Membership of the IMA brings together a range of suppliers that offer a diverse set of reward offerings that can be used across employee, channel and consumer programmes.

RewardPrepaid debit cards 

Prepaid debit cards are the growing segment in our industry. The ease of use and flexibility are key benefits. They are used across motivation programmes and for travel expense management, foreign currency travel budgeting, insurance replacement and charity welfare programmes.

Programmes can be restricted to specific merchants, this is called a restricted access network or RANs. Also, it can be restricted by merchant category IDs or MIDs. Open Loop cards can be used anywhere their payment network is supported such as VISA and Closed Loop cards are used just within a specific merchant and often are not linked to a payment network.

Virtual prepaid debit cards

Virtual prepaid cards are just like their plastic cousin but can be sent electronically. Sometimes this is via email, SMS or through a social networking timeline post. Most vital cards have a long number (PAN) and expiry date, the name of the cardholder and the card security number CVV. Often the cards are sent graphically and they look just like a real plastic card. But, usually they can only be used online or over the phone. There are exceptions but they don’t really work through retail outlets.

Gift cards

RewardGift cards are a great way to send gifts to friends, family and colleagues. Gift cards and vouchers are a £5bn per year market in the UK. Gift cards have gradually taken over from vouchers in B2B programmes.

Electronic gift cards

Electronic gift cards work just like plastic ones but they can be sent by SMS, email or social networks. Free gift cards are cards which have a specific value at the POS but they work in the same way as discount vouchers, and usually have a very limited validity time and can be used in social gifting. Electronic gift cards can be distributed with links which are URLs which include the brands eCommerce site and a code that creates the value of their gift card in a ‘my gift cards’  or ‘my wallet’ section of their account in one or two clicks, or its is a code and users are given a webpage where that code can be entered.

RewardMicro gifts

Micro gifts are items that can be given as rewards and typically they have a price which includes shipping of less than £10. Usually, these gifts are distributed in postal packages which can be sent as mail rather than a parcel thereby hitting a lower price point. These gifts can be given say as ‘bronze’ awards within a tier reward programme or as delegated peer-to-peer award programme where the decision to award is made by the employee. These types of gifts have been popularised though social gifting programmes.

RewardSocial gifting

Social Gifting is gifting that is undertaken using social networks either where the  information on recipients is obtained through a social network, such as their birthday or the gift is announced via a social network – usually Facebook timeline or the gift is delivered via a social network as a gift card or product code – usually on Facebook timeline or it contains all of these elements.

Social gifting can involve the dispatch of a physical gift, or sms link where the recipient downloads replies with their delivery address or a product code where they go to their eCommerce account and arrange for the item with that product code to be dispatched to them.

Merchandise gifts

RewardHistorically, physical gifts have been the foundation of any reward programme. Gifts can gift ‘premiums’ where they are specific items used for say consumer sign up incentives, or they are part of a triggered reward scheme where there is a range of gifts available within a points or currency range or the merchandise is available through a currency or points based catalogue.

Companies are looking to innovate in this area by having strong curation of their gifts along the lines of say designer gifts, novelties, trophy type products or products from artisans or smaller producers.

Historically, catalogues have tended to be quite large, but it becomes time consumer for programme participants to work their way through all the items, programme managers are looking to streamline this process, and often want to leverage ‘short form’ catalogue say on a mobile device or within the front end of an incentive or recognition programme.

Global reward networks

Having the ability to distribute a consistent range of gifts is the holy grail of the performance improvement industry. The challenges are high with platforms needing to be multilingual in terms of the user interface and catalogue content, to handle points systems based on different currencies. A key challenge is to be able to make an physical award across national boundaries. For example can a manager in London send a specific award to a recipient in a call centre in India. Many of these networks manage a portfolio of rewards that a purely electronic in order to manager better any supply chain issues. However, participants enthusiasm for digital gifts varies by region. In the USA these are very popular but in China a physical gift would be preferred.

RewardIncentive travel & Leisure rewards

It has been a long tradition to make award of travel and leisure products such as nights stays or gift cards. Also, incentive travel has been a major part of reward programmes for a long time. As people become better travelled and with the advent of low cost airlines, provides have to work harder to deliver. Companies try to deliver those ‘money can’t buy’ experiences.


There has been a huge growth in the provision of packaged experience products. Often these are felt far better than cash as a way of rewarding people.