An understanding of the impacts of COVID-19 on incentive programs, and how brands need to adapt go-to-market strategies
Right now, we’re in the midst of a historic, global pandemic that is impacting life and business as we know it. Brands are now faced with increased supply chain delays and closed dealerships, while consumers cut spending due to uncertainty. So why would we discuss incentive programs? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? One could look at it this way, but then we are missing out on huge opportunities. It’s key that channel leaders utilize this time to proactively improve program efficiencies for when we return to an equilibrium. Now is the time to think big picture. Now is the time to think about how incentive program design and marketing can set brands up for an easier recovery in months to follow.
Rebates: Are Consumers Still Buying?
Yes! Consumers are still purchasing, but they’re doing it differently and brands need to adapt. Consumers, now more than ever, are going online to close their own sale. They may not have access to a Sales Associate with the product knowledge they need to educate them on product specifications. Therefore, brands need to encourage Dealers to be online, providing consumers with the most accurate and robust information they need to make their decision.
In terms of rebates, consumers will ALWAYS be looking for a rebate. Brands need to ensure their digital and social advertising is the focus for the next few months. Saving budget on traditional media will help refocus efforts and could offset budget to make offers more aggressive to relieve financial strain on consumers.
Content must change as well. Now is the time to focus on humanizing your brand. Consumers are willing to listen to brands right now so long as messaging is sympathetic and relevant. It also needs to be delivered using the right digital channels. Brands need to be where their customers are and provide them with meaningful content, information and offers using the right digital tools.
People will always remember how brands made them feel
Companies also can use this time to leave a lasting impression in their channel and with their consumers based on the efforts they take to make them feel valued.
Philanthropy is something that must be considered. Brands are not only offering rebates for essential workers, but also developing donation strategies to help those most vulnerable. Showing that your brand cares will help propel positive sentiment and loyalty.
Channel Incentives: How do we help our channel?
The channel needs to feel like brands care about them right now. Offering increased earning potential for reward programs, regardless of uptake, will demonstrate that brands genuinely care about their well being. Those who sell your products are highly impacted during this time. They are all working diligently to increase their digital footprint. We are seeing dealer websites and product fulfillment all at the forefront. Brands can help fuel this content with the following:
- Creating digital banners calling out your rebate.
- Developing ad mats for digital campaigns that your dealers can put into action quickly, driving consumers their online properties.
- Providing Dealers with social content about your rebate programs is imperative.
If it is not your content their site is focused on it is your competitor, because they took the opportunity to fuel their channel with the tools to market their programs.
Channel Incentives Program Design
The last thing anyone needs is a program that adds frustration and complexity. Consumers are anxious and need uncomplicated programs that don’t add to an already high level of stress. However, consumers will listen to easily digestible information communicated with empathy. We see a lot of package programs across verticals, which is a great way to drive volume purchases, but in designing such programs brands need to pivot to reduce layers of complexity. Programs should be intuitive for the consumer to self-educate themselves on program requirements to purchase online. Sales Associates & Dealers are also human. They also need seamless, simple program design and requirements. We expect significant increases in channel incentive and rebate offers throughout Q2 and Q3 2020 to help with recovery efforts of market share.
So, when designing incentive programs during COVID-19, brands need to ask themselves the following:
- Will this program give people hope, happiness and empathy?
- Will this program drive a positive brand opinion on how we look out for “people”?
- Will this program be too complex adding to anxiety in an already anxious world?
The world craves empathy right now. Channels are open to listening. How we react and add value to our consumers, Dealers & Sales Associates will have a long-term impact on brand opinion. Utilizing incentive programs as a method to show a brand cares about all stakeholders is imperative to drive recovery following COVID-19.