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Getting your audience to take an action—such as referring a friend or writing a review—requires an incentive that can motivate.

And picking the right gift card for your reward or incentive program comes with pressure: No one wants to get it wrong. That's because gift cards are only as valuable as they are to your recipients.

The question isn't whether gift cards are effective motivators or not. They've been proven to be highly effective, even compared with cash.

In fact, more than 80% of US organizations motivate and reward employees through noncash incentives, such as gift cards for employees and other work anniversary gifts.

"When people receive a cash reward, they tend to treat it like salary and use it for forgettable things—paying the electric bill, for example. Tangible rewards....on the other hand, stand apart from salary, perhaps especially when they address what an employee wants as opposed to what they may need," says Allan Schweyer, co-chief researcher at the Incentive Research Foundation.

So the question is, How can you be sure you're picking the right gift card for your program?

Finding the Perfect Gift Card

Individual gift cards tie recipients to one retailer, leaving you to figure out which one would be considered the most desirable or valuable to your entire audience. They're risky because you never know what your recipients truly want or need.

And opinions vary when ranking gift card popularity. In 2017, LendEDU, an online marketplace of financial products, analyzed more than 100 gift cards and ranked each individual gift card based on the following criteria:

  • Popularity of the gift card, determined by Google search ranking
  • Joy upon receiving the gift card, based on consumer survey results
  • Average purchase discount for buyers
  • Average resale value for sellers
  • Additional shipping fees

Included in the Top 20:

  • McDonald's
  • GameStop
  • Olive Garden
  • Red Lobster
  • Victoria's Secret
  • Kohl's
  • Toys "R" Us
  • Starbucks
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • eBay
  • Walmart
  • Best Buy
  • Netflix
  • Target
  • Amazon.com
  • Home Depot
  • Fandango
  • Chipotle
  • Forever 21
  • Dunkin' Donuts

Regardless of how highly ranked your gift card choice is, it may not be relevant to all your recipients. Starbucks, for example: there will always be a portion of recipients who don't drink coffee.

Similarly, the location of your recipients plays a factor. For example, it can be more difficult for recipients in rural populations to visit certain restaurants and stores.

If they receive an incentive that doesn't feel relevant to them, such groups of people may even be demotivated to take the action you want them to take.

Prepaid Gift Cards

Prepaid gift cards, such as American Express or Visa, seem ideal at first. They're flexible, meaning your recipients have a better chance of purchasing exactly what they want at the retailer of their choosing. But there are some serious drawbacks, especially regarding the recipient's experience.

Prepaid gift cards can expire, making the recipient reward experience less joyful. (Nothing is worse than getting a prepaid card that expires before you decide how to spend it!) There's also the impact of additional fees, which are often passed on to the recipient. For that reason, prepaid cards can be difficult to use at lower denominations.

How Tango Card Rewards Employees

You don't have to choose just one gift card for your program. Recipients like choosing their rewards,

and cash and prepaid cards aren't the only types of rewards that offer flexibility. Using the right provider, you can send a wide selection of digital gift cards that your recipients can choose from.

Here's how we do it at Tango Card. Our employees receive their rewards through email, and the process couldn't be simpler. They click the redemption link in their email, which directs them to a reward catalog filled with 100+ of the most popular gift card brands.

The reward experience is instantly satisfying because employees can immediately redeem the digital gift card they choose. And with so many options, there's truly something for everyone.

* * *

With the right partner, digital gift cards can check all the boxes for being desirable, budget-friendly, and effective in driving behavior. Best of all, they take out the guesswork.

By sending a choice of digital gift cards, you won't have to figure out what's desirable or motivating to your recipients because, ultimately, they get to choose exactly what they want.

Tango Card supports all types of programs—from employee engagement and customer loyalty to wellness and research participation. Learn more about Reward Link, or you can request a demo.

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Tango's mission is simple: We make gift cards easy to send and awesome to receive. By bundling easy-to-use technology, desirable incentives, and expert service, we help you get the most from your incentive programs. With Tango, you can instantly deliver digital gift cards to your target audiences to drive real business results.