Working to Strengths

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Stephen Crystal, CEO and founder of Las Vegas-based SCCG Management, a consultancy specializing in sports betting, igaming, intellectual property protection and casino management among other sectors, details the incomparable distinction between destination and igaming, yet explains the ways they can learn from each other through human intervention.

There is no comparison between the destination casino gaming experience and an igaming site - two different use cases entirely. There is, however, a natural synergy between a local or regional casino and its partner online casino that a pure igaming play can’t replicate.

The land-based casino operator's first advantage is the scope of their reach within the whole customer experience. Also, distinct from the digital marketing experience, working within a physical market has the advantage of shared demographic and psychographic characteristics.

This is not to say that digital marketing cannot differentiate its efforts to the zip code level - they certainly can. However, it’s rarely seen because segmentation at lower levels, for pure igaming operations, realizes more rapidly diminishing returns.

Regarding the visitors who show up at our front doors, much of the customer traffic related to igaming casinos and online sports betting operations is unintentional. It's driven by content sites and provided by affiliate marketing companies who pass that impulse-driven traffic to a website with the promise of a risk-free offer, or better.

At this point, the customers themselves weren't planning on visiting that location. Thus, there was no minimum investment by the customer into participation, like getting in a car and going to their local casino entertainment venue. Last, once passed through to the online casino, the actions taken by the customer are expressly constrained by the user interface and the options they present.

Now, it’s true that from the moment a customer first interacts with the online casino, their behaviors are tracked and recorded to a level that no land-based casino could conceive of replicating. However, when thinking about this level of customer behavior monitoring from getting meaningful and actionable insights, we often wonder about its real value. Do the railroad track-like constraints of online tracking methods allow us to learn meaningful customer preferences? Or instead, are you learning about customer behaviors when faced with the site's user interface design? It's one thing to perform A/B evaluations of copy or interface controls on a web page to increase time on the page incrementally or reduce abandonment rates. However, it's another thing entirely to learn actionable data points about the customer, driven by intent and preference.

We believe that the real-world complexities associated with a land-based gaming operation allow operators to understand customers more meaningfully. There are no user interface enforced guardrails in the real world - all options are available to the customer at all times. Additionally, the multidimensionality of the physical venue allows operators to understand their customers more deeply.

To be clear, we believe that the community of large-scale igaming operators is among the world's preeminent experts in digital marketing analytics and user interface optimization. However, we are also convinced that the amenity and option-rich environment of the land-based operation permits an entirely different level of understanding.

The pure digital marketing play watches masses of customers from 10,000 feet as they move like ants through tunnels of the user interface. It is sure to deliver reliable insights given time and volume, but its inherently virtual world constrains it.

The land-based marketing team establishes a personal and real-world level of engagement with their guests. This customer understanding is multi-dimensional, formed through local advertising, email and SMS marketing, promotions, player development professionals, and event marketing teams and campaign offer redemption data.

The relationship with the land-based gaming site allows for cross-promotion between itself and the casino. Rewards can come in the form of a unified players club wallet, with portable rewards between the casino and the igaming site. Also differentiated from the pure igaming site are all the land-based amenities that can be made part of the local casino's igaming benefits, including tier qualification, access to reserved parking areas and special onsite events. An additional benefit is the cost efficiency of a shared marketing services team that works together to cross-promote both entertainment opportunities and ensure that rewards and promotional reinvestment remain in line with customer value.

There are very few examples of locals casino markets with exclusive access to their local population center in the United States. In these competitive locals markets, it is well established that players have a dominant favorite, most frequently with the closest casino to their home, but give a share of their gaming wallet to two or more other casinos. When you have a local casino with its partner igaming site, combined with a loyalty program whose marketing and promotions teams operate as an integrated unit with the casino and igaming site, the perceived value of consolidating gaming activity within the loyalty program is magnified. Customers tempted to play with competitor because they were closer to the competitor's casino at that moment could choose to instead consolidate rewards by playing on their igaming site. The same "cheating" behavior, triggered by having an unlucky day at the casino, could move their play online instead of driving to the distant competitor.

The most successful locals casino marketing operations think of their customers as guests every day of the week, whether they're on the casino floor or not. When they're at the casino, they work to present the amenities, events and gaming experiences necessary to extend time on site. When they're not at the casino, they use those same tools to reduce the time between visits. The igaming site allows the business to extend the virtual walls of its operations, making it available to the customer at all times. This opportunity calls for an omnichannel marketing communications strategy with a higher frequency but a lighter touch. The omnichannel marketing strategy keeps the brand top of mind and opportunistic calls to action ready for the customer, when and where they can engage.

Automation is essential to maintain an effective omnichannel marketing presence with customers who now have access to gaming options anytime and anywhere. Robust tools for campaign automation are now available through vendors with off-the-shelf solutions with little to no customization needed. In addition, cloud-based CRM tools can be optimized for the casino gaming industry by your team,  with some professional services for hand-holding at the start.

SMS, push notification and in-app messaging, favorites for marketing channels, can be managed through integration. These channels then take specific offers and promotions driven by your marketing team through CRM and marketing campaign automation tools.

They can then extend the power of those messages with real-time content from third-party tools like live score data from sports data providers, and messaging automation from platforms that use AI to recommend timely and relevant content for the specific customer. This is the magic of micro targeted customer messaging, informed by pertinent real-time events.

Are these considered advanced capabilities? For the gaming industry, yes. Perhaps even for marketing in general. Luckily, we are past the point where this kind of capability would require a significant one-time and recurring investment in custom solutions to make this happen. Today, these are off-the-shelf solutions.

Land-based and igaming operations cannot be considered as inherently inferior or superior to one another as they are far too different. What we can say definitively, however, is that they are undeniably better together when supported byan integrated marketing team that sees and manages both businesses holistically.

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