How to Fine-Tune Incentive Programs to Improve the Customer Experience

Reward-based promotions outperform discount-based promotions by more than 42%, studies show

Automotive dealerships and service centers have long seen the sales and bottom-line-boosting value in providing rewards and rebates to customers. These incentive programs often encourage test drives, future purchases, or service work, and also create a positive experience that leaves customers feeling satisfied.


Rewards-based promotions are an effective, desirable way to drive these behaviors while improving the customer experience. In fact, reward-based promotions have been shown to outperform discount-based promotions by more than 42%, per a 2015 Ifeelgoods study.

Customers’ preferences for redemption options, ease of program participation, reward variety, and fast delivery should be considered when designing an incentive program. Take them into account while also taking advantage of advancements in technology, rebate and promotion validation intelligence, and reward delivery.

Whether the program is designed for test drives or rebate offers to drive sales of cars, service, and parts, here’s how to deliver a better incentive experience.

Provide the access customers want

Incentive programs should be omni-channel. A recent Hawk Incentives study found that 78% of consumers prefer digital rebate submission over mail.

Incentive programs like rebates and loyalty and other rewards provide tremendous engagement and data opportunities. Don’t make the mistake of shoehorning everyone into a mobile app or mail-in experience, however. Your incentive program should be nonlinear, and offer choices.

Create ease of participation

Data is a key component of any great incentive or rewards program—but don’t be greedy. A simple experience can create the opportunity to dramatically expand customer engagement.

Consumers want to engage, but don’t be burdensome in the information you collect. Try to curate the redemption experience on their behalf so the process is as simple and painless as possible.

With a simple submission, 81% of customers are likely to engage further—providing a review, referring a friend, joining your loyalty program, or opting in.

Offer reward variety

Variety is the spice of life, and an important component to reward program success. Consumers want to choose their reward, and how it’s delivered. A reward card can be delivered via physical card, email, and even transferred to a mobile wallet.

But consumer preference varies widely by application, value, and demographic. An effective program must offer reward choices for participants in order to satisfy a potentially diverse recipient group.

Offering the right reward creates additional opportunity for positive brand engagement, bounceback, and continued engagement.

Speed of delivery

You can improve the odds of consumers associating a positive customer experience with your dealership by providing rapid rewards. The Hawk Incentives study reveals today’s customers feel the ideal reward is delivered in less than a week.

Technological innovations now provide near-instant rewards, allowing customers to redeem easily, sometimes with just a few thumb swipes on a smartphone. This can mean a faster, more rewarding experience, which better engages your customers and drives desired post-purchase behavior.

In the competitive automotive landscape, consumers have come to expect incentives, so differentiating and optimizing your incentive program is key.

Top incentive solution providers deliver nimble software-as-a-service technology, and reward strategy and insights that allow you to adapt to consumer preferences and create a positive customer experience.

Whether your dealership is large or small, it’s important to design a better incentive experience to delight customers, and yield strong engagement and ROI.

Theresa McEndree is vice president of marketing for Hawk Incentives, a Blackhawk Network business. She brings more than 15 years of B2B marketing expertise to her role, overseeing product marketing, content and insights, demand generation, and creative efforts for the organization.

Theresa McEndree

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