Why is online loyalty so often ignored?
Casinos have typically been very profitable businesses long before the advent of the internet. As a result, many casinos find themselves continuing with the paradigm that got them where they are today, characterized by investments in the more traditional forms of direct marketing. Don’t get me wrong, these certainly still work, but augmenting them with the vast levels of personalization and interaction available today is key to continuing gaming revenue growth. In many cases, I think casino operators are hesitant to engage with their players online because they want to keep their players away from activities that they feel might replace on premise gaming (and most casinos cannot legally offer online gambling services yet).
What operators fail to recognize, however, is that gambling consumers are already playing and engaging with others online. It is clear that gambling consumers desire online interaction. Casinos can benefit by providing an interactive online destination that places their brand top of mind with players, and ensures that plans to visit the casino are never more than a thought away.
Why is online engagement and loyalty so important?
Today’s consumers have shorter attention spans than ever before, and in order to keep these players interested, they must be actively engaged. Casinos provide exciting experiences, however, as soon as players leave, that experience vaporizes. Most players are typically left with little more than a fleeting memory of the entertainment they enjoyed.
A successful online prospect and loyalty program should aim to keep players excited about interacting with the casino brand. For example, simple programs such as providing players with a coupon to enter online for access to special games or offers allows the casino to portray a positive representation of the casino brand and maintain the excitement levels experienced on site. In fact, in our experience, a robust, interactive loyalty environment can increase brick and mortar player visitation rates by as much as 40%, along with marked increases in coin-in per visit.
This is crucial for casinos right now as they determine how and if they will participate in impending igaming. The key is that regardless of whether igaming arrives or not for a particular casino, online and mobile engagement has proven itself capable of encouraging players to experience the brick and mortar facility more often. Of course, if igaming does come, then having a large database of players that are online-ready doesn’t hurt.
What are some effective strategies for the implementation of an online loyalty program?
When looking to implement a more comprehensive loyalty program online, many casinos make the mistake of just trying to provide an enjoyable online environment, often dictated by basic free-to-play games and features that aren’t actually meaningful to that player.
Rather than trying to just produce something that is generically fun or aesthetically pleasing, casinos ought to be more focused on making their online experience an extension of their brand, personalized to the needs and interest of the player. With this strategy in mind, the goal of the website changes from a place where players can come to find casino news and promotions from home, to an effective brand-driven experience that infatuates players with the casino brand, and drives them excitedly back to the casino through offers, benefits and information that are as relevant as possible to that player.
The personalization techniques available today in systems like our own allow casinos to speak to the player one on one, and enhance the loyalty relationship to a level that has not ever been reached to the masses. Previously, this personal experience could only be provided in person to the highest value players where face-to-face discussion or mailings were possible. Now everyone can be targeted in a unique way very cost effectively.
Why start with the player’s club members? Aren’t they already the most loyal?
The overarching goal of a casinos loyalty program is, of course, to entice more players to come to the casino more often, and motivate them to spend more per visit. Casino patrons who have already demonstrated significant brand loyalty will be the ones who benefit most from a more robust loyalty program, and provided casinos offer real value through their loyalty offerings, these players will be not only willing, but also excited to increase their engagement levels.
Additionally, focusing on adding value to the player’s club member experience has the additional benefit of helping casinos reliably track success, as it is very easy to track carded players. If the player’s club is providing significant value as it should, it won’t be difficult to entice new players to join, especially if the sign up process can be complete within a few minutes on site, or even better, online.
An interactive loyalty program that players see as valuable also has another benefit: turning your most loyal players into brand ambassadors for your casino. For instance, if a player can access their own personal online portal and do something exciting like enter a small but well designed viral contest each day, your most valuable consumers are likely to tell friends to give it a try. Casinos can even provide bonuses to players who actively refer friends and family. These referrals can be encouraged and promoted through integration with social media.
What are the three most important elements of successful implementation?
First, any successful online loyalty implementation must be backed by a targeted strategy. A casino must be acutely aware of the brand image they want to convey to their players. They must also be familiar with their player base, and the type of rewards, bonuses, or features they will view as most attractive. A solid strategy behind an online casino prospecting and loyalty program will ensure that both the casino and consumers receive maximum value from the online presence. Obviously casinos know their players really well at the gaming level, but they must seek to understand these players at the entertainment level as well to determine how to encourage them to visit more often.
Second, rather than replicating the typical casino website with premade casino games, something that exists on the web or on mobile today in droves, casinos should strive to make their website into an enjoyable experience, that connects players with real benefits targeted on an individual basis. Minimally, this ought to include giving players the ability to access their player’s club account through the website. Ideally, interactive components like contests, games that add value, or unique personalized features like individualized horoscopes and localized information – for example, geofencing - where offers are provided on the spot through mobile - can be included. But each of these has to be tied to the casino brand message. For example, if a casino is using one of the free to play sites available and their competitor is using the same free to play site, then there really is no brand differentiation.
An online player’s club must uniquely belong to that casino and players must get that as soon as they visit it. Ways to accomplish this might include advertising your online presence in the casino, complete with the accompanying imagery that appears online. The transition from in casino to online should be as seamless as possible, and customers will begin to view interacting online as an extension of a casino visit, rather than something additional or tertiary. This will set up the holy grail, which is an offline - online – offline cycle that is sustainable and results in much more frequent casino visits, as well as coin-in per visit.
Last, but certainly not least, if players will be logging into a casino website, that means at least some of their personal information is being used, and this makes security and site integrity of utmost importance. Casinos should be sure to work with a partner that has demonstrated their dedication to the highest standards of online security and that can offer a platform that provides levels of security on par with those employed in the financial industry.