Maximizing loyalty with CRM: Leveraging gamification and AI strategies

July 5, 2024 7:59 AM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
July 5, 2024 7:59 AM

With the Ontario market established after over two years, the battle in the deeper grass is happening, with 50-plus licensed operators in the province scrapping to convert casual players into dedicated players, all to gain a competitive advantage. Customer loyalty and retention are the names of the game now, with AI strategies more and more a part of that.

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At the Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto, a panel discussion delved into the topic of maximizing customer relationship management, gamification loyalty, and AI. The panelists included Gibran Khan, Director of Growth Marketing & CRM, FanDuel, Stewart Groumoutis, Director of Digital Strategy, BCLC, Trent Schwartz, Senior Manager of Gaming Experience, BetMGM, moderated by Tommy Kearns, CEO and Co-Founder, Xtremepush.

How do operators take the players who came in for free to play a game, for example, and build loyalty and buzz from there?

Here are some of the nuggets that came out of the discussion?

When talking about CRM and how it’s evolved at FanDuel, Khan pointed to three key factors: data integrity, engaging through responsible gaming, and product or making sure you have the right tech stack.

“Thousands, even millions, of bets are placed every day, every week, every month, with tons of customer data, and you can get really lost in it,” he said. “You need to start looking into the weeds and understand what’s happening with each customer. Having a very strong data-engineering team, an analytics team to help bring up the right data into the platform, so we can send out very customized and personalized comps, is very important.”

Said Groumoutis, “It’s about using the data in a way that you can build insights for serving your customers. What I see in the industry right now is an understanding that a bunch of responsibility comes with having that level of data, not just in player health, but also just recognizing that it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole. We have this information or that customer, so we can understand how to incentivize the next deposit or how to bring them to that next level of play. But that’s not always the right thing for the customer.

“As we move from acquisition into retention, the focus is on making sure customers are having a rewarding experience, that they feel valued. That’s where CRM needs to go, because customers are becoming far more discerning. They’re looking for more from the companies that they engage with. And I think in the gambling space with its heightened emotional aspect, when players have a poor outcome, it’s that much more important to make sure that they feel valued, that they feel rewarded for engaging with your company.”

With MGM’s entertainment heritage that goes back 100 years, Schwartz says he is entrusted with going from retention and CRM to product and marketing to affiliates, while keeping that heritage alive.

“CRM is the driver of the business,” he said. Schwartz referenced Wheel of Fortune Jackpot Week in May, across North America, which partnered with Sony and tapped into the buzz around host Pat Sajak’s retirement, offering up a free-to-play game promoted on the TV show and driving people back to their site.

“It’s what you do on top of that. How do you raise one more level up and say, it’s not just coming for a free-to-play game, but it’s taking every part of the journey that you can and making it part of the same message. You want to have the welcome journey and the winning journey. When you have a win on the site during that weekend, you have Vanna White congratulating you. So it’s that and then getting into things like loyalty. Making sure that at every step of the player journey and no matter what level they’re at, they’re receiving targeted messaging. It’s not just a promotion. It’s giving them entertainment. It’s a long-term goal, with fun frequent content.”

Khan referenced FanDuel’s Rob Gronkowski “Kick of Destiny” promotion during the Super Bowl, with free-to-play engagement in which customers could win a share of a million dollars, creating buzz and a community and not so much about betting, but heightening engagement in the Big Game.

“The vast majority of customers will leave a loser. That’s the reality of the gambling industry,” said Groumoutis. “You don’t have any control over the outcome. You can’t stop a player from placing a poor bet. What you can do is find all those opportunities to add things around it, to make sure that they’re having a good experience.”

In other words, operators can’t control a player’s  emotional outcome, but they can control everything that surrounds it, such as entertainment and rewards that aren’t part of the gambling journey, leaning into those opportunities where you can influence the emotional outcome for the customer, that builds engagement, he added.

Make sure that your site isn’t stagnant, Schwartz said. Keep the content fresh. When it comes to casino, don’t just set it and forget it.

“Take the levers that you have available — gamification, free games, personalized journeys, marketing, communications — and keep moving them to give the freshest experience you can, to give players the best entertainment experience possible,” he said.

Take the Netflix model. Quiz them at registration, ask what kind of games they want, try to understand what kind of players they are, so if they’re a live casino player, for example, don’t show them slots all the time.  Communicate with them about the games they prefer.

Everybody is looking for ways to get a sports bettor over to play casino. Cross-selling is about putting the customer first.

“Everybody wants to find a way to take a player from whatever they’re engaged with and move them into a more profitable product,” said Groumoutis. “Unfortunately, that’s probably the fastest way to alienate a customer as well. So it’s about looking at those opportunities. If you’re looking at cross sell, find the opportunity to increase the entertainment value for that customer. And if you take that approach, the revenue will follow. You’ll keep the customer long term. You’ll build loyalty. You’ won’t have to fight tooth and nail to keep that customer, because they’ve seen that you’re invested in their entertainment value.”

If all you are looking at is how much revenue you can drive out of a customer, then that’s all that will get managed and opportunities for longer-term loyalty will be lost.

BetMGM’s recent announcement of a partnership with slots social media star Brian Christopher will offer them a window through engagement with Christopher into player sentiment, how heathy the relationship is, how well they are doing in building the long-term customer relationship through entertainment, Schwarz said.