Corporate incentives a strong priority for Canadian companies as economy
improves

Survey: Majority of Canadian executives feel corporate incentives create competitive edge

TORONTO, June 16 /CNW/ - As Canada continues to emerge from the recent economic downturn, Canadian executives are placing a high level of importance on the development and implementation of corporate incentive programs and are allocating their budgets accordingly.

These findings are the result of the inaugural Canadian Incentive Trends Outlook for 2010-2011 which surveyed Canadian executives from marketing services organizations, incentives firms, and corporations. Conducted in May 2010 by Berkeley Payment Solutions, Canada's leading provider of Visa prepaid corporate incentive programs, the survey included companies of all sizes and across many sectors from financial services and consumer packaged goods to telecommunications, government, and charities.

"As the Canadian economy continues to grow into the second quarter, and as consumer confidence and the job market improve, Canadian businesses are continuing to seek more effective ways to attract and retain customers and employees in a cost-effective and personalized way," says David Eason, CEO, Berkeley Payment Solutions. "To do so, high-performing companies are increasingly implementing innovative incentive programs that are carefully tailored to their specific, and often evolving, business goals and needs."

Canadian executives use corporate incentives to create competitive advantage

According to the survey, Canadian executives are recognizing the role incentives programs play in improving their business performance. Of survey respondents who were in a position to directly gage the broader business advantages of their incentives programs, a strong majority (86%) felt they gained a competitive edge over the competition as a result of the incentive programs they have implemented. In planning their programs for 2010, over three quarters (83%) of respondents indicated their 2010 incentive budgets either remained the same or increased, with only 17% noting a decrease, when compared to their 2009 budgets. As well, a strong majority (85%) of respondents revealed that the number of incentive programs they are running in 2010 is either remaining the same (48%) or increasing (37%).

Respondents identified a number of applications for their incentives program spend, including marketing programs (65%), sales programs (61%), employee programs (56%), and to a lesser extent in consumer (35%), rebate (23%), and channel (21%) programs. When asked why they implemented incentives programs, respondents noted that their program objectives were to increase sales (78%), motivate employees (61%), increase customer loyalty (57%), increase brand awareness (51%), support a product launch or promotion (50%), and retain employees (32%). The results showed that in many cases, individual companies have utilized incentives programs more than once to support various company initiatives and business objectives.

Prepaid corporate incentive cards ranked as top choice for delivering corporate incentives

When asked to rank the specific incentives they believe to be valued most by recipients, survey respondents indicated they are Visa, MasterCard, or American Express prepaid corporate incentive cards (74%), retail gift certificates (55%), individual travel (51%), and experiential events such concerts and special events (42%). Traditional incentives such as catalogue and company selected merchandise ranked extremely low at 9% and 4%, respectively.

"As companies search for cost-effective alternatives to manage and deliver reward and incentive programs, one of the best ways to motivate employees is to give them the flexibility and choice offered by a prepaid incentive card," said Mike Bradley, Head of Products, Visa Canada. "Prepaid incentive cards deliver efficiencies for businesses and enable them to provide an award the recipient can use how and where they choose."

"The specific rewards used in incentive programs, and the degree to which they are valued by recipients, will determine recipients' level of engagement, and ultimately program results," explains Eason. "And companies are realizing that one of the best and easiest ways to motivate customers, employees, and partners is to give them a reward that offers flexibility and choice."

Survey reveals disconnect between incentive preference expressed and actual incentives used

Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents believe prepaid corporate incentive cards are most valued by potential rewards recipients and contribute to other company goals. However, when asked what types of incentives they have issued for employee incentive programs, only half (50%) indicated they have issued prepaid corporate incentive cards. Furthermore, while only 4% of respondents identified company selected merchandise as most valued by recipients, one-fifth (20%) of respondents indicated that this is the primary incentive method they are actually using.

Canadian companies increased the use of incentive programs during the economic downturn

According to the survey, half (50%) of survey respondents reported increasing their use of prepaid corporate incentive cards amidst a time of economic uncertainty in the last year. During this period, Canpages, Canada's fastest growing local search firm, implemented an employee-focused Visa prepaid corporate incentive card program with the goal of increasing sales, standardizing employee rewards and incentives across their sales team, and developing a positive corporate culture. In the place of bonus checks, gift cards, and merchandise, Canpages employees received Visa prepaid corporate incentive cards, emblazoned with Canpages branding and loaded with reward dollars whenever performance goals were met.

"It was becoming impossible to anticipate the type of incentives that successfully motivated each individual member of our team, and as a result, we gave our employees the option to select their own rewards via a prepaid incentive card," explains Ryan D'Souza, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Canpages. "Our management team immediately found this approach to be more cost-effective than when we used to select employee rewards, and it allows us to focus on our core business and program results, while reducing the administrative burden previously associated with running these programs."

Canadian companies seeking to diminish perceptions of extravagance around incentives and rewards

According to Statistics Canada and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Canadian economy experienced record real GDP growth of 6% in the first quarter of 2010, twice the real GDP growth in the US, and well ahead of the G7 average in the same period. Yet at the same time, Canadian companies have, in many cases, retained more prudent spending practices that were adopted during the recession and sensitivity toward perceptions of company spending. According to the survey, almost three-quarters (74%) of organizations polled remain sensitive to internal and external perceptions of incentive program extravagance. Further to this, perceived optics around corporate incentives programs are tangibly impacting program design, with just over three-quarters (79%) of respondents confirming that perceptions of incentive program extravagance have had an impact on the types of incentive programs they offer.

About the Canadian Incentive Trends Outlook for 2010-2011

Berkeley Payment Solutions conducted the Canadian Incentive Trends Outlook for 2010-2011 to gain insight into the views and practices of Canadian companies with respect to the corporate incentives programs they implement. Conducted in May 2010, the survey polled 154 Canadian executives from marketing services organizations, incentives firms, and corporations. It included companies of all sizes and across numerous sectors from financial services and consumer packaged goods to telecommunications, government, and charities. The results of this survey will be released in two parts, with the second portion of the survey launching in the fall of 2010.

About Berkeley Payment Solutions

Berkeley Payment Solutions is a leading provider of Visa prepaid corporate incentive programs in Canada. Partnering with Visa and Scotiabank(R), Berkeley bridges the needs of a company's human resources, sales, and marketing departments with innovative financial services products to reduce the complexity and cost of implementing incentive, reward, and rebate programs. With clients across industries, Berkeley works with some of North America's largest companies, as well as rapidly growing small and medium-sized enterprises. For more information, visit www.berkeleypayment.com.

(R) Registered trademark of The Bank of Nova Scotia.

SOURCE BERKELEY PAYMENT SOLUTIONS

For further information: For further information: Gwen McGuire, Broad Reach Communications, 416-948-6500, gmcguire@broadreachcommunications.com

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