changing your reward mix currency from dollars to yen. With growth and expansion comes the essential steps of not only localizing your products, services, and website content – you now need to make sure your incentive and reward provider products and services have language capabilities as well.  

Localization has a clear impact on customer experience. And based on the research conducted by Gartner highlights the growing importance of CX. It states that 89% of companies would compete primarily based on customer experience by 2020. And eventually, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Having a loyalty and incentive Platform with language capabilities certainly will ensure that your customer’s experience (CX) is fluid and not compromised.

A multi-lingual loyalty rewards program has a better connection with customers. Localizing different touchpoints within an incentive program helps you blend in with your customers in the best way and establish an instant connection with them. No point in having a loyalty program in a language your customers don’t understand, right! You want to make the customers return for more and not abandon the program just because they don’t understand the program mechanics and offerings.

Loyalty programs translation that accommodates local languages is a significant step, but there are ways to streamline it. Translating a loyalty rewards program into other languages is not as daunting as it sounds. 

Security and Scalability:

Organizations must pay the same level of attention to the security needs of whether the incentive program has 100 participants or 10,000. Security is twofold now. Not only does the selected provider have to meet your industry regulatory security compliance, but it now must also meet the data and regulatory reward product security and compliance requirements.  

It is essential to ask yourself this question with every platform inquiry: “can this company’s software scale with my organization’s program and securely protect the data within it?” No program manager wants the headache of switching platforms once the scales, or worse, experiencing cybersecurity threats from having all participant data in one place.

Data security will continue to be a significant factor in 2022 and beyond and must be a top feature to research before deciding on an incentive software platform provider.

Launching the incentive program is the easiest part, the questions, requests, inevitable inquiries, and support tickets that follow are what’s painful. When scaling, managing inquiries like manual redemptions, prepaid card activations, and adding or expiration points are heavy for customer support agents. There are features of a good Platform software that can help shoulder the burden:

  • Personalized customer view for enhanced personalization and support. 
  • Transparent role-based workflow and user access for quick program adaptation.
  • Reporting and Audit logs for data integrity and insight into customer/user activities
  • Participant “My Account” with points/rewards displayed to take the heat off customer support agents.

Organizations need to consider whether the solution can scale horizontally and vertically for enterprise-level programs. The solution should have the ability to offer nested hierarchical segmentation with the ability to integrate with different HCM, CRM, and or other types of third-party services to create a complete end to end loyalty and incentive solution built to meet the needs of all kinds of internal and external programs and Client customers business requirements.

Hierarchical Design B2B2B2C+ :

Business markets are changing rapidly due to new technologies and operating in a more complex business environment. Today program managers need a Platform provider that can provide segmentation frameworks to sufficiently guide organizations through business-to-business (B2B), business-to-business-to-business (B2B2B), and business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) incentive program management.

Ask yourself:  Can the platform manage enterprise clients’ end-to-end incentive programs through a single platform, regardless of the individual program type or system license type? Confirm that the system under consideration supports enterprise-level client customer segmentation in support of client programs in your existing system. The answer to this question may be one of the deciding factors of who is selected.

The system should also leverage a multi-level account hierarchy capability and can semi-customize each enterprise client’s program components to a certain degree according to their specifications. Ensure that the system allows no data sharing between client accounts under an agency’s management.

Reporting and Analytics – ask for samples of templated reports to ensure hierarchy outputs meet the organization’s needs. Do they provide Ad Hoc reporting capabilities?  

Flexible API:

The simplest way to ensure a smooth data transfer between different systems and services is to use a flexible incentive and loyalty API.  

With a robust and developer-friendly API in place, you only need to integrate your existing services with new incentive and loyalty software.

Look for a provider with a RESTful API that can effortlessly incorporate incentive programs and reward management products and services into an existing client system (i.e., website, mobile application, 3rd Party application, point-of-sale system) or just about any other system with source code access. Whether you want to connect to a single application delivery module like point-based accruals, reward redemptions, and gift card processing or a comprehensive Platform solution – to deploy an SSO service you need an accommodating connection with the provider RESTful API. While maintaining day-to-day internal business requirement strategies, the existing system leverages the incentive providers Platform services.

The main point is – working with a flexible API, company software developers can integrate from any compatible technology to a loyalty incentive platform.

Self Service Participant Portal:

Whether the participant SSO into the Portal or they log in, programs should be empowering participants to view their current points, transaction history, and virtual reward wallet where they manage digital rewards and unredeemed products. By providing full transparency, the program keeps participants engaged and connected to the incentive program. Once they see the points they’re earning for their efforts, the activities they completed to get them, and what they’ve used them on in the past, it drives the longevity of the program and the overall adoption rate. This gives them the information to reduce administrative support demands and keep the program running smoothly.

Apart from account management and development effort, running loyalty and incentive reward programs requires support from customer agents. Somebody must answer the participant questions related to terms of conditions and rewards. To reduce the cost to handle this task, your rewards program system should provide participants with an easy way to monitor their performance and to redeem rewards. A customer portal that allows for self-service, or a digital wallet integrated with your program web services, where the customers see their progress and previous rewards, is a smart solution.

The goal is to optimize the participants their time and effort within their portal allow for a better understanding of the program and increasing the willingness to participate.

Dynamic Notification:

A great feature of an excellent Platform is reminders. To avoid being accused of spamming your participants, you should send relevant and informational notifications up and beyond regular transactional communication about your reward program details or their progress. Triggered reminders such as added points, monthly point balance, and the expiration of points are based on real-time customer attributes. They are timely displayed non-intrusively on a device of choice.

Tier Management:

No two companies’ loyalty and incentive Platforms operate the same. A robust database and flexible scripting logic are essential for calculating incentive thresholds and guiding behavioral outcomes.   

Ensure your incentive platform can automatically calculate points with multipliers or tiers so your program design doesn’t get rewritten post-launch. Participants can earn points on the same transaction with “Multiple Payouts” when a program allows for multiple participants, an essential feature for teams working together on complex sales.

Multiple payouts are a feature that is often hard to come by in the current incentive software marketplace. If your program allows sales distributed evenly between the team or for numerous salespeople to team up and split a sale’s points, this is an essential piece to your program’s successful integration with a platform.

Rules Management:

Good incentive and loyalty solutions will let you set up granular program validation rules. The proposed system should not have its rules hard-coded – meaning the rules cannot be built static – they should be dynamic and change as you learn more about your participants and accommodate overlay and special promotions.

Some standard types of rules to look for:  

Customer attributes – Who can participate – for example, only members of your organization can participate.

Program Period – When can they participate – for example, valid participants can become the only participant during a specified timeframe.

Frequency – How often can they participate – for example, valid participants can only claim a specified number of offers during the program.

Purchase attributes – Purchase thresholds – for instance, only valid participants who have purchased $2000 in products can become loyalty program members and or move to a different program tier.

Claim/order structure and volume attribute – For example, only member accounts with above 1,000 points can make a loyalty points redemption.

Overlay Events – For instance, participants who attended an optional webinar get 50 additional recognition credits.

Google Analytics:

Google Analytics is an interface that can be implemented free. Your incentive provider should have the ability to drop Google’s JavaScript tracking code onto the incentive web service pages to collect data about your website users and their interactions with the site. Several vital metrics include new vs. returning visitors, page views, sessions, and tracked bounce rates. The valuable analytics data collected will uncover trends and insights about your incentive program. 

Analytics helps us understand what users do, what motivates them, and why behavior changes over time. The more insights on our participants, the more informed real-time decisions we can make to improve behavioral outcomes.  

The importance of analytics is that the importance of specific data is continually changing and varies by program. The most common primary data buckets for a web-based incentive program are Participant Enrollment, Claim Activity, and Award Redemptions to simplify this process.

Incentive changes on impulse rather than data are more often the norm. By analyzing participant behaviors, managers better identify which programs work and can determine what changes are needed to drive engagement and improve performance on those that don’t.

Whether you implement a targeted communication or a new registration spiff, change to an incentive program, keep it alive and top-of-mind. Be proactive in making data-driven recommendations.

File Upload:

Using an upload feature is a fantastic feature to have available on a Platform. This feature can accommodate:

API is not used for updates

The system is not set up for SSO functionality

It is a great way to accept point credits and debits, participant status changes, and rewards issuance or batch. Say goodbye to endless email attachments, the chance for manual file errors by skipping extra steps, and creating a streamlined, one-step process.

Global Reward Catalog:

Offering a quality catalog of highly responsive awards covering geographic regions, social, and demographic attributes can profoundly affect the engagement and longevity of your incentive program and the lifetime of the brand. The correct catalog should include a mix of merchandise, name brand gift cards, experiential, and Visa prepaid reward cards. Product offerings appearing in a marketplace should align with the audience location, type, earn rate, and product values.

Take the time to investigate what kind of reward options products and services are available in the catalog. Is the catalog processed in real-time and integrated with suppliers or is the fulfillment manual? If the answer is a manual, limited selection of gift cards and merchandise from a handful of brands, it’s time to look elsewhere. While looking for reward management operations software, you are likely to come across two solutions types.

Points Calculation Engine:

One must-have feature is a points-based incentive system. It encourages clients, customers, and employees to take specific actions to earn points exchanged for reward products and services offered by the sponsoring organization. For instance, a participant may need to earn 500 points to earn 100% of their quarterly bonus. This incentive marketing scheme can apply to departments or across entire companies.

In some ways, a points-based incentive system is like a consumer loyalty rewards program. If you spend time making purchases or buying ten items, you receive a coupon or a free drink. With points-based incentive programs, instead of purchases, participants accomplish specific goals such as completing online surveys, walking 10,000 steps a day, selling a particular brand, achieving certifications, or attending industry events. 

Points-based systems can further incentivize participants to make progress on many goals simultaneously. It can help drive performance toward a specific target while at the same time driving behavior to increase sales by three new accounts a quarter. A points-based incentive program can reward employees for performing any of several actions that fit your company’s business objectives.  

Points-based systems can be valuable tools for increasing retention, performance, and satisfaction. The right Platform provider can simultaneously run multiple points programs with different marketing schemes and point burn rates.

Multiple Award and Redemption Delivery Endpoints:

Incentive and loyalty Platform providers who can simultaneously run multiple delivery mechanisms to issue rewards to participants in one end-to-end solution is the goose that laid the golden egg. There are only a few providers out there that can provide this service, and when they do, typically they work with an enterprise-level client base. Work with a client who will provide this service no matter the size of your incentive.   

Points – Points are accumulated and exchanged for rewards. The programs and or points may or may not expire. They are used in loyalty and incentive programs and discussed in detail above.

Codes – Codes are stored value tokens issued for a one-time redemption redeemable for a single reward or from a selection. The program and tokens may or may not expire. They are used in loyalty and incentive programs and distributed on collateral, product packaging, mail, or email.

Bulk & Batch – Reward and incentive file transfer via API or file upload to process and fulfill large batch of orders or rewards at one time. Orders are processed and sent out for delivery simultaneously via mail or email.

Auto Redemption – A program that issues a single reward SKU to a participant on a schedule. Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly interval schedule.

SKU Triggered – A program that can have one or more reward product SKU’s but is not scheduled and must have an “activity” happen for the SKU/s to trigger. The Client can trigger SKU’s, or SKU’s can be set up to trigger based on activity completion by the Client.

Sweepstakes and Instant Win Games – tools to create sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways. Ask the provider if the games can be leveraged in the points-based program. The company should be able to provide concept design, co-branding, legal terms, setup, and administration, along with helping you determine which game solution will work best for you.

Suppose an organization requires some if not all the above redemption delivery endpoints, in that case, they are likely working with several vendors and managing several single application incentive solutions. 

Managing several vendors while scaling, the organization is not taking advantage of operational efficiencies, lower incentive and reward costs, and accessing better real-time insights that a full-service Platform would provide.

Reporting Dashboard:

Reporting is a program manager’s best friend. The reporting dashboard gives the relevant metrics in an organized view to track the results and trends of the incentive program, all in real-time. Systems should provide the ability to see essential metrics like which award options are chosen, what sales activities are redeemed for points, and overall participant enrollment is an added plus. Providing relevant information in real-time makes the difference between long-term success and failure. Don’t forget to ask about custom ad hoc reporting.

At All Digital Rewards, our job is to make your job easier and help you succeed with your business objectives. We built our proprietary incentive platform, RewardSTACK, with these top features in mind. Customization requirements are welcome. If you have questions in general about incentive software (not just ours) or would like a demo of RewardSTACK, don’t hesitate to contact us at 866-415-7703, ext. 2, for a no-obligation introduction to our services and access to our 2022 Incentive Technology Buyers Guide.