For years, casinos have relied on monthly mailers to lure customers with free play, food, and other offers, but more and more are now transitioning to digital marketing, finding that digital marketing can help them reach customers in a timelier fashion and help track their activity when they’re on site.
That means relying on websites, email, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers, particularly on mobile devices.
But experts say they shouldn’t give up on their traditional mailer campaigns just yet.
“I am not sure if people are taking advantage of the opportunity to push messages through the mobile website, and if you don’t have that, you can send text messages,” Stephen Gongaware, senior vice president of business development for Management Science Associates, said at a panel on transitioning to digital marketing on day two of the Global Gaming Expo.
Gongaware said some Las Vegas casinos have offered customers who opt in and provide a cell phone number an automatic text message if a slot payout reached a specific threshold.
“It was extremely successful at driving patrons to the property,” Gongaware said.
Nick Hogan, co-founder and CEO of Reelmetrics, said casinos moving into digital marketing must realize that digital campaigns need their own direction. It’s not taking an analog campaign, putting it in digital form and pushing it out, Hogan said.
“It requires its own discreet strategy and discreet plan,” he said. “Break it into components: the segments you want to target and the messages you want to get to those segments.”
Using search engine marketing (SEM) optimization is vital because of the gatekeepers who control much of the traffic on the internet, Hogan said. It’s about the identification of your influencers and your affiliates.
“The most important thing about digital media and digital marketing is that it’s always providing back data points,” Hogan said. “Analysis is a core element of digital marketing and a huge differentiator (from) traditional analog marketing. It’s putting together the smart goal… something measurable and attainable and realistic.”
Gongaware said he’s a strong believer in leveraging all data that’s available to improve marketing and to improve the experience of patrons. One suggestion he offered is to leverage data from the casino management system to enhance communication with your patrons. For casinos with a mobile app or those considering adding one, tying the app to the back end of your casino management system can give operators clues about what players are doing and how they can best be marketed to.
“You can figure out if a player has experienced a quick loss,” Gongaware said. “This is an opportunity, if you have a mobile channel, to communicate with that player in real time. If you there’s a high probability that a player is going to leave, perhaps you can push them a message that they are five points away from some reward.”
“A lot of decisions in this industry are made with gut as opposed to analyzing data to see if it works, and if didn’t work (to determine) what did we learn and start again,” said Andrew Tottenham, managing director of Tottenham & Co., who moderated the discussion. “That is something companies need to think about: how are we going to implement something from the very beginning.”
In the end, Tottenham said, the successful use of digital marketing requires believing in the data.
Hogan advocated against turning off analog marketing and switching completely to digital, because demographics come into play in gaming.
“Often times, valuable players who are a bit older may not be as dialed in as the younger segment,” Hogan said. “You can put out promotions simultaneously and get back data points for the response rate on the digital campaign and the response on the analog side.
“I wouldn’t go cold turkey on analog. You can use them in parallel.”
Gongaware said he’s heard from operators that the cost of digital communication can be one-sixtieth that of a printed mailer. But he also suggested no one should stop mailers suddenly.
“There are enough customers in competitive markets who get those monthly mailers, lay them all out on the table, and decide where to go,” Gongaware said. “If your (notification) is hiding in a spam folder or was deleted, you might lose some customers from that.”
The advantage of digital, however, is the ability to pivot on campaigns quickly, he said. Pivoting is far more doable on digital media and doesn’t have any of the overhead costs of printed mailers.
Hogan said another advantage of digital media is that it can be effective in reaching players who are seeking novelty. When a casino adds a new game, they get a notification.
“Seven to 10 percent of casino patrons are novelty seeking. Telling them in a message that you have new games on the floor might drive another trip,” he said.