How Generations see rewards and incentives

Every good marketer gets that consumer behaviour can vary significantly between generations – particularly so with  Gen Z.  We investigate how the generations see rewards and incentives, given that intergenerational differences have never been more apparent.

As our CEO Denis Hure was discussing this very topic at the Loyalty Summit in Washington DC last week, we thought that it might help to summarise some of the key differences between Generation Z – born from the mid-to-late 1990s through the early 2010s), Generation Y, also known as Millennials, who were born from the early 1980s to the mid-to-late 1990s and Generation X (born from the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s).

In short, a kind of marketer’s intergenerational cheat sheet.

Technology Use

When looking at how generations see rewards and incentives, let’s start with their attitude to technology. Gen Z, are digital natives, they’ve grown up with technology and the internet and as such are likely to use smartphones for virtually everything, from shopping to communication. This generation typically consumes a lot of short-form content on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Gen Y (Millennials) witnessed the rise and development of the internet, social media, and mobile technologies, adapting them into their lives along the way. They’re also tech-savvy, but they experienced life pre-internet, giving them a unique perspective on both digital and non-digital experiences. They are happy to consume both short-form and long-form content and use a mixture of social media platforms.

While Generation X can be described as generally quite tech-savvy and who also use technology for various purposes, their adoption came at a later stage in life. They’re often considered the “hybrid” generation — comfortable with both online and offline channels. Some Gen X still prefer to shop in-store compared to online, even though they’re familiar with both. Things like scams and viruses tend to have made some of the older cohort more wary of online activity.


Gen Z prefers quick and efficient communication. They tend to favour brands that communicate directly and honestly, and they expect swift responses to queries. They often interact with brands through social media platforms.

Millennials also appreciate brands that communicate honestly and transparently, but they may differ in their preferred platforms. They tend to use a mix of social media and email, while Gen Z often leans towards rapid, image-heavy communication on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Many Gen X, however, rely on the more traditional forms of communication such as email or voice calls, albeit often initiated over platforms like Skype and WhatsApp. They tend to value and expect more thorough and detailed information from vendors and brands and will source news information from more traditional media channels.

Values and Motivations

Not surprisingly this is an area where there has been a steady evolution between generations, particularly around environmental issues.

Millennials were the forerunners in valuing businesses that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility. They’re motivated by experiences and prefer to spend money on these rather than tangible products. They are also known for being health-conscious and value work-life balance highly. They are the also the leading cohort in the WFH phenomenon.

Gen Z place a significant emphasis on social justice, inclusivity, and environmental responsibility. These values influence their purchasing decisions and behaviour, and they tend to support brands that take a stand on issues they care strongly about.  For example, they’re more likely to engage with digital activism, using social media platforms to learn about, support, and spread awareness for these causes. Price and convenience are also important but rarely at the expense of their values.

While Gen X also care about these issues, they might prioritize practicality, convenience, and value for money. While not as frequently associated with environmental activism as the younger generations, many Gen X members are also engaged with these issues. Some may be involved in environmental lobby groups, but their activism may also take the form of support through donations or influencing corporate practices in their professional roles.

An important point to note is that they are motivated by security, and reliability and prefer products that offer durability and longevity – in other words, they want value for money not a quick fix.

Brand Loyalty

Lastly, a topic dear to the hearts of anyone involved in the rewards and incentives industry: how do these Generations compare when it comes to Brand Loyalty?

Gen Z tend to be less brand loyal compared to previous generations, as they have access to a wide variety of options and are often driven by trends. They value authenticity, diversity, and inclusivity, and tend to support brands that stand for causes they believe in, as outlined above.

While Gen Y (Millennials) are known to switch brands, they are more likely than Gen Z to show loyalty if they feel that the brand shares their values and provides exceptional customer experiences. They were the first generation to value experiences over things, which influences their brand preferences.

Historically, Gen X has been viewed as being more brand loyal. Traditionally, once they find a brand they like, they’re more likely to stick with it. They value quality and service, are willing to pay more for long-lasting, durable products, and companies that respect their time and adequately reward their loyalty. However, they have felt unfairly treated by some sectors such as banking where their loyalty has been presumed rather than properly rewarded by some well-established brands.

Attitude to Rewards and Incentives

A further question that springs to mind is how these groups respond to rewards and incentives. While this is a bigger topic, which we will probably explore in a later post, to keep it simple let’s take a quick look at their relative attitudes towards digital gift cards as an example of prevailing attitudes.


”Digital gift cards? Yeah, they work for me. I like how they blend into the digital lifestyle. No clutter, easy to redeem, especially for my favourite brands. It’s a neat way to reward me, and it shows that the company is keeping up with the times.”

”Digital gift cards, huh? Well, they’re practical, I’ll give you that. It’s nice to not have another physical card to keep track of. But I do hope the redemption process is simple and there’s good customer support if I run into issues.”

“Oh, cool! Digital gift cards are super convenient, you know? I don’t have to worry about losing them, plus I can use them online instantly. And if it’s for a brand or experience I love, even better! Just makes sure it’s easy to add to my mobile wallet.”

Key takeaways on how Generations see rewards and incentives

  • While it is logical to ensure that the reward category broadly appeals to the targeted demographic there are nuances in the mode and ease of redemption and delivery which need to be addressed.
  • Both your own brand identity and that of the rewards offered, where branded, will need to appeal to the sensitivities of the individual generations being targeted. Maybe there is a case for brand-neutral rewards to keep costs down.
  • Any communications regarding rewards and incentives should use appropriate channels, mode of address, and tone of voice.

If you are considering how to adapt your loyalty rewards program or employee rewards program to the specific needs of Generations X, Y, or Z , and just want to discuss how Generations see rewards and incentives, why not schedule a call with us now

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The Evolution of Loyalty Programs from Points to Engagement

Loyalty programs have long been an integral part of customer retention and marketing strategies for businesses. Traditionally, these programs have centered on offering rewards or incentives, such as discounts or points, in exchange for repeat purchases or customer referrals. However, in recent years, there has been a significant shift from loyalty programs to engagement programs. This evolution of loyalty programs is driven by a recognition that businesses need to go beyond transactional relationships building deeper, more meaningful connections with customers to ensure long-term success.

The Evolution of Loyalty Programs

In today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven world, the traditional concept of loyalty programs – offering customers points, discounts, or rewards based on their purchases – is rapidly transforming. Businesses are shifting from merely focusing on loyalty to developing comprehensive customer engagement programs. This evolution is driven by a growing understanding of consumer behaviour and the realisation that true customer loyalty extends far beyond transactional relationships.

Loyalty programs have long been a staple in customer retention strategies. They reward customers for their repeat business, creating a positive feedback loop. However, this system generally operates on a transactional basis, rewarding customers for the volume or frequency of their purchases. While this may encourage repeated business, it doesn’t necessarily help to develop a deep or meaningful relationship between the consumer and the brand.

Today’s digitally empowered consumers seek more than just transactional benefits. They crave authentic, personalized interactions and experiences that resonate with their values and lifestyles. Brands must aim to connect with customers on an emotional level, promoting a sense of belonging and shared purpose. This shift has necessitated the evolution from loyalty to engagement programs.

The Rise of Engagement Programs

Engagement programs take a holistic approach to customer loyalty, focusing on multiple touchpoints and channels to provide personalized, valuable experiences. These programs move beyond the traditional points-based reward system to encompass a wide range of initiatives designed to build deeper connections between customers and brands.

The key components of a typical engagement program include:

  1. Personalization: Engagement programs leverage customer data to deliver tailored experiences, promotions, and content. By improving the understanding of customer preferences, behaviors, and demographics, businesses can create more targeted marketing campaigns that have a higher probability of resonating with their audience leading to enhanced customer loyalty.
  2. Experiential Rewards: Instead of simply offering discounts or points, engagement programs aim to provide a choice of appealing and memorable experiences. This could include exclusive or early access events or travel-enhancing services and add-ons such as local excursions, lounge access, duty fee discounts, and points swapping. By offering experiences that genuinely deliver incremental value or convenience, businesses can develop a more emotional connection encouraging a stickier relationship.
  3. Omnichannel Approach: From the get-go, engagement programs recognize that customers interact with brands across multiple channels and touchpoints. By improving the integration of these channels to provide more seamless, consistent experiences, businesses can start to drive deeper engagement and stronger customer relationships.
  4. Community Building: Many engagement programs aim to create a sense of common community and belonging among customer groups. Combining social media, online forums, and in-person events into a community where customers can interact with one another and directly with the brand. Managed and delivered correctly these communities ( can be product, brand, or location-based) can create a sense of camaraderie and shared interest, which not only helps the brand understand motivations but can also help turn customers into brand advocates.
  5. Emotional Connection: Engagement programs tend to focus on establishing emotional connections with customers, emphasizing shared values and missions. While this is often a challenging objective, where a brand can align with customers' values and aspirations, a sense of trust and loyalty that goes beyond transactional relationships can be built. Like any relationship, an emotional one can only thrive where trust has been firmly established and so will founder where a solid customer service ethos and track record is not in place (ensure your Trustpilot rating is good!)

The Benefits of Engagement Programs

  1. Enhanced Customer Retention: By working to build genuine relationships and providing valuable experiences, engagement programs can increase customers adherence to the brand, leading to increased customer lifetime value and revenue.
  2. Positive Word-of-Mouth: Engaged customers are more likely to become brand advocates, sharing their experiences with friends, family, and online communities. This organic word-of-mouth marketing typically results in the acquisition of new customers, built around existing communities, and expands the customer base.
  3. Competitive Differentiation: By focusing on delivering memorable experiences and driving emotional connections, engagement programs helps to establish differentiation and improves brand identity.
  4. Increased Customer Data: Engagement programs tend to provide more valuable customer insights, which can be used to inform product development, marketing campaigns, and overall evolution of business strategy.

The Evolution of loyalty programs - Conclusion

Some brands have already made significant strides in this direction. For instance, Sephora’s Beauty Insider program encourages customers to engage with the brand through product reviews, community forums, and makeup classes. Similarly, Starbucks’ rewards program emphasizes mobile app engagement, offering features like mobile ordering, personalized recommendations, and digital tipping.

In conclusion, the shift from loyalty to engagement programs reflects a broader evolution in the business-consumer relationship. As businesses strive to adapt to the changing consumer landscape, the focus is no longer just on rewarding transactions but on building meaningful, engaging relationships.

We believe that the future for building and maintaining customer loyalty lies in these engagement programs that offer a richer, more personalized brand experience, driving emotional connection, brand advocacy, and enhanced business performance. That is one reason why we are working to extend our range of reward categories to include more experience rewards.

United Breast Cancer Foundation

UBCF's Breast Cancer COVID Grant Program proves a big hit

Early in the COVID Pandemic, the United Breast Cancer Foundation (UBCF) chose to work with Reward the World™ as part of UBCF’s COVID Grant Program to provide breast cancer patients and survivors with online gift cards and other online offerings to help lessen stress and make sheltering at home easier. Apparently, according to Ken Petterson, Sr. VP Donor Engagement and Philanthropy at UBCF this proved to be quite a bit hit during the lockdowns and in particular where people were shielding.

Ken has very kindly dropped us a note to tell us about how it’s been received. We look forward to continuing to work with Ken and UBCF to improve our service and make it easier for UBCF to continue to do such a good job for breast cancer patients and survivors in the US.


United Breast Cancer Foundation is a Guidestar platinum-rated, national nonprofit organization and our mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of those affected by breast cancer. We offer 8 life-supporting programs to the breast cancer community, serving thousands of women, men, and families each year. UBCF’s COVID Grant Program provides breast cancer patients and survivors online gift cards and other online offerings to help lessen stress and make sheltering at home easier during these difficult times, especially for those with compromised immune systems.

UBCF Covid-grantUBCF chose to work with Reward the World™ early in the COVID Pandemic. We were looking for new ways to support our clients as they struggled with breast cancer, the fear of being exposed to COVID, and the need to shelter in place. We wanted to add an online “care package” to our program offerings for our clients.

UBCF created the Covid Grant Program which is an online process from beginning to end. Clients complete an online application and receive an online award. We send clients an award email that includes access to 6 Free eMovie Rentals and 3 Free eBooks from Reward the World™’s rewards platform, along with other gifts. UBCF clients love the fact that they have the ability to choose movies and books that appeal to them personally. Clients share what a thoughtful and useful gift these items are as they are able to read or watch movies instantly while sitting and receiving treatments, or when they are at home recovering from treatments or surgeries.

UBCF clients frequently share their words of gratitude after receiving the movies and eBooks:

“Thank you soooo much! I will enjoy my free movies or reading during my treatment.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I really can’t thank you enough for these generous gifts. I’m finishing the last 3 of my 35 radiation treatments and have been a little fatigued lately. This has really perked me up and made my day. Thank you and your foundation for all that you do. The gift card, the free movies, and ebooks are such [a] blessing.“

“OMG, I have to write to the Foundation telling them how appreciative I am for this assistance at such a difficult time! It’ll be so nice to try to relax a bit with a movie or a book! This is just awesome”

“Thank you so much. I love how you gave me ebooks and movies and other options as well, those are definitely a treat and I wasn’t expecting that.”

“I can’t wait to check out the movies and books as well. It feels like getting a hug. Thank you so so much!”

Placing orders with Reward the World™ has been simple and the turnaround time to receive the codes for products has been remarkably fast. Customer support has been reliable and UBCF feels like a valued partner. Accessing the gifts has been a simple process, and if UBCF or our clients need any help, Reward the World™ customer service is ready to assist. Thank you, Reward The World™ for helping us help so many during such a dark time.

Disintermediation – the digital marketer’s latest challenge?

Disintermediation – the digital marketer’s latest challenge?

During the COVID lockdowns we have seen disintermediation manifest itself in many ways as brands have switched comprehensively to online sales and direct shipping to compensate for the enforced shutdown of the physical retail channel for many sectors. In a strange twist of fate this has also been a boon for digital marketers as they have reaped a huge harvest of first-party data resulting from a tsunami of consumers registering to buy online. Who among us has not noticed that every attempt is made to get the consumer to register, opt-in and/or subscribe during the online purchasing process, the ‘proceed as a guest’ option often being hard to access – where available?

Why is this such a windfall for the marketer, if less so for the consumer?
Answer – third-party data bad, first-party data good.

The combination of EU GDPR and various consumer privacy regulations such as the proposed California Consumer Privacy Act basically outlaws the sharing of third-party data, on which much marketing activity, and online advertising, currently relies. The annoying, but necessary, cookie opt-in button which flashes across our screens every time we visit a website is a prime example of the increasing regulation in this area.

More than just disintermediation – a direct online relationship is more important than ever.

As a result, every brand and every channel more than ever wants/needs to establish a direct online relationship with the consumer to track buying habits, build-out demographic profiles, and of course encourage us all to buy or revisit more often. Hence the joy of brand marketers at our headlong rush to buy direct. Or maybe not?

Annoyingly for some, you might have noticed during your online search for products that ecommerce behemoth Amazon always seems to be trying to insert itself into the online buying journey and re-intermediate itself. Complex environment this disintermediation game – for all involved.

We as consumers want instant gratification.

But similarly, we as consumers can be equally fickle – we want instant gratification while simultaneously hating the hoops we must jump through to navigate a purchase or a subscription through to checkout and beyond. So, we need to be seduced, persuaded, or otherwise cajoled into jumping through those hoops.

A common technique, used by online publishers like the FT is to offer 3 or 4 free articles before raising the paywall.  Another is to offer incentives such as digital gift cards or a unique online voucher giving one-off or limited free access to digital downloads such as games, videos and eBooks as part of the personal data exchange. These are examples of what McKinsey calls the ‘value exchange’ in their recent article on The demise of third-party cookies and identifiers. A good point to remember here is that value is defined by the consumer who will inevitably be turned off by below-par rewards in this value exchange. A point we will visit in an upcoming post.

Interestingly this rewards technique is increasingly being used by brands to reach across the intermediary boundary by printing unique voucher codes on product packaging or wrapping. This enables the collection of first-party data from the consumer regardless of the distribution channel while also incentivising the consumer to connect with the brand directly. Our recent use-case, “Identifying and engaging with the casual magazine buyer is a good example of this.

Building and developing first-party customer data is key.

Whichever way you look at it, building and developing first-party customer data is now key to building a better understanding of customer needs and behaviour while overcoming increasing consumer reluctance to provide that personal data.

If you are currently facing any of the above disintermediation challenges and looking to encourage, reward, or otherwise incentivise consumers to sign-up, register, or subscribe to a relationship chat with us now to explore how we might help.