An interview with Blackhawk Network President Talbott Roche
Q: Where does Blackhawk see itself fitting in the engagement space – as a provider of gift cards, primarily as a provider of engagement services, or both?
A: Both. Blackhawk will continue to provide prepaid and gift card products in addition to its new engagement services, which are a natural extension of its core business. Blackhawk is now a one-stop solution for employee rewards, consumer promotions and recognition, and indirect, sales-channel management programs, all of which can leverage gift and prepaid cards as their rewards. We pride ourselves in being a thought leader that provides game-changing engagement solutions through innovative products, services and technology.
Q: Blackhawk has made several acquisitions over the past several years? What is its strategy?
A: We believe the combination of our recent acquisitions enhance Blackhawk’s leadership position in the incentives and rewards space. These acquisitions have been complementary in terms of products and the customers they serve. Upon closing, the Achievers acquisition will provide Blackhawk access to an award-winning employee recognition platform, which is a complementary addition to our employee engagement portfolio. Our other acquisitions in the incentives and engagement industry have already provided us with an eCommerce website that delivers customized prepaid incentives, proprietary incentives management software, and depth of expertise in the channel and employee-focused incentives category, as well as the consumer incentives and rebates categories. And, of course, Blackhawk has very broad, prepaid, closed-loop card content with digital capabilities to allow immediate delivery of prepaid, closed-loop content.
Q: Why did Blackhawk use the term “engagement” in the name of its newest business unit?
A: Our new business unit is named after the engagement solutions we provide, including employee rewards, consumer promotions and recognition, and indirect sales channel management programs. Blackhawk as a full service provider of engagement solutions, from program design to implementation.
Q: Blackhawk is of course a leader in gift cards. Does it or will it offer other types of rewards or services?
A: Our engagement services deliver a variety of rewards including gift cards. We also offer open-loop, prepaid cards, payment via PayPal, paper checks, merchandise rewards and more. Prepaid cards continue to be one of the top requested rewards by consumers, employees and sales partners each year. We expect prepaid to continue to grow in importance in the incentive marketplace as end-users (reward recipients) demand flexibility of spend and choice of product.
Outside of our incentives business, Blackhawk has expanded on our initial concept of providing gift cards in the retail locations that are convenient to consumers. We now offer general purpose, reloadable gift cards, a digital version of our popular in-store Gift Card Mall, a gift card-specific mobile application, a gift card exchange, prepaid telecom products and more.
Q: How big does Blackhawk believe this market could become?
A: According to Mercator Advisory Group, the corporate incentives market was an estimated $41 billion industry in 2014. Also, employee incentives, which is Achievers’ core business, is an important component of the corporate incentives market. And a recent survey from our engagement division shows that less than half of U.S. employees are happy with the rewards and recognition their employers currently offer – an indication of the demand and potential remaining.
Q: Where would Blackhawk like to see itself in the engagement space in five years?
A: Maintaining our position as a global leader in customized incentive and engagement solutions. There’s a change taking place in how corporations motivate and reward their shoppers, employees and customers as traditional incentives are giving way to more enticing prepaid products. Blackhawk’s heritage is providing innovative prepaid products, solutions and technology to meet the needs of consumers, employees and corporations. We will continue to work to expand our customers’ ability to engage these key constituents with the best rewards, in the right places, to drive results.