It’s Time to Go Digital With Your Incentive Program

Staff Writer |

Have you ever given physical gift cards instead of a concession? Or ran a resident contest where you gave a gift card as a reward for the winner? Or something of the like?

Here is a throwback to my experience as a Multifamily Marketing Director.  The management company I worked for had just acquired an extraordinary new building in South Coast Metro, CA, which, also, had some extraordinary leasing goals.  As a part of our Marketing plan, we were challenged to come up with a "Look and Lease" special to accelerate our performance that did not erode revenue. Which meant we had to come up with an alternative to offering a rent concession but incentivize prospects who toured to lease that same day.

We decided that our "Look and Lease" special would provide a $500 gift card at  Room and Board, which was a local merchant in our region. This brand new Class A property deserved high-quality furniture, and it was local to our market. Sounds pretty epic, right? Sign me up!

Here’s the rub and what this Marketing program meant for the on-site team. Our community was 349 units, which meant we had to have a considerable amount of physical gift cards on hand to give to the new move-ins who took advantage of this offer. Fifty cards to be exact. Totaling $25,000.

Lump in your throat yet?

$25,000 worth of gift cards in the Leasing Office. $25,000! I remember when having $500 in petty cash was all we could have on-site. We now had fifty times more than that.  The team secured them as best they could and managed the distribution of the gift cards in an Excel spreadsheet. You can imagine the anxiety of having these cards on-site and ensuring they were secure.

You know what I am hinting at, right?

You hoped none of the gift cards took flight. Didn’t get lost. Or stolen. Or in the wrong resident's hands. Or dealt out like a card of  "One for you! One for me!" Listen, it is not that there was a lack of trust with the management of the program. But let’s be candid and say that it was NOT the most effective way of managing a large sum of money like that. Nor was it the most effective application of systems and control.


This story is not uncommon, and I hear of these pain points from On-site teams, Operations, Accounting, and Auditing across the country. We have not even discussed the physical work that goes into this effort. We were fortunate to have chosen only one local merchant to purchase gift cards.  Many other properties are tasked with buying gift cards at multiple locations like CVS and Walgreens. 

There are many times that a Property Manager has to make numerous trips a week due to a "cap" per day a person can purchase large sums of gift cards. That’s time away from the property, time away from leading community teams, and time away from delivering exceptional customer service.


When I joined Modern Message, I was introduced to an easier way to manage a property gift card program.  Let me introduce you to our new friend, CIP. The Custom Incentives Program (CIP)  is a FREE service to ALL Community Rewards customers. Transform your physical gift card program into a digital Reward Cards with end to end service.  This program can deliver, track, and monitor the claim of nearly 100 popular brands. It also allows your residents to choose which brand they would like to redeem their Reward Card for.  This is a nice added touch of personalization, giving the resident options to choose what they want!

Here’s what Susan Goff, Director of Brand Management at Highmark Residential, has to say about the Customer Incentives Program.

"I really like the Custom Incentives Program! It’s so personal and lets us control our Reward Card spend on new lease incentives. We can truly keep track of everything, and there’s an approval process which makes it very safe...And our COO loves it!"


These on-demand digital Reward Cards will allow you to offer anywhere from $5-$4,999 for any reason at all. From "Sorry We Made a Mistake" to "Happy Anniversary" to "Thanks for Choosing Us" and anything else under the sun. Our Custom Incentives Program (CIP) will not only delight your residents it will improve the management of incentives, eliminate fraud, and protect against loss. You can add, track, and manage all incentives in a dashboard and receive end-to-end customer support from our team. Best of all, it is a free service to all Modern Message | Community Rewards  customers. See for yourself! All the apartment community has to pay for is the digital Reward Card value they are sending to their residents.

There is another exciting benefit of digitizing your gift cards program. Did you know that on average, 4% of all digital gift cards sent to consumers are left unclaimed?

With our digital rewards card platform, the property can recoup that unclaimed money. YES! Let’s say you sent Mrs. Wilson a $250 Reward Card for renewing early.  She receives her email reward to claim and ignores it or forgets about it. After sixty days, it is STILL sitting as unclaimed even after multiple reminders sent automatically through the Custom Incentives Program (CIP). Do you know what happens next? That $250 Reward Card cost is returned back to the property funds.

This floored me. Who doesn’t claim their gift cards or Reward Cards? Shockingly, this is the truth. Now, I get there is money lost on physical gift cards, too. They get lost or left in a drawer, or the card isn’t entirely redeemed.

As I dug in further with this program, I  recognized this as a tremendous opportunity to solve so many concerns and issues.  When I talk to folks using our platform, I’ve discovered so much delight what is at its core - accounting management and electronic distribution program for rewards cards. Some feedback I’ve heard customers proclaiming is: 

  • It’s a game-changer
  • Saves me so much time
  • No more FBI watch list (a "tongue in cheek" response but the Property Manager really felt that there was a watch list with his name on it due to the amount of gift card purchases he was performing each week)

This was one of my favorite responses as it was so genuine and one my same wavelength.

"I am a Lease Up Business Manager in Winter Park, FL with Alliance for 8 years. Since implementing Modern Message Custom Incentives, life is SO much easier! We offer tons of gift card incentives – because people love free money; right?! The hassle of the daily visits, clearing the gift card racks at CVS, keeping track of the signature forms, tracking spreadsheets, receipts and expense reports is over! The process is SO easy, and residents love it! The Reward Cards are delivered right to their inbox and come with so many options to choose from for their incentive. PLUS it increases their knowledge and involvement with your Community Rewards program! It’s a win-win! #BestProgramEver!"

Kristen Miller | Business Manager, Alliance Residential

Yes, it is a win-win.  I just wish I had this available back in my day.

The next time you are grabbing your keys to drive to CVS to ransack their gift card rack… think of an easier solution and leave the stress and anxiety behind. There are plenty more things that will keep you up at night at a property.

Looking for one more reason to love our Custom Incentives Program (CIP)?

By adding this feature a property will typically see an average increase in both resident engagement and Community Rewards participation by upwards of 20%.


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