Magazine article Marketing

Voucher Values

Magazine article Marketing

Voucher Values

Article excerpt

VOUCHER VALUES

Voucher mania continues to rage in the high street as more and more retailers plunge into the battle to woo the corporate customer.

New entrants into the market like Sainsbury are already claiming quick success from voucher schemes. Whitbread, Forte Leisure and Grand Met have all rebranded their products. Quality of service and presentation are all important now, to the delight of the corporate customer, for whom vouchers can provide an ideal solution to motivation problems requiring low-cost, low-profile incentives.

The market is not, however, unlimited and more and more creativity is being employed to get 1001 uses out of a voucher. Over the last two years particularly, intermediaries in the business have responded to the bigger supply with improved multi-option vouchers, personalised award cheques which can be exchanged for other vouchers, and voucher shops where clients can buy a selection. There are even vouchers which can be redeemed against making dreams come true. Today's choice appears unlimited.

Ironically, choice doesn't seem to be such a big issue with the recipients of vouchers. Grass Roots, the company behind the multi-option Bonusbonds, says that travel is still the most popular item against which vouchers are redeemed. Another intermediary, The Voucher Index, offers its clients the opportunity to exchange an award "cheque" for vouchers from over 140 outlets. But most people choose safe options like Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Safeway and BP. Around 40 of the 140 options the company offers are hardly ever touched, according to managing director Tony Reid.

A motivational idea has got to be evocative to work and the thought behind a scheme is as important as offering the biggest choice. As James King, director of marketing development at Maritz Performance Improvement points out, an employer must take care to make the vouchers an award, not an expected part of a salary package.

"Applying the idea of vouchers to, say, staff who meet customers when you have a relatively small budget and want lots of small awards is easy to administer, inexpensive and instantly conveys value to the participant," he says. "But we would recommend vouchers as a recognition award in this case rather then anything else - a lot of customer-facing staff are part-time and not necessarily highly paid, and you don't want a voucher scheme to supplant their wages."

Vouchers are, after all, just money and the whole key to motivating with them is to create excitement.

"The trick with consumer promotions using vouchers is selling sizzle," says Jim Addison of sales promotion consultancy CPM, which handles distribution of Marks & Spencer vouchers. "A voucher is a voucher is a voucher and there are even sales promotion companies guilty of saying vouchers are boring.

"You have to get the message across about what it delivers, the choice it offers and the goods. But if you've got a good creative scheme, vouchers can be fun, and a 10 [pounds] Tesco voucher becomes a candlelight dinner or a family picnic. I believe both agencies and clients alike should make more of vouchers, using their known motivational value and ease of administration but adding the sexy sizzle as well."

Addison illustrates the example of added sizzle with a recent scheme devised by CPM for Avis, aimed at getting travel agents to sell Avis hire cars to customers, in preference to rival rental firms. The promotion was called Superlooks and ran in two stages. Agents booking Avis cars - they were mostly young women - won Storehouse vouchers and at the same time qualified for a prize draw with assorted higher value voucher awards, among them Vidal Sassoon hairdressing appointments and the top prize, a "Colour Me Beautiful" day. "We chose Storehouse vouchers because we wanted to offer them a wide range - Mothercare for the young mums, Habitat for the young marrieds and BHS for clothes," says Addison. …

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