The Role of Rewards in Behavior Change

The Role of Rewards in Behavior Change

Rewards play a crucial role in changing behavior. It can be a marketer encouraging customers to buy more, a researcher getting participants to join a focus group, or a health professional wanting patients to change their habits. Each one is vying for our attention. We are bombarded with messages that we have learned to filter out.

Before, the quality of the content or the delivery mechanism was sufficient to elicit a response. That is no longer true. We are drowning in content all day long from every angle and aspect. We have developed sophisticated filters subliminally to avoid, ignore, and skip ads and marketing content. We use ad blockers and tune out the noise of advertising messages.

So, if you are offering rewards to your audience or market, how can you get them to even notice your message in the first place? Here are some best practices you can use to get people to act.

Make Rewards Relevant

Think WIFM, or “What’s in it for me?” People are more likely to choose to do something if it’s in their best interest. If the brain can subliminally see there may be something in it for them, then they may give you some incremental attention that allows the opportunity for your message to get through. In other words, make your rewards relevant.

Relevant means it’s meaningful and suitable for your audience. It is something that resonates with them and triggers a positive emotional response. So, while your rewards program should be tied to business outcomes, it must also be about what your audience values.

Make Rewards Achievable

The Role of Rewards in Behavior Change

Rewards programs often fail because people feel it will take a lot more time and effort to reach the goal to win the reward. To get your audience to engage in a particular behavior, you must make your program achievable. This means that they can complete the required goal, resulting in getting the reward. While you should not make your program mechanics too easy, you should not make it too complicated. Make it simple, understandable, and realistic from the enrollment process to reaching the goal.

You can also give your target audience a “head start” toward rewards in the form of a sign-up bonus or double points. This gives them the perception that they are closer to the goal, motivating them to complete it.  

Make Rewards Attractive 

No matter how achievable your rewards program is, the reward needs to excite your audience, or it will not work. Make it desirable. So, make your bonuses worth their time and effort.

You can make your rewards attractive by making them aspirational. A Caribbean cruise and brand-new golf clubs are more exciting than a discount on a phone bill and a brand-new toaster. This does not mean you should never offer lower-value rewards. Use tiered rewards that provide different levels of value.

Make Rewards Clear 

Your audience is unlikely to engage if your rewards are unclear and the mechanics are confusing. If your customers require a calculator to figure out your program, need a sales agent to explain it, or need to read through the fine print, you’ve already lost them.

Simplicity is key. Explain your rewards program in a single sentence or a simple formula to make it easy and quick to understand. Use visuals that lay out your points system or rewards structure.

Make Rewards Targeted 

The Role of Rewards in Behavior Change

You should be clear about which audience segment you target for your rewards program. This way, you are more likely to reach people that will respond to your offer. There are audience targeting options, especially in digital marketing, which are more accurate. Your customer relationship management system should also provide you with the correct data to target the right segment appropriately.

And remember to promote your rewards program on multiple channels. The rule of 7 in marketing states that it takes seven exposures to your marketing message or interactions with your brand before a prospect buys from you.

Offer Rewards That Work

Getting your rewards noticed is crucial in encouraging behavior change. And you will only be able to do that if you offer attractive and achievable rewards relevant to your audience in a way that is communicated clearly and targeted accurately.

Online Rewards designs and builds custom incentive and loyalty marketing programs with aspirational and exciting rewards that appeal to different market segments. Learn more about how we can help you with your reward solution.



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Online Rewards is a highly versatile and powerful incentive and loyalty marketing solutions provider.  Since its formation in 2002, Online Rewards has designed, developed, and supported global rewards and incentives programs across a variety of industries and applications.

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