June 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Rewards that Click - June 2000 Current Issue
June 2000

Rewards that Click

These Web sites do more than sell goods; they help planners organize their programs, from setup to fulfillment

By Lisa Grimaldi

In the past three years, dozens no, hundreds of cyber gift sites have been launched. So it’s no surprise many of these companies have targeted corporate purchasers. More recently, a number of retailers have launched sites geared specifically to the incentive market.

To lure more planners and sponsors of incentives to their Web pages, some are doing more than offering goods they’re promising to help customers do their jobs. Among the value-added services they’re using to entice customers often at no cost are online incentive program setups and program consultants. M&C profiles these virtual motivation emporiums. (Note: For all sites profiled, Web addresses are the company name preceded by www.)
If they happened upon this site in the six months it has been up and running, planners would have found “a one-stop solution for all business gift needs” as the site bills itself but little to distinguish it from the dozens of Web companies that offer upscale gifts, such as crystal, leather goods and pens, for the corporate market. But the site is fast evolving, targeting the particular needs of those who purchase corporate gifts and rewards.

Program support: Planners register and set up a password-protected account. Those who wish to plan an online incentive program are guided through a series of 25 screens to select the program particulars, such as time frame, measurement criteria and gifts for each performance level, explains Michael Eiring, president of the New York City-based company. Those who prefer human contact can work with one of’s 24 sales reps to set up a customized online incentive program. The company also has customer reps, who can be reached via e-mail or phone, to provide assistance.

Planners submit contest information to the site on a weekly or monthly basis; an online standings report is then posted. Participants can access the standings (using their company’s password) to see how they’re faring. When the program ends, posts a final standings report, then e-mails the winners with a selection of prizes from which to choose.

All rewards and gifts which range from luggage to golf equipment are shipped by directly to recipients. Other than the costs of prizes and shipping, there is no charge for setting up and tracking programs.

Extras: Among other free enhancements expected to be available this month: an online “solutions” library of articles, profiles of industry leaders and reviews of business books. Planners uncertain about what type of gift to give or which rewards will work best can get expert advice from Jacqueline Whitmore, president of the Protocol School of Palm Beach (Fla.); Whitmore’s monthly column also was scheduled to debut at the site this month. Also promised: chat forums with incentive and motivation industry experts.

Coming attractions: Next month, is scheduled to launch an ambitious second phase that will make it a one-stop shop for running merchandise-based incentive and employee service reward programs. The company says it will greatly expand its portfolio of corporate gifts to include 700 products from 45 brand-name vendors.

Phone: (212) 755-3878
Launched last July, this San Francisco-based firm offers an array of business-occasion and corporate gifts. The company warehouses and ships most of the gifts and rewards; the exceptions are perishable items and several high-end merchandise brands that are shipped directly from the purveyors. In April, the site added online incentive program setup and administration to its list of client services. “Most of our clients have clear business objectives for their incentive programs, but they need an easier way to administer and track their programs,” says David Charlton, senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development.

Program support: hosts the Web site for clients’ incentive programs; its specialists create the online program for the planner according to the desired parameters (goals, duration, e-mail updates for participants, etc.). A support staff is available once the program is up and running. There is no cost for setup or administration.

For rewards, BravoGifts creates customized electronic incentive merchandise catalogs for individual participants and/or different winner levels.

Extras: The site also gives customers etiquette and gift-giving advice from two experts: Lisa Mirza, a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the director of The AML Group, an etiquette firm; and Andrea Claster, a gift consultant who is frequently featured on daytime talk shows.

Coming attractions: At press time, the site didn’t allow for planners to create their own programs online. Charlton says the modules are being created, and the self-design function is expected to be available in the near future.

Phone: (888) 560-1999
“We saw the writing on the wall. Eventually, every incentive program will be on the Web; they’re so much easier to administer,” explains Adele Aguirre, vice president of marketing for Putnam, N.Y.-based That’s why Taico Incentive Gift Service, a merchandise incentive firm, launched IncentiWeb. com in 1998 as a separate corporate gift and incentive business.

Program support: can run several types of online incentive programs, including traditional sales programs as well as more detailed varieties that incorporate different channels in distribution and marketing. Planners can administer the program themselves by e-mailing contest standings to the site’s database; the information sent to participants is automatically updated. They also can determine whether participants will see only their own contest score and standing via personalized e-mail or standings for the entire group via an electronic bulletin board.

Winners select their rewards from’s online catalog of more than 5,000 gifts, including individual incentive travel packages. Rewards are based on the traditional point redemption system. The site handles shipping products to the winners.

The cost for setting up the home page for a client’s online incentive program is $750. For initial feed of database information, charges $400; contest updates, which most clients request monthly, cost $300 to $400 each. The site offers technical support as well as in-house incentive experts who can assist with questions or problems.

Phone: (914) 228-4438
This site, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and launched in January, offers an eclectic mix of tools for incentive planners and human resources executives: online incentive program administration; performance improvement background and advice; and, through a recent merger with e-learning specialist, training courses in 800 topics.

Program support: On the incentive front, designs Web-based programs similar to those of its competitors. But this site has the capability to create programs above and beyond traditional sales contests. According to Eric Webb, vice president of marketing, programs have been designed to measure and award points based on how well sales reports are filled out, or to reward telemarketers for the number of calls they make, rather than the number of people with whom they speak. “These systems are for companies that aren’t just going after sales; they want to correct problems, too,” says Webb.

Participants get points for all of’s programs. Points are redeemed directly from brand-name online retailers via direct links to their sites. “We don’t warehouse the rewards or get involved with shipping,” says Webb. “We only get involved when there’s a problem.” The company also provides technical support.

In addition to letting participants access their standings or redeem points for rewards, can create a daily briefing page of company news (information is supplied and input by the client). Participants also have access to performance-improvement articles that have been pre-selected by the planner from the site’s online library.

Fees for programs are based on a per-participant, per-month structure.

Extras: The site’s Motivation University contains how-to information for setting up programs and budgets. It also hosts forums and chat sessions on industry-related topics.

Incentives also figure into the company’s online learning business. According to Webb, clients buy courses from Motivationonline. To encourage them to complete the course by a certain goal date, clients can arrange for an employees to win points redeemable for gifts.

Phone: (847) 882-6369
Two former Procter & Gamble product managers, Joel Silver and Keith McSpurren, put their firsthand knowledge of running incentive programs into their Maynard, Mass.-based company, which was launched in February.

The company doesn’t stockpile gifts for online incentive programs, although it has its own catalog; Salesdriver’s rewards are ordered and shipped directly from about a dozen online retailers a number that is expected to grow. “We try to pick firms that offer items salespeople really want or, for example,” says Silver. “They handle the shipping and fulfillment; we provide the motivation tools.”

Program support: The site is designed so that an incentive planner can set up an online contest in about 20 minutes. There are three types to choose from: “hit the target” (open to all, based on meeting goal); “activity-based” (participants earn points for completing certain tasks) or “winner-takes-all” (a highly-competitive contest in which there is only one winner). There are a half-dozen themes (such as underwater adventure or military) from which planners can choose. Participants receive e-mails for kickoffs, updates and final results, including the number of “driver dollars” (Salesdriver’s currency), which they redeem for prizes.

Coming attractions: The company was slated to add individual travel packages to its award offerings in May.

Phone: (877) 213-7483
An online offshoot of the Alcone Marketing Group, an Irvine, Calif.-based sales promotion and marketing agency, provides an interesting hybrid of online incentive program tracking and administration, along with the capability through its facility in Hong Kong to manufacture custom premium gifts, such as watches and toys. The company, which was launched in late 1998, also carries gifts planners can customize with logos. Custom online catalogs can be created for clients.

Program support: According to Jill Taylor, the firm’s marketing communications manager, incentive programs are custom-designed for clients. In the future, the company hopes to develop program modules that planners can plug into on the site. Fees for setup of online programs vary depending upon the volume of business the client does.

Phone: (877) 666-2489


While the following sites don’t offer online incentive tracking, they provide other services of note.
If you want to add your company’s logo, incentive program theme or customized artwork to anything from a Magic Lite Bounce Ball to a beach chair, this is the place to shop. Based in Foster City, Calif., the company has thousands of items apparel, car accessories, watches, pens that can be customized. Launched in March, the site lets clients upload logos and artwork, print samples of their designs and track orders online. Planners can get product recommendations or find out what’s available for rush orders. (650) 372-5347
Scheduled to launch in May, this Chicago-based firm specializes in promotional items for the meetings and incentives industries. Planners can get logos and custom artwork emblazoned on everything from mugs to briefcases; they will be able to upload their own artwork, see virtual designs and get instant price quotes. The site also will host “company stores” for clients, featuring logoed goods. (800) 800-2233
In addition to providing thousands of logo-ready items, this soon-to-be- launched site (targeted for next month) breaks down the merchandise into different categories: corporate identity, trade shows, safety incentives, account openers, kids, fund-raisers, community service, event mementos, employee incentives and customer thanks. Customers will be able to design logos online and receive instant quotes. Other offerings of this Modesto, Calif.-based firm are online marketing suggestions and promotion tips. (888) 492-7263


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