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The rise of digital gifting in the workplace

By Contributor
Tue 21 Jun 2022

Article by Shouta CEO Carly Shamgar.

Nathan Gyaneshwar knows a thing or two about hospitality. It's the bread and butter of his start-up, an online marketplace supplying the world’s leading hotel chains. 

The first rule of hospitality: timing is everything. 

In the case of workplace appreciation, that timing was once a quarter. After the dust had settled on financial reporting, company leadership would single out a few all-star employees for recognition, and reward them with a company-branded gift card in the mail. 

It had become as routine for company staff as a mint on the hotel pillow; welcome, albeit expected. 

Then one day, weeks away from the next quarter close, staffers opened their emails to find a digital gift card waiting for them — for no reason other than to recognise their effort. More employees received gifts than ever, and although the amount each had to spend was smaller, the surprise of the gift somehow made it feel grander; like a bottle of champagne sent to your room, compliments of the concierge.

This reaction sums up exactly why Gyaneshwar thinks digital gifts are more than a passing fad. In company cultures where time is of the essence, he’s one of many CEOs recognising the positive potential of instant gratification–and instant appreciation. 

Digital gifts – same thought, new packaging 

Before we move on, let’s take a second to unwrap just what a “digital gift” is. The name itself does most of the explaining; it’s a gift you receive virtually. But a misconception about digital gifts is that they need to be redeemed virtually as well. 

In reality, a digital gift has all the benefits of a gift card or prepaid credit card, with the added convenience of being accessible right from your phone. Just tap and pay at your local cafe/restaurant/cinema, just like you would with any card in your smartphone’s digital wallet. Same behaviour, now tied up with a (virtual) bow. 

Less admin than old-school 

Employees’ preference for digital gifts over ‘analog’ alternatives is a bonus, but for many CEOs, the switch to a digital platform starts with their own schedules. 

Today’s work trends are a clear indication that, even after the new normal is no longer new, working from home will remain. Cutting out a commute might add convenience to the workday, but complicates certain administrative tasks like coordinating gifts and rewards. Before the shift to remote work, custom-printing and mailing gift cards was already a costly and time-intensive task. For Gyaneshwar, the switch to digital was a no-brainer: “Now, the process to recognise people has no red tape. If I want to recognise someone, I can do it today, like right now. I don't have to talk to anyone.”

Not only is there less red tape, there are less red line items, as digital gifting cuts out the printing and mailing expenses. These costs used to mean that it was only worthwhile to send gifts upwards of $50; now CEOs can easily shout their employees a $5 coffee or $10 Friday drink. 

The general trend towards more gifts in smaller increments bodes well for employee culture. Especially in our virtual workplace where face-to-face interactions are more limited than ever, workers notice any gesture of appreciation, no matter how small.

Digital gifting–not just internal 

Boosting workplace morale is just the beginning–or the ending, if you’re CEO Ray Wang. After identifying marketplace confusion about his company's workplace payments platform, Wang decided to target prospective customers with an email survey. 

Now, by itself, an email survey is almost destined for the spam folder. So Wang decided to experiment by offering a small reward in the form of a digital gift recipients could redeem as soon as the survey ended. Instant gratification yielded instant results: Wang’s survey racked up 200 responses from a highly-targeted audience, all by spending half the marketing budget. 

Now, the CEO is brainstorming other ways to leverage the virtual goodie box to boost employee acquisition and retention. “There’s really no restrictions on how you use it,” she says. “It suits anyone’s lifestyle, really, especially how we’re living now. The possibilities are endless.”

No wrong way to gift 

They say ‘it’s the thought that counts’ and it turns out that age-old adage is truer than ever in the digital era. Digital gifts are spurring leaders across industries to consider how–and how often they are showing their appreciation to teams and clients. 

You could argue workplace gifts aren’t going anywhere. I’d argue the opposite: with intuitive digital platforms, workplace gifts are now going everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before they reach your workplace, too. 
 

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