IGA Tradeshow: Engagement and retention remain paramount for operators

April 15, 2024 1:33 PM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
April 15, 2024 1:33 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports

The session “Driving Engagement and Retention in Online Betting Platforms” April 9 at the Indian Gaming Association’s Tradeshow & Conference in Anaheim wasn’t the best attended event of the week.

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Hosted by Victor Strategies Executive Vice President Gene Johnson, the session attracted about 25 attendees. But those who were there heard a primer on one of the most impactful issues operators face: the need not only to attract players, but to keep them coming back.

GAN Senior Vice President of Sports Betting Rob Lekites, noting the limited reach of tribes in the igaming space, cited the importance of player acquisition.

“This topic would be important to B2C operators,” Lekites said. “Acquiring players is top of mind, tied closely to retaining players. And how do you do that? We have partners who are acquiring players through social casino. Social casino has been more of an engagement tool in the past and it will always be an engagement tool, but being able to acquire players on a social-casino or free-to-play platform is a proven cost-effective model.

“Having that on the right platform with the right provider can lead to a good first step, once igaming and sports betting are legalized in your jurisdiction.”

Chalkline CEO Daniel Kustelski has a simple thesis for helping operators attract and retain customers: People like sports, especially when stars like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark plays (during the recent NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament) or Tiger Woods makes the cut at the Master’s Tournament.

His advice? Lean into fans’ love for sports in “a very simple free-to-play way,” Kustelski said. “You might stand a chance of winning a $20 slot credit or whatever the prize may be. You get to predict what happens at the Masters if you’re a golf fan. … We provide all these opportunities for the casino to provide entertainment. Our form of providing entertainment is allowing people to predict what’s going to happen, which they want to do anyway.”

Kustelski added providing free-to-play games is an easy way for casinos to capture the email addresses and mobile phone numbers of new customers. Kustelski said that of the 7,000 customers who played Chalkline’s free-to-play games for one operator, 4,000 did not have loyalty cards, providing the operator with a cache of new information about potential new players.

Optimove Senior Director of Sales U.S. Gaming Tomer Imber said there’s a flywheel between acquisition and retention, with the most important element being lifetime value. The higher the lifetime value of players, the more an operator can invest in acquisition.

“Hence, you can outspend your competitors and pretty much dominate the market,” Imber said. “There’s always an interesting connection that people tend to overlook. They tend to differentiate between acquisition and retention and the reality is that it’s more of a blurry line. That that’s the starting point of as far as retention goes.

“If we try to double-click into retention and how we think about that, between promotions and content and the different life-cycle stage that the players may be in, which may be very very different, a lot of information is available for us to use.”

Brandon Asgeirsson, senior account executive for Xtremepush, agreed that lifetime value is critical for operators, even as CMS, free-to-play offerings, and promotion teams vary. But there are similar patterns in most engagement and retention activities.

“The similar patterns result in having unified platforms in which one can hold and maintain all this complex information in one place,” Asgeirsson said. “And being able to receive it in real time is super critical, because online gratification is much different than land-based. Having a platform that’s agile and can receive this data, that can really act on segmenting it, predicting who the players are going to be who have the most value to the casino is where we see the most similar patterns.

“You unify that data, but putting it into channel strategy is very important too. Are emails preferred, or SMS, or push notifications from the native app? And what we’re actually seeing evolving is the gamifying of the experience. Can you build a gamification map that has people visit different properties online because they can’t travel throughout the state? Can you add social games? Can you add in gamification wheels that incentivize and work in tandem with the promotion team?

“Retention is complex for every operator that we work with, but making sure that you have a platform that can do it all in one is very important.”