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Firm offers easier way to redeem spiffs, rebates Positive experience

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WHITBY, Ontario—Anybody who has submitted a rebate knows the frustration of jumping through hoops to get some promised money back from a purchase. That usually involves compiling the original sales receipt, cutting out the UPC symbol from a package, filling out a form and mailing the packet—only to wait at least a couple of months to receive the promised reward. It's a frustrating procedure that can leave a bad impression about the company offering the rebate. There may be an easier way. 360Incentives.com Canada U.L.C., a rebate/spiff-processing business, wants to improve its OEM clients' image by making the rebate redemption process a positive experience for all involved. The Whitby-based company was founded four years ago by CEO Jason Atkins “with the idea that the world of manufacturer sales spiffs, rebate programs and other marketing incentives could be handled using the latest technology and saving people time, paper and delivering a really unbelievable user experience,” according to the company's website. The company has clients in various industries but just recently entered the tire market by signing Hankook Tire Canada Inc. for a consumer rebate program and Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. for a motorsports spiff incentive. 360Incentives is taking a different approach to rebates/spiffs than the traditional strategy of implementing “breakage”—creating numerous conditions and vague instructions for redemption so that it is less likely the company will have to pay out the incentive due to payees simply giving up on attempts to get reimbursed. “We as a company look at rebates differently than we think is traditional and, just in general, differently than other vendors, other rebate processing companies and other manufacturers,” Michael Torcasso, 360-Incentives' vertical markets manager, told Tire Business. “Rebates have always had an almost cost-accounting-type of mentality underlining them, where breakage is a big part of the conversation as a company, a manufacturer or an OEM will offer a rebate program with the full know-ledge and expectation that there will be a large number of consumers who are qualifying for the rebate who actually don't submit for the rebate, and they call that breakage.... “We see that as a lost opportunity from a branding standpoint and a relationship standpoint. What happens within rebate programs is that companies typically make it more difficult than it needs to be for an end-user/consumer, who, I might add, are the people that have already invested in the brand,” he said. “They make a purposeful decision to buy Toyo tires or Hankook tires and then a company goes about not treating them in an exceptional or awesome way where they get paid, where the process is easy and they get paid quickly. So to a large degree you end up with consumers that may not have their last experience with a brand being a positive one. “So what we do, as a company, (is) we try to facilitate very easy processes for that consumer or that end-user consumer, and it's the same with spiffs inside the channel. “We make it very easy for them to report the purchase, to submit an invoice and then we pay them very quickly.” Rebate processing was around long before advanced computer technology “and there is still a legacy of causing people and requiring people to wait six to eight weeks and even longer to get paid and that's just unnecessary today,” he said. “If you have advanced technology and you have fraud control in place, it's possible to pay people very quickly and complete that brand experience within days instead of within months.” 360Incentives' Marketing Director Christina O'Reilly noted that in today's social media world, consumers have an expectation of immediacy. “In the digital world that we live in today, consumers have this expectation. And rightly so, they want their payment, their consumer rebate, quicker than in previous years,” she said. “And then coupled with the fact that they are in a social world, when they are dissatisfied with a brand, they go to the social world, they go to Twitter, they go to Facebook and convey their disappointment and equally their level of satisfaction around a particular brand...those are factors that are really driving the marketplace.” Under 360Incentives' program, rebate sponsors can offer a choice of remittance—checks, branded gift cards or direct deposit through bank accounts or Paypal. Participants also can have a choice in the way they submit their rebate/spiff—filling out a form online and uploading a scanned image of proof of performance/sale; download a preformatted bar-coded fax cover sheet with their contact information and fax all the required materials; or going the old-fashioned way of mailing the required materials. Whatever way they choose, all the information ends up getting digitized. “We are a 100-percent digital company, so all of the documentation that we receive relative to both spiffs and relative to rebates is all digital,” Mr. Torcasso said. 360Incentives created an electronic and automated process to make it easier for consumers to request their rebates for Hankook Tire Canada's “2013 Hankook Tire Spring Great Save Rebate.” The company is also administering Toyo's spiff program for motorsports drivers at the various races it sponsors later this year. Mr. Torcasso noted that by providing an easy and prompt rebate/spiff redemption process, a company shows its customers that it cares about them and wants to give them a positive brand experience at their last point of contact with them. “There seems to be a desire for that and I think more and more marketing managers and more and more vice presidents of sales and CEOs are really getting it and not viewing these types of programs as much as a program designed with breakage where money is intended not to be spent. “Today, they want to spend the money because it's resulting in a branding experience that makes that last touch point a very positive one.” “Breakage does not equal brand loyalty,” Ms. O'Reilly added. “Brand loyalty and the lifetime value of a customer far exceed any savings that a manufacturer would attribute or would receive by incorporating a percentage of breakage into their rebate model. “Over the long term, building your brand loyalty, customer loyalty, really does enable you to achieve a higher ROI because the focus overall is the lifetime value of the customer.” While 360Incentives' goal is to provide a high redemption rate, Mr. Torcasso admitted not every company would be attracted to that. “There are still companies out there that want to limit their liability in what they pay. They create a rebate program sometimes just for something to say in their advertising vs. creating a program that is really designed to stimulate sales and leave customers with a fantastic brand experience at the end of the day. And we're all about the latter.” To reach this reporter: kmccarron@crain.com; 330-865-6127.

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