May 19, 2020

Research: Americans Prefer Digital Incentives, Especially for Speedy Delivery and Online Use

Businesses today have opportunity to use digital incentives to more effectively drive consumer and employee behaviors

PLEASANTON, Calif., May 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, global branded payments provider Blackhawk Network released new research1 conducted in partnership with Mastercard that found open-loop digital incentives are preferred rewards—particularly among younger generations and mobile-minded Americans—when recipients want to receive rewards quickly or use them online. With 63% of Americans surveyed working remotely right now2, digital incentives also help employers reach employees separated geographically to drive engagement, provide support and offer encouragement.

Digital incentives that are open-loop have a major network logo like Mastercard on the face of the card and can be used wherever those networks' debit cards are accepted. Digital incentives can have several key features that provide added value for recipients at no cost to the incentive program sponsor, including the ability to be added to digital wallets allowing the recipient the freedom to redeem online or in-store, the option to be converted to plastic cards if the recipient prefers and the potential to provide recipients with a portion of their spend back when they shop at select merchants.

"People expect to be rewarded for their purchases and workplace accomplishments, and digital incentives are extremely effective in doing so—plus, people want these rewards. For example, we found 84% of people surveyed who work from home2 prefer prepaid and gift cards as incentives from employers," said Theresa McEndree, vice president of marketing at Blackhawk Network. "Interest in digital incentives is particularly prevalent among younger generations, more digitally-minded Americans and those who work remotely. As the buying power of Gen Z and millennials grows, as digitally savvy and younger Americans comprise a larger percentage of the U.S. workforce and as employees become more spread apart geographically, it will become increasingly vital for businesses to understand how to effectively motivate and satisfy these audiences."

Conducted by Mastercard on behalf of Blackhawk Network, the research features insights from open-loop digital incentives users. The findings provide businesses with a better understanding of consumer and employee perceptions and behaviors around open-loop prepaid cards—including as incentives and rewards.

Top study findings include:

Younger and mobile-minded Americans want digital prepaid rewards. Gen Z and millennial respondents report high levels of interest and satisfaction in receiving digital incentives for making purchases or workplace contributions. There is also notable interest in digital incentives among mobile wallet users, regardless of how they are categorized generationally, based on their lifestyle preferences—evidenced by the fact that 59% of digital incentive users surveyed have a mobile wallet.  

  • Gen Z employees surveyed are 150% more likely than Baby Boomer respondents to want a digital incentives from an employer; millennials are 140% more likely than Baby Boomers.
  • Gen Z and millennial respondents are each 120% more likely than Baby Boomers to want to receive a digital incentive from a business as a special offer or promotion.
  • Overall, 72% of respondents are highly satisfied with receiving digital incentives as a payment, incentive or rebate.

Digital incentives satisfy the need for speed and are in high demand. Businesses aiming to extend their reach and drive immediate action should use digital incentives. These efforts are likely to pay off, as survey respondents report wanting digital incentives when they're looking to receive rewards quickly, when they want to redeem online, and so they can load into mobile wallets.

  • When given the option, 52% of respondents chose digital incentives over plastic prepaid so they could receive their reward faster.
  • 72% of digital incentive recipients report high levels of satisfaction adding the cards to a digital wallet.
  • 63% of respondents report wanting to receive digital incentives to make online purchases.

Digital incentives can drive sales and customer acquisition. Most consumers indicate a halo effect for the business providing digital incentives—meaning they'd be more likely to recommend or buy from the company in the future after receiving digital incentives. Businesses looking to drive app downloads, increase loyalty program sign-ups, encourage reward redemption, include rewards in promotions, send customers rebates, solicit customer referrals or appease customers after a mistake may greatly benefit from digital incentives. Among respondents:

  • 81% completely or somewhat agree that a digital incentives would make them more likely to do business with that company in the future.
  • 80% completely or somewhat agree that it would spur a brand recommendation to family or friends.
  • 74% completely or somewhat agree that it increases loyalty to the company.
  • 64% would be encouraged to shop online when they wouldn't otherwise.
  • 60% would lead them to make purchases they wouldn't make otherwise.

Employers should take note. Businesses looking to incent employees can leverage digital incentives as versatile incentives that effectively reward traditional employees, connect with remote employees, congratulate sales teams, celebrate work anniversaries and boost participation in wellness programs. Of those respondents who received digital incentives:

  • 90% agree that it's "a good reward for their hard work."
  • 78% agree that it keeps them motivated to work harder.
  • 77% agree that it makes the feel their company cares about them.
  • 65% agree that digital incentives are better than other kinds of recognition.

Blackhawk pioneered advancements in the digitization of open-loop prepaid cards as rewards when it enabled them to be integrated into mobile wallets. Through continued research, it keeps a pulse on the latest trends in digital payments to help retailers and employers understand payment preferences and usage patterns.  

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About Blackhawk Network
Blackhawk Network delivers branded payment solutions through the prepaid products, technologies and network that connect brands and people. We collaborate with our partners to innovate, translating market trends in branded payments to increase reach, loyalty and revenue. Serving 28 countries, we reliably execute security-minded solutions worldwide. Join us as we shape the future of global branded payments. Visit

1 The "Blackhawk Product Research" study was an internet-based study conducted by Mastercard in collaboration with Blackhawk Network between September 5–26, 2019. The sample size included 4,990 U.S. brand agnostic prepaid card users ages 18+. Generations were defined as follows: Gen Z ages 18–24, Millennials 25–39, Gen X 40–54, Baby Boomers 55–75.
2 The "Receiving Incentives and Rewards from Your Employer" study was an internet-based study conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between March 24–25, 2020. The sample size included 1,718 working U.S. employees ages 18–60.