The Critical Role of Today's Master Fulfillment Company
As the engagement field continues to progress, and organizations begin to absorb the considerable research demonstrating the benefits of personalizing and customizing rewards & recognition experiences, the role of the Master Fulfillment Company has never been greater. These are the wholesalers and drop-shipping companies that not only inventory the leading brands and other awards used in incentive, recognition and loyalty programs, but also the companies capable of transforming rewards from cash equivalents into memorable experiences.In February 2017, RRN will publish a complete guide to Master Fulfillment Companies and their capabilities. Here’s a preview outlining what reward-users and resellers need to know about this critical industry category.
- Personalized, Customized Awards and Online Catalogs
- Distinguishing Rewards from Compensation
- The Critical Role of MFCs
Personalized, Customized Awards and Online Catalogs
Despite considerable research proving that the more personalized the award selection, presentation and experience, the more impact it will have in terms of promoting positive emotions, organizational values and task value, only about 10% of awards are delivered in any kind of personal way based on an informal survey earlier this year of leading Master Fulfillment Companies. Informal discussions with the incentive and loyalty companies that sell these programs confirm that clients generally don’t see the value of paying the extra few dollars per shipment that customization requires. This oversight flies in the face of the intense focus marketers now place on creating one-to-one experience with customers. When it comes rewards, most are still selecting and presenting them with little customization or personalization.
Paying attention to selection, presentation, personalization, customization and the “experiential” aspect of rewards is today made much easier by the proliferation of several dozen leading wholesalers and fulfillment companies that specialize in inventorying desired rewards in every category, drop-shipping rewards with personalized letters and customization, and even creating reward experiences at your company’s designated location or in their facilities in the form of warehouse run-throughs. These companies specialize in the rewards, recognition and loyalty marketplace and are generally eager to demonstrate their ability to maximize the reward experience in multiple ways.
The Master Fulfillment Company expert can also assist with helping organizations better merchandise their programs. That means featuring different types of awards or new products each day or week on the program home page and in communications to excite people about the possibilities. These can include specials, featured products, or unique packages in the same way retailers merchandise their catalogs to keep people coming back to dream or redeem.
Distinguishing Rewards from Compensation
The scientific basis behind using non-cash rewards is to clearly distinguish rewards for recognition purposes, yet most organizations use cash equivalents – i.e., online catalogs, retail gift cards and shopping codes – with little to no personalization. While the variety of rewards has exploded since the emergence of the Internet, the way they’re presented and delivered has changed little – so much so that an award to someone from a company for performance or loyalty usually comes into the home along with all of the other retail boxes consumers now routinely receive from online retailers.
While participants benefit from the selection and speed of online shopping, little is done to distinguish the award shopping experience from any other, so that the entire purpose of creating a memorable experience, making people feel valued, generating a buzz in the family and even the organization via social media gets overlooked. Because very few people in management and marketing have any serious training in the science of rewards & recognition, it’s easy to overlook the research and go with the lowest cost, easiest solution.
The Critical Role of MFCs
Master Fulfillment Companies go beyond the traditional retailer wholesaler or drop-shipper by specializing in the specific needs of the rewards & recognition marketplace. While in selective parts of the rewards and recognition industry it’s still possible to work directly with leading brands, in many cases those departments lack the resources to accommodate the demands of companies serious about creating a meaningful award experience.
Based on an analysis of available research (see The Art and Science of Engaging Rewards for a complete summary), the keys to distinguishing rewards & recognition from compensation include:
Selection. This involves identifying rewards, or collections of rewards, that demonstrate an understanding of the audience and the brand message your organization is seeking to convey. Both research and logic support the same methodology one would use to select a gift for a loved one on a special occasion. Employees, distribution partners, customers and other valued members of your organization’s community likely will appreciate even more than your family members that extra special attention, because in the case of business it’s so often unexpected.
Presentation. The way an award is received is just as important as the award itself. Obviously, it’s not possible in every case to personally present an award, but any way the presentation can be personalized with a face-to-face thank you – or even by phone or email – the more it will resonate with the recipient. The presentation might take place at one’s cubicle, place of business, or at another event. The more the recipient feels human warmth behind the award, the more it generally will be appreciated, a sentiment that can resonate in the family, workplace, or even on social media.
Personalization/Customization. Even if an award can’t be practically delivered in person, little extra expense or effort is generally required to transform an award from a retail equivalent into a special memorable experience. In addition to using a special box customized and personalized with your company’s logo, technology now makes it easy to include personalized letters and customized packing slips so that the recipient has little doubt about who sent the award and why. Some Master Fulfillment Companies even offer “white glove” home delivery, installation and setup of electronic devices, appliances or other items that might require some extra work to unpack and install.
Experiential. Over the last few years, a variety of so-called “experiential” award options have sprung up. These not only include travel and event services that enable people to craft experiences they could rarely do on their own, but also branded reward “boutiques” set up at events where participants can not only select awards but meet with brand representatives who can provide fittings, if appropriate, and/or professional advice. These boutiques add significant perceived value to events because they provide an experience most people cannot have on their own and oftentimes enable recipients to walk out with a specially selected item they can carry away or have shipped to their homes.
Who makes all this possible? Master Fulfillment Companies. Stay tuned for RRN’s special report on Master Fulfillment Companies coming in February 2017. In the meantime, you can find many of the leading Master Fulfillment Companies at the upcoming Rewards & Recognition Expo in Chicago, April 16-18 and on the RewardsRecognitionNetwork.com website.
For personal assistance in finding the right Master Fulfillment Company, contact:
914-591-7600, ext. 238
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Contact: Eric Anderson, Director of Sales