LTP recently had the opportunity of interviewing Jonathan Price, CEO of Virtual Incentives. Jonathan is a pioneer in the incentives and rewards space, leading Virtual Incentives to build the industry’s premier technology to delivery digital gift cards and virtual Visa products for the incentive market. Jonathan’s experience with gift cards began several decades ago at the ice cream counter, where he sold and redeemed gift cards at Baskin Robbins. While building up the muscles in his scooping arm and sampling the product to ensure quality control, he first learned the value of customer service. As his career progressed, Jonathan continued to discover valuable lessons in client relationship management, teamwork and finding success through thought leadership. His depth of experience includes leadership roles with American Express, J. Walter Thompson and Incomm – experience that has lent itself well to the innovative, technology-based solutions that Virtual Incentives offers. Under his leadership, the company has created a platform that allows businesses to reward less expensively, more sustainably and faster than ever before. He holds a degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. LTP: Jonathan, first of all, congratulations on winning the Most Innovative CEO award in the Annual 2016 CEO World Awards. Can you briefly tell us what this means to you? Jonathan: This really meant a lot to me personally as well as from a business standpoint. I’ve always approached my goals with a forward-looking approach, trying to proactively implement products, services and technology that the marketplace wants and needs. This award is a testament to the way our entire team at Virtual Incentives anticipates the needs of a swiftly changing, technology-driven marketplace, and continually develops new services, products and solutions that meet those needs.
LTP: Can you provide us a brief introduction to Virtual Incentives and the solutions that you bring to market?
Virtual Incentives provides a platform that has transformed the way companies are able to manage their reward card delivery and engage with reward recipients. Our technology can help a company capitalize on that magical moment when a reward is delivered. We work in several vertical spaces where digital, instant rewards can improve success and help to accomplish company or campaign goals. Our partnerships run the gamut from consumer promotions programs (like loyalty, sweepstakes, rebates, and surprise & delight campaigns) in verticals like retail energy, telecommunications, automotive and many more. The market research industry also partners with us for our deep expertise in engaging the survey respondent, and we work with a variety of companies on their internal employee incentive programs. All told, we partner with more than 1000 clients, including 40 of the Fortune 100.
LTP:What is your view on the incentive and rewards industry? Can you highlight the key challenges that it faces?
There is a sea change happening across the industry. Rooted in traditional physical fulfillment, rewards programs are evolving to address a digital population that expects instant gratification, mobile experiences and the numerous benefits technology now affords. Mastering the shift from physical gift cards and clunky delivery methods to a seamless, integrated process ensures companies can engage their target audiences like never before.
That’s one of the reasons why we started Virtual Incentives. I wanted to take a big, bold approach to adapting to these trends, focusing on the reward recipient and their user experience; while enabling marketers to take advantage of the reward delivery to accomplish key marketing objectives. We’ve developed technology that works for both our clients and the end-user, with automated processes that are digitally driven from the back-end – with our API solution – all the way to providing an elegant, user-friendly interface for the reward recipient.
LTP: Apart from banks, do you work with third-party processors or do you process in-house?
We do partner with third-party processors who have great flexibility and particular capabilities to support virtual transactions. That allows us to focus on driving innovation on our platform which provides our clients a one-stop shop from custom reward creation, ordering and fulfillment redemption to superior customer and client services.
LTP: How do you view the competitive landscape?
There’s no one in the space who is doing incentives the same way that we are, with highly nimble, forward-facing technology innovation that puts the recipient at the heart of the process. Our market, and therefore, the competitive landscape, continues to evolve as our target market for incentives is so vast. Not only does it include those companies who are tech-forward and want to utilize our platform, it includes all those who are still issuing rewards in traditional ways such as paper checks and plastic cards but are now looking for ways technology can help them save money, streamline delivery and ordering, and integrate with their own systems.
LTP: What are the key initiatives that you have taken to develop the innovation culture in Virtual Incentives?
Our culture really starts with our team. We have an amazing number of individuals on board who have helped create a fun, innovative environment – from our client services department all the way to how we develop new products and solutions. Each team member has the opportunity to innovate for his or her own job, and bring ideas to our cross-departmental teams in order to keep everyone looking ahead and planning for the future. It’s this approach to internal communication and teamwork that has helped us continue to innovate – developing new technology to anticipate the needs of clients in the consumer promotions, employee incentives and market research respondent spaces.