Covid-19: Dozens of firms in Singapore offer discounts, vouchers to encourage people to get vaccinated

Some experts question whether fairly modest incentives by retailers and businesses are likely to change the minds of those who are reluctant to get vaccinated against Covid-19. ― TODAY pic
Some experts question whether fairly modest incentives by retailers and businesses are likely to change the minds of those who are reluctant to get vaccinated against Covid-19. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, July 2 — At least 30 more companies, including electric car-sharing firm BlueSG and coffee chain Flash Coffee, are offering incentives such as discounts and vouchers to people who get the Covid-19 jab at a time when Singapore is ramping up its vaccination drive.

However, some experts question whether relatively modest incentives are enough to change the minds of the vaccine-hesitant.

Healthcare firm Minmed Group, which runs four Covid-19 vaccination centres here, has launched an online platform called iamvaccinated.sg, bringing together businesses that offer discounts and promotions to those who are inoculated.

Customers may present their Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate on the Healthhub mobile application in order to redeem offers at 28 participating merchants. The offers are valid until Dec 31.

Minmed’s executive director Sharmaine Chng said that she started reaching out to “like-minded partners” in February to offer privileges to vaccinated individuals.

“We wanted to inject some fun and light-heartedness into the vaccination drive,” she said.

“Covid-19 also affected the retail and food-and-beverage (F&B) industry... (so) we were also hopeful that #iamvaccinatedsg can generate some exposure and marketing opportunities for (these firms)... through the perks they offer.

“We decided that perks will be a good talking point and motivation for people to broach the subject of Covid-19 vaccination instead of focusing just only on the side effects.”

Participating firms include Korean cosmetics brand The Face Shop, which is offering customers 10 per cent off with a minimum purchase of S$50 (RM154) and traditional Chinese medicine firm Eu Yan Sang, which is offering a free two-year membership on its membership rewards card.

GNC, which sells health- and nutrition-related products, is also offering those who have been vaccinated 15 per cent off regular-priced health supplements, while Smooy Yogurt is giving vaccinated customers S$2 off instore and online orders.

Those visiting Hard Rock Cafe Singapore and Hard Rock Cafe Sentosa can also expect 25 per cent off food, beverage and merchandise.

Jeremy Goh, general manager of Hard Rock Cafe Sentosa, said: “We are participating in this initiative to pledge our support for its cause on spreading more awareness on vaccination by educating individuals on it and encouraging them to get vaccinated for additional protection against Covid-19.”

Other brands involved in this initiative are beauty services chain The Nail Status, kitchenware outlet Tott Store and cheesecake firm Cat & the Fiddle.

In May, ride-hailing firm Gojek announced that they would be giving a pair of vouchers worth S$15 each, or S$30 in total, to all its users in Singapore when they travel to and from Covid-19 vaccination centres.

The offer runs until August 31 on any day from 8am to 8pm.

Last month, American casual restaurant chain Shake Shack said that it will be offering free fries from July 1 with the purchase of a burger to those who have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Shake Shack declined to disclose how many people have taken up the offer.

From July 2, Flash Coffee customers will be entitled to a free cup of coffee when they show their vaccination record at any of its stores.

BlueSG has also announced that vaccinated customers can receive a S$5 rental voucher between June 28 to August 31.

What experts say

Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon from the National University of Singapore Business School questioned whether such incentives would boost vaccine uptake given that the “rewards are small relative to the notion of being vaccinated”.

“Such rewards are appealing to those already vaccinated and this is sort of the icing on the cake for them. But for those anti-vaccine, this is way too small a prize,” she said.

“You need something more. Why would people be anti-vaccine? Because they must hold something really, really important to them, inherently something against it. And a pack of fries and a free drink will not cut it for them to change their mind.”

Assoc Prof Ang suggested that a better method of encouraging people to get vaccinated is if these companies were to offer such rewards to those who come in groups, as opposed to individuals.

“So there is some peer pressure there to get your friends to be vaccinated so that you can go out as a group in order to get some reward,” she said.

Associate Professor Hannah H. Chang from Singapore Management University who does marketing research said that incentives could come in the form of social rewards that can be publicly displayed such as stickers, pins, or bracelets, to showcase that someone is fully vaccinated.

She noted that the effectiveness of a perk in terms of encouraging the undecided to get their shots depends on what psychological barriers are preventing those people from getting vaccinated in the first place.

“In Singapore, people’s willingness to get vaccinated is generally quite high compared to other countries. Effective incentives to encourage the undecided to get jabbed would need to directly address the psychological barrier or offer something sufficiently compelling such that the value of the perks outweigh the psychological barrier,” she said.

She added that while boosting the vaccination rate might be one of the reasons underlying these promotions, firms may also be using them for brand-building.

“To create a sense of ‘we-ness’ that the brand is together with their customers during an extraordinary, unexpected time such as now,” she said.

Assoc Prof Ang agreed that there are also marketing plus points for companies that decide to offer such incentives because it “makes them look good” to support the Government’s vaccination push.

‘Perks don’t do anything for me’

For engineer Balakrishnan Kannan, 28, who is still on the fence about getting vaccinated because he does not have a sense of urgency and is afraid of an adverse reaction, he said that such rewards are “too insignificant”.

“Plus, they are for products and services that I won’t use. My concerns about having adverse side effects due to the vaccine are bigger and more worrying. These perks don’t do anything for me,” he told TODAY.

Ranil Sandhu, 31, who has not been vaccinated because he is worried that there have not been “enough studies on the long-term effects of the vaccine”, also said that these rewards will not change his mind.

“If you have to bribe people to take a vaccine, obviously something is very wrong. Try educating them about the pros and cons and share the proper studies and statistics in an easy-to-understand way so that people are more inclined to get vaccinated instead,” he said.

He suggested a campaign presenting the “big picture”, dealing with issues such as what changes could Singaporeans expect, such as larger social gatherings, that would come with higher levels of vaccination.

Gayathiri Balamurugan, 25, said that these perks also do not entice her grandmother who is turning 75 and yet to be vaccinated.

“Offering perks could help in encouraging people but if her concern is primarily focused on the side effects per se, it would do little to influence her opinion with regards to getting the vaccine. She also does not patronise these brands offering discounts and rewards.

 

“So if her primary concern is surrounding her being unable to handle the side effects, these incentives don’t do much to be honest,” the undergraduate said. ― TODAY

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