Outlook and Budgets for 2022 Incentive Programs on the Rise

A new Incentive Research Foundation study reveals gift, gift-card and event-gifting trends for North American and European programs.

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Budgets for incentive programs are expected to increase by 34 percent in 2022, according to the Incentive Research Foundation’s Industry Outlook for 2022: Merchandise, Gift Cards and Event Gifting. The study of 481 North American and European incentive professionals also revealed that per-person spending on incentive winners will increase to $806 from the $764 average in 2021.

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Incentive's 2021 Gift Survey provides deep insights into motivational gift and gift-card trends.

Remarking on the first IRF study to include both North American (275) and European (206) incentive professionals, the organization's president Stephanie Harris said, “It’s exciting to see both the similarities and differences between the markets. For both North America and Europe, 78 percent of respondents reported that they expect their company to have strong financial performance in 2022." She added, however, “When we drill down into how gift cards, merchandise and event gifting are being used, we see some very different trends in Europe compared to North America.”

Other key findings of the survey, which tracks key metrics over a 12-year period, include:

  • Spending is up: Merchandise spending will increase by 30 percent and gift card spending by 34 percent. 
  • Optimism for the economy is growing: 63 percent of North American respondents believe the U.S. economic outlook is strong for 2022; for the IRF's 2021 outlook, just 50 percent of respondents had confidence in the economy.
  • Merchandise priorities vary: North Americans place a higher emphasis on logoed, brand-name merchandise, while Europeans are more likely to give office accessories as a gift.
  • Gift-card selection differs: Europeans are more likely to give gift cards for accessories, jewelry, beauty products, travel, and groceries. North Americans prefer to give ‘big box’ retailer cards and coffee gift cards.
  • Event-gifting sourcing has shifted: Online retailers have surpassed corporate sales as the primary place to buy gifts.