Player gifting has entered a significant age.
Enhanced service methods blend gratitude with gaming. Players can pick the gifts themselves and choose how to obtain them.
This is quite an intersection. Operators juggle mass production and the personal touch. It’s a tricky mix. How casinos handle these factors will form some separation in this sector. There are the roles of hosts, and their public-relations impact on players, to consider. There are big parties and gifting events that strengthen the casino-patron bond by underscoring the individual’s importance.
And there is the potential reduction in play, albeit temporary, these efforts will produce.
All factors have their merits. There’s a powerful emotional connection to “free,” and most people who receive promotional products or offers do additional business with that company. Will a short-term distraction of a line or a party provide more benefits later from a happy patron? That’s where the decision-making comes in.
Bling Is King
Pine Brook, New Jersey-based Rymax, which formed a gaming division 10 years ago, conservatively estimates it has reached 50 million players with gifts that denote panache.
On the web, via onsite loyalty programs or in bulk giveaways, “If you got a great product from the casino it almost certainly came from Rymax,” says Paul Gordon, the company’s senior vice president of sales.
Operators have long used gifts—watches, handbags, jewelry, etc.—to express appreciation beyond points or a comp. They can be worn, displayed and enjoyed long after a player leaves the resort, maintaining a tie between patron and property. Names like Amazon (Alexa), Google, Cambridge and Ring convey significance to a player. The nuggets of luxury provide a key psychological component, labeling the individual as an executive player.
Rymax rolls out 40 to 50 new brands a year. Casinos buy the high-end products at a sizable discount, enabling them to engage the patron in an economical way. The company also produces player-loyalty shopping sprees, experiential events and bulk-product giveaways that create loyalty and drive frequency of play.
“We created a new dynamic when we brought high aspirational brands into the offerings,” Gordon asserts. “We don’t do the logo items or knock-off products. Rymax offers brands that people want to buy and will redeem with comp dollars driving play and frequency.
“The idea of a free meal and going to see a show has no trophy value to it,” he adds. “The trophy value is what gives that same dollar spent longer legs. The watch on a person’s wrist can still be there many years later and when they look at the watch, they think of where they played.”
A reward isn’t always be a comp, voucher, or even an overnight stay. Trophy value provides its own form of advertisement when someone asks, “Where did you get it?”
Gifting also works internally, as operators embrace new methods of rewarding team members.
“Employee recognition, peer-to-peer recognition and (acknowledging) years of service are vital for all companies,” Gordon says. “Right now, with unemployment at 4 percent, the need to retain and recruit good employees is paramount. We work with our clients to deploy these programs, and when the employee receives the product, the trophy value and residual value are long-lasting.
“Give employees $200 and ask them what they did with it a year from now. Then give them a watch or handbag or speaker system, and as long as they wear it or use it, they have a positive reaction to their company.”
Sports-wagering gifts and programs figure to grow in the next couple of years, Gordon believes.
“Sports betting loyalty will be something you see more of in 2020 as the economics and the incorporation of the current loyalty program are ironed out,” Gordon predicts. “The percentage of profit to reward solely against sports betting is not there, but if included in everything from dining and traditional games, it works very well.”
The products could range from Alexa (“What time does the Eagles game start?”) to golf clubs, outdoor grills, sunglasses and more.
“The industry needs to never forget what it really is—the entertainment business,” says Gordon. “Players want to feel special; they want to be part of the property’s culture. Player loyalty programs and player redemption events such as shopping sprees deliver that, if the property spends the time to plan and deliver excitement and fun. Make the rewards experience interactive. Theme the rewards. And always give the players a choice.”
Recently, Rymax has helped gaming properties streamline loyalty rewards programs across different states. Last year, it rolled out an upgraded version of its proprietary online rewards platform, MaxSite, giving it a sophisticated new look, faster capabilities, a scalable build-out and new ways to redeem for rewards. The company’s newly enhanced rewards redemptions app, MaxMobile, provides rewards participants on handhelds with a convenient, user-friendly experience, where they can be rewarded in real time.
What a time to unveil a gift.
At G2E, Scientific Games will introduce its innovative Player Boutique, a marketing and gift-fulfillment program featuring full integration to Scientific Games CMS systems and powerful visual delivery via the iVIEW 4 display directly at the slot game.
Player Boutique is set to debut at the Del Lago casino in upstate New York during the fourth quarter, according to Bill Bachman, the company’s senior manager of consulting and gift services. Several installations will follow early in 2020.
But G2E will be the industry’s first look at a vision realized by Bachman, who sees the “wacky idea I put on a bar napkin a couple years ago” evolving into a strong market product.
“You put this directly on the slots,” he says. “I’m a player, I just earned 500 credits. The screen says ‘Congratulations, you have just won a toaster.’ I click on the machine for the toaster (thus claiming it) and two days later it shows up at my house. There are 1.8 million gifts available on Amazon.” The gifts are delivered utilizing proprietary capabilities developed by Scientific Games and Initial Rewards Technology, fulfilled by Amazon.
Player Boutique delivers strong, tangible benefits to operators and patrons. Gamblers can essentially cash in without cashing out, staying at a hot machine without stopping to collect a prize. An approach like this one can alleviate the unintended consequence of a high-profile gift program. A selection may be out of stock, disappointing the customer and robbing casinos of time on device.
“There’s a strong response rate on days when a casino is giving something away—everybody wants a gift and the lines are huge,” Bachman says. “But if you’re the player, do you want to wait in that line and then carry around the toaster you just won or the waffle iron all throughout the property? That’s no fun at all.”
The product can help operators keep players engaged, retain valued time on device and unclog a tedious labor process.
“There are logistic nightmares to the way gifts are often distributed,” Bachman says. “They’re dropped off in trailers. People stand around and there is a line to unpack it. If it’s the wrong quantity or the wrong item, it has to be packed back up and shipped.”
Player Boutique allows patrons to earn and redeem rewards points right at the gaming machine via iVIEW DM. It gives operators the ability to allow players to select from a variety of gifts and to determine the point-earning qualification for those gifts.
Qualified players can see their progress towards gifts via a progress bar, which displays during the promotional period directly at the iVIEW 4.
Player Boutique gives casinos the flexibility of offering gifts at any time with no constraints on inventory or product selection. Promotions are designed via the Elite Bonusing Suite and can be pushed to the casino floor in seconds via Scientific Games’ Web Content Manager and iVIEW solutions.
Make Your Best Offer
NRT Chief Marketing Officer Aron Ezra has taken his relationship-building philosophy to another level. His OfferCraft company gained industry acclaim by turning incentives into games, whether the recipient was a patron or employee.
When NRT Technology acquired OfferCraft last year, Ezra maintained a pivotal role in the new company format.
OfferCraft is not only a successful standalone product, it adds important new functionality to NRT’s existing hardware and software solutions, Ezra says.
“The platform includes a broad range of additional tools that have absolutely nothing to do with games, like mobile offer distribution, interactive ads, player portals, unique offer codes, marketing functionality for kiosks, dynamic surveys, interactive newsletters and much more. Each component is geared toward presenting information in a better way.”
OfferCraft enhances communications with target audiences and creates effective incentives. That’s powerful when coupled with NRT’s other products, Ezra contends.
“When you think about rewards, they take endless forms, from clothing and coffee mugs to free trips, free meals or free play. What casinos give has typically been quite diverse, since a broad range of rewards helps to attract a broad range of people. I think the area where we’ve seen the most changes recently is in how casinos distribute, measure and manage these rewards.
“Many companies, ours included, have worked hard to trailblaze exciting new ways to help casinos motivate their target audiences. As an example, by using NRT’s OfferCraft software, casinos can distribute rewards and incentives digitally by text, email, social media, mobile app, or kiosk—and patrons can actually interact with those incentives in some pretty remarkable ways.”
Ezra says this format enables patrons to give feedback about their rewards, swap rewards, or view them easily right from their mobile devices. This allows them to more easily redeem their incentives across multiple points on the casino floor. After the rewards are distributed, marketing teams can create profiles of anticipated future patron behavior based on exactly how they interact with an incentive.
Gifting, like all forms of enterprise, is not one-size-fits all. And the psychology behind it hasn’t changed.
“Casino patrons visit casinos to have fun,” says Ezra. “They enjoy the excitement, the possibility of winning big, the shows, and the feeling of being special and appreciated. Gifts, whether physical or digital, enhance guest engagement between visits and keep people thinking about the brand. We often take this a step further by giving out gifts and rewards in the form of games, to make the process of getting the reward as fun and memorable as possible.”
Ezra says more casinos are extending the incentive concept to employees. He predicts increased inner-company competitions, rewards and gifts as a way to recognize employee contributions. Some of the programs include games to make training and orientation materials more fun via randomized pulse surveys and trivia-based assessments.
Throughout the highly competitive industry, repeat business has never been more important. Technology provides a new avenue to thank customers, along with a challenge. Between personal contact on one side and revenues on the other, casinos look for the sweet spot.