One cannot help but notice the tremendous change in how people shop and what they shop for, and all evidence points to an increased desire for experiences – people are spending more of their discretionary dollars on dining out and travel than they are on things, if department store sales figures are any indication. Over the last few few years, there have been a number of new experiential offerings in the rewards & recognition space, and some suppliers have reported rapid growth. But there’s no indication yet that they’ve revolutionized the marketplace in the same way as retail gift cards did 20 years ago.

That said, the concept of experience is critical for rewards to have the desired impact on recipients, their significant others and others in the organization, as Mary Kay Cosmetics has demonstrated for decades in the way it creates experiences out of rewards. In other words, the concept of “experiential” in the rewards and recognition business doesn’t just mean offering people balloon trips over the desert; it’s about making each reward experience – whether a watch, fit bit, or weekend getaway – something memorable in the way it’s specifically selected for that person, how the appreciation is conveyed and to whom.

In the Mary Kay line of thinking, every award is an experience for the way it is selected, presented, and communicated, so much so that these awards become an invaluable branding tool that significantly reduces the need for traditional, expensive marketing and advertising.

I would suggest that the engagement movement will spur an interest in how to maximize the impact of rewards presented to top performers – customers, distribution partners, employees and vendors – as more organizations understand the value of building long-lasting relationships with the people critical to success.

Written by Bruce Bolger