Step 0: Survey your users

We’ve said it again and again…but survyeing your users is critical to getting the most out of your incentives.  Check out the survey we’ve put together and edit for your users with specific questions and answers.  Once you’ve collected your responses, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of incentives to use.

Step 1: Long term or short term?  Or both!

As we described in Incentives: what? why? how? There are broadly two types of incentives: long-term or ongoing incentives and short term incentives.  

Do you want to use the platform as a forum to provide your users with ongoing commuter benefits via cash payouts for trips taken via a specific mode, or through provision of transit vouchers or tickets?  If so, you’re thinking about long-term incentives.  

Do you want to encourage your users even further to try something new?  Perhaps you’d like to reward users that carpool with gas cards or users that bike to work with cool bike gear?  Now we’re talking short term incentives!

The only real difference is the length of the redemption period and the periodicity.  For short term incentives you’ll likely only want to engage in those periodically and may want to frequently diversify your rewards, bike rewards for a month, followed by a month of carpooling incentives, for example.  On the other hand, long-term incentives will be offered on an ongoing basis either on a set time frame (monthly, for example), or based on a number of specific commutes where a user can continue to redeem indefinitely every time they reach that commute milestone.

Mix and match these two incentive types, along with an occasional challenge, for best results!

Step 2: Create the incentive

Okay, so you’ve decided what type(s) of incentives are for you and your users, now it’s time to create set-up those incentives.  As an administrator, visit the tools drop-down tab at the top of your dashboard and select ‘Incentives’:

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This will take you to a list of all current incentives as well as an archive of previous incentives.  To create a new incentive, simply click the blue ‘Add Incentive’ button:

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Key Questions:

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Would you like to have a second level of trip validation?  Select ‘Yes’ on ‘Require submission to Supervisor for approval?’ and as soon as a user attempts to redeem an incentive they will be asked to enter their supervisors contact info and their supervisor will be asked to approve the request.  This adds a deterrent to users potentially gaming the system.

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These two questions should be considered carefully and together as they are critical to determining who the incentive will impact the most.  If you select ‘Distance’ for a bike to work incentive, for example, you are advantaging those users that live further away and are still willing to bike, over those that live close by.  This could be advantageous, however, as it is likely to require a more significant incentive to nudge those that live further away to make a change than it would someone who only lives a couple of blocks from the office.

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Dates are important.  The start and end dates for your incentive are fairly self-explanatory, but arguably the most important date is the ‘Final Trip Log Entry Cutoff Date’.  This date indicates the last date that users may log trips that are eligible for the incentive.  Since the system does not necessarily require that users enter their trips daily, it is critical to recognize that some users will not log on to enter trips on the final day of the incentive.  It is recommended that a few extra days, beyond the end date of the incentive, are provided for users to finalize all trips eligible for an incentive.

Step 3: Launch the incentive

As we’ve said before, incentives are one of the best tools for user engagement, however, engagement depends on users being aware of and excited about the incentive being offered.  

For long-term, ongoing incentives and employee benefits it is important that literature on those exists with HR or another employee facing department of the organization and that someone is available to answer questions at least periodically about employee benefits.  It is also suggested that any information about these benefits is included in any new hire literature.  Any time a new benefit is introduced, all employees should be notified. Additionally, every time a commuter survey is conducted (at least annually), it should include a list of offered employee benefits to gauge employee awareness of them.

Short-term incentives intended to catalyze mode-shift or another behavior (such as referring a friend, etc.) should be advertised as heavily as possible.  It is critical to the success of such incentives that users are excited by/about them.  Email announcements, postings around the office, campus, etc, as well as kick-off events are a great way to go.  Kick-off events might include food, some flyers or a person staffing a table to explain what is happening.

Additionally, any way to tie marketing back to the incentive is terrific…for example, a kick-off event for a bike to work incentive might involve a visit from a local bike shop for free tune-ups or to give a bike maintenance demonstration.

Step 4: Maintain the excitement!

Keep the ball rolling…please don’t stop the music…

Step 4 pertains almost exclusively to short-term incentives.  If your incentive lasts for a month or two, you don’t want your users excited for the first week, and then losing that.  You want to keep everyone interested and engaged throughout your incentive period to see the best results.  To do that, periodically remind your users that it is happening through email nudges, surprise catered breakfasts, or random drawings from active users for small scale prizes (think $5 giftcard to the coffeeshop around the corner).

Step 5: Distribute the rewards

There are a number of ways to distribute rewards.  The two easiest are directly through a user’s paycheck (this works best in the case of long-term incentives provided directly by an employer), or through electronic vouchers or giftcards that could be shared through email.  A slightly more difficult, though still fairly straightforward method, would be to provide a ‘shopping spree’ at a local merchant where the merchant could be prepaid (or could be donating the prize!) and all you have to do is provide that merchant with the name of the winner.
If you do choose to go the route of giving away tangible prizes, never fear, just make sure that you have a good plan for distribution.  Are you going to mail the prizes out?  If so, keep in mind that it will add some extra cost to your incentives and should be budgeted in.  If you have a fairly centralized organization, perhaps set up ‘office hours’ for users to come in and pick up those prizes, or leave them with someone that is outward facing and often at their desk, such as a receptionist.

Step 6: Assess results and repeat

The MOST important part of having a successful incentives programming is learning from what you’ve done, making educated adjustments and starting again.  Hopefully you’ve given some serious thought to what your goals with your incentives.  If so, you likely already know what metrics you plan to look at to assess the success of your program.  

The RideAmigos reporting tools are excellent at providing you with whatever information you need to assess your program, simply go to ‘Tools > System Reporting’ to create customized reports containing whatever information you need to determine if you’ve been successful.  Additionally, a follow-up survey or even your annual survey, are great ways to learn about the perception of the program you’ve run, what worked, and what might work better in the future.