Whether given as part of an employee engagement strategy or in conjunction with an event, corporate gifting is an effective tool both for motivating and retaining employees and for maximizing the attendee experience. In fact, a recent study from the Incentive Research Foundation found that gifting budgets—including merchandise, gift cards, and event gifts—increased in both North America and Europe in 2022, and that growth is not expected to slow down anytime soon.
Still, choosing the right gift can be a challenge as organizations strive to strike the right balance of unique, meaningful, and desirable. Luckily, the gifting experts from M&IW’s Incentives & Engagement team are here to help. Thanks to their knowledge, experience, and industry connections, they’re always ahead of the trends and know what gifts will make a positive impact.
Top Corporate Gifting Trends
While trends can come and go, we have a feeling these are here to stay. Here are today’s top five trends in corporate gifting.
Sustainability is a key focus for many industries, and that extends to gifting. Environmentally friendly gifts are not only good for the environment but also for your organization’s reputation, and recipients appreciate the extra consideration that goes into sustainable gifts.
There are many ways to give sustainably. Consider items made with organic or eco-friendly materials such as bamboo or recycled polyester as well as reusable items such as water bottles or tote bags. Even with reusable items, there are various levels of sustainability; when it comes to reusable water bottles, for example, stainless steel is more environmentally friendly and safer to drink from than plastic. Digital gift cards reduce CO2 emissions and waste (and are less easily lost—a benefit for recipients).
No matter what is given or how sustainable it is, gift with intention. Recipients won’t throw away gifts that they actually want or have a practical use, and that waste reduction translates to environmental benefits. For more information on sustainable products and practices, visit Promo for the Planet, an online resource from the Advertising Specialty Institute® sharing sustainable terminology, labels, certifications, and more.
2. Corporate Social Responsibility
Another similar trend in gifting is Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, which is defined by Promo for the Planet as the policies and practices a business adopts to support various social and environmental improvements. In fact, sustainability falls under the CSR umbrella, but there are other ways to incorporate CSR into your gifting.
A common trend is to include a giveback element in conjunction with the gifted merchandise. The gift can be sourced from a company that plants a tree for every purchase, for example, or that donates a portion of each sale to charity.
When it comes to making a donation as the gift itself, tread lightly. Recipients may not view a corporate donation as a gift or reward since it does not directly benefit them. However, sometimes it can make sense and be a meaningful gesture. If you’re rewarding an employee who regularly volunteers at a local charity, donate to their charity in their name. Similarly, if the employee or a loved one has cancer or is in remission, donate to cancer research in their name. As with sustainable gifts, it’s all about intention.
3. Experiential Gifts
Another trend that continues to grow in popularity is experiential gifts. This can include tickets to an attraction or event, such as a museum, national park, or concert. There’s also been a rise in organizations hosting both virtual and in-person events such as concerts and celebrity entertainment to reward and engage employees.
For incentive rewards specifically, group or individual travel has long proven effective and motivational. Travel is the ultimate reward, whether winners want to experience a new culture, enjoy new adventures, or simply lay on the beach and relax.
For incentive programs and other events, onsite pop-up shop experiences are a fun new element to incorporate. These shops usually feature merchandise such as sunglasses, shoes, or other wearables and allow recipients to choose from a curated selection of items at no cost to them. Sometimes, these items can even be customized and shipped directly to their homes. Not only do they receive an unexpected gift, but the act of shopping and exploring all the offerings is an engaging experience in and of itself.
4. Brand-name Products
While merchandise with company branding was once the go-to for corporate gifts, today it’s all about brand-name products. People usually throw out inexpensive, mass-produced swag, especially if it doesn’t serve a practical purpose. Instead, today’s recipients are more discerning; they’re looking for higher-end items that are of better quality and will last longer.
Shoes, clothing, sunglasses, backpacks, and other accessories continue to be the most common categories of brand-name products given as corporate, event, or incentive gifts. Remember, brand-name doesn’t have to mean designer. Popular brands include Lululemon, The North Face, Tiffany & Co., Nike, and more.
In addition to high-end brands, personalization is preferred over a company logo. Monograms and other customizations make the gift more unique and meaningful. Because of the higher cost associated with personalization, it also makes the recipient feel more valued.
5. Wellness and Well-being
Thanks to the pandemic, more attention than ever is being paid to physical and mental wellness. Gifting has followed this trend with gifts that benefit the recipient’s well-being and contribute to work-life balance. Popular examples include stress relief candles, plants, gym memberships, and fitness clothing and equipment.
Wellness can also be incorporated into the above gifting trends. For example, spa trips or gift cards are common experiential gifts, and there are many brand-name products that fall into the wellness category.
Of course, you don’t have to give a physical item to give your employees a wellness-focused gift. Additional paid time off—along with active encouragement to use those hours—is an impactful way to promote work-life balance.
Bonus: It’s All About Choice
No matter what trends you follow or gifts you offer, one thing remains the same: People prefer to have a say in what they receive, whether it’s a travel package, merchandise, or experience. When it comes to gifting, one size does not fit all. Allowing recipients to choose their gifts not only increases engagement but also makes them more appreciative because they’re receiving something they actually want.
One easy way to offer a choice of gifts is with an engagement platform where people can shop a variety of offers, from individual items to pre-planned gift bundles, and select what they want most. This can be used as a one-time tactic where all gifts have an equal value or as part of an ongoing engagement strategy where employees can earn points that can then be redeemed for gifts.
M&IW’s new performance engagement technology, EPIC, is one such gifting platform that is scalable, affordable, and completely customizable. It offers a suite of products to engage employees, sales producers, customers, and partners as well as the data and analytics to prove its effectiveness and help shape your future strategies.
No matter how you engage in corporate gifting, these trends will set you up for success. For more information or help creating or improving your gifting strategy, contact us today. Already an M&IW customer? Contact your Customer Success Manager to learn more.
Sr. Engagement Consultant
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.
Sr. Engagement Consultant
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.