Have we got a deal for you. Employee discount programs, generally part of a larger work-life benefit package, are proving to be a valuable benefit.

Small-, mid- and large-sized companies that offer these discount programs believe they help achieve goals of worker retention, job satisfaction and company loyalty. The savings augment income for workers, who in turn represent a valuable customer source for vendors.

Employee discount programs give workers access to exclusive offerings from local and regional vendors and can take varying forms. They include percentage discounts from the vendor, reductions off products such as cars and appliances, and special member access to events or organizations.

"The best thing about having an employee discount program is that it's a universal benefit, and in our years of experience we've had every type of employee from executive level to the security guard utilize the program," says Matt Tabor, vice president of business development at Sparkfly, an Atlanta-based discount vendor.

Working Advantage has been providing employee discounts and reward programs to corporations for 16 years. Mike Giles, vice president of business development, says the company alleviates the administrative burden of HR departments and provides 10,000 corporations and 10 million users with family-oriented entertainment such as Broadway shows, movie tickets and sporting events.

Working Advantage purchases all the products in high volume and receives a substantial discount price, and then offers them to employees for a lot less than they would be able to get by going to the box office, ski resort or amusement park directly.

 

Stretching paychecks

The wide range of potential savings in discount programs helps workers stretch their paychecks.Sparkfly discounts, for example, range from 5% to 50% and are available year-round to employees on websites and intranet sites.

"Extensive discount programs - ones that offer dining, entertainment, travel, electronics, [and more] - offer a wide variety of merchants that will generally keep employees coming back to the site on a more frequent basis," says Tabor.

To get the program in the employees' mind, it should be given space on the company intranet or broker website, says Brian Roland, president and CEO of program vendor Abenity.

 

Utilization varies

Utilization rates can vary but "programs announced by email typically receive 40% voluntary participation with employees within the first year, and programs that hand out membership cards or savings guides," typically see 60% of voluntary participation, Roland says.

Abenity also sends a monthly newsletter to employees featuring new and limited-time discount offers that are relevant to the current season. This newsletter is branded for the employer and comes from the email of their choice. The perks and discount newsletter receives up to 25% open rates and 23% click-through rates.

Once a product is purchased via Working Advantage, orders are handled 100% inhouse, says Giles. "Employees can receive help from customer service if they have questions," and representatives can walk over to the inventory to read the fine print. The company can pack and ship from its warehouse, responding easily to any changes customers have in their orders.

For employees, discount programs are free, and for the employer, they can be as little as $1 per employee/per year, or less, says Tabor.

The most popular categories for Sparkfly include travel, entertainment, computers/electronics and automotive.

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