GGB is committed to providing updated news and analysis on our weekly news site, GGBNews.com.

Loyalty Tech

The science of customer loyalty takes on new importance as the industry emerges from the Covid-19 crisis

Loyalty Tech

They gleam and sparkle for both operators and gamblers. They resonate deeply. Their appeal is undeniable.

Welcome to the new era of gifting, a celebrated promotion link between gaming operators and customers, as operators seek to establish separation from competitors. Gifting provides them accordion-like flexibility to do so. Expand the offers for large, one-time events. Contract them for limited, individual offers.

And keep the music playing.

Gaming utilizes part of this estimated $22 billion industry to drive customer loyalty, forge relationships and provide well-timed offers.

Gifting has a larger-than-normal space in this area. It is often linked with gamification—the concept of elevating the importance of customer service by turning tasks into games, with incentives and points, for employees.

Yet the gamification realm is less urgent. Motivated team members are grateful to return from Covid-induced layoffs. Customer service is the biggest built-in guarantee most casinos already have. And although gamification to reward employees internally works, operators prioritize getting customers into their building.

The trick is reaching gamblers, nudging them back into the gaming fold and expressing gratitude players remember. Operators use many tools, including casino management systems and face-to-face interaction.

Synkros Solutions

Konami occupies a strong place in this sector via Synkros, a casino management system that has supported the industry since 2001 and serves nearly 400 gaming venues worldwide.

The inspiration of the product was to build a fully integrated enterprise casino management system enabling any customer, regardless of size, to leverage world-class technology.

“When we speak with our customers, they are always looking for new ways to reach targeted audience segments with relevant offers that deliver real results,” says Jay Bertsch, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for Konami. “This requires a stable and flexible solution that allows for a diverse set of individuals and skill sets to operate.”

Konami’s Synkros casino management system delivers with tools like its award-winning Synkros Offers Management, which empowers operators to reach, incentivize and reward players uniquely to their demographic and spend. It is a robust player development product that allows casino properties to set up, schedule and deploy a strategic mix of awards to targeted players, with real-time tracking across the Synkros ecosystem.

How does the typical player utilize it?

“Synkros Offers Management was created to give operators the utmost convenience and control to configure promotions and maximize their results,” Bertsch says. “Seamlessly tapping into analytics from Synkros Advanced Incentives, operators have the data to deploy a strategic mix of awards and offers to targeted player demographics. This gives players more opportunities to connect and engage with property promotions that are most relevant to their carded activity. Offers can be non-contingent or require targeted action, and can be scheduled for specified time periods of activation, selection and expiration.”

Bertsch adds that with Synkros Offers Management, players can interact with the property, building loyalty through the use of kiosk machines, SMS, email, direct mail, and at the slot machine device.

“Players are given notice of targeted offers specific to their activity and spend, which may or may not require them to earn through an action such as a target wager threshold, visit frequency, etc., as specified by the property,” Bertsch indicates. “They have the option to select and redeem up to five prizes at a time—such as comp vouchers, free play, drawing tickets, tournament entries, bonus points, and bonus comp points.”

Bertsch says Synkros Offers Management has the practical convenience to transform awards from blanket promotions to a life cycle of personalized engagement based on direct input from patrons. Because offers are based on targeted player activity and preferences, operators can optimize awards to motivate key actions and behaviors.

Whether the goal is increased visitation, share of wallet, carded play or market share, Offers Management gives operators the tools to drive targeted player behaviors, while rewarding players in a life cycle of customer engagement with offers that the player actually wants, based on preferences.

This is a challenging time for operators, who need every edge not only to thrive, but to withstand the Covid-19 downturn. Some properties will rebound faster than others. Synkros will be a key for the operators who have it.

“System technologies with the most value are those that allow us to reach and engage players with greater efficiency and effectiveness—with equal importance, targeting those top players given the reduced capacity that properties have today,” Bertsch asserts.

“When properties have the tools to reach and connect with players better than their competitors, that’s incredibly powerful in any market environment. It drives increased customer satisfaction, helps fulfill promotional objectives, and creates a differentiated guest experience and brand loyalty.”

Grasping a New Trend

Karl Kamb, co-founder of Concept 3 with David Thistle, offers a poignant, yet optimistic look at the new industry landscape.

“Covid-19 wiped a lot of companies out, financially and culturally,” he says. “It changed the way many industries, including gaming, think about what’s truly important. For C3, it reinforced that courage and commitment to your ideals is all that matters.

“We kept our entire team intact,” he continues. “Continuity not only of messaging but of people is critical for the navigation into the unknown world of new normals. As we crawl out of 2020, at C3 we value our customers, our employees and our families more. We have a renewed spirit of optimism and hope for a great 2021 and beyond.”

How will that unfold? Concept 3 is a promotional product distributor and member of the Advertising Specialty Institute. It can supply operators with every possible promotional product from more than 3,000 suppliers.

Thistle believes the gifting segment is more important now than ever. Gamblers are in the driver’s seat regarding offers and rewards. Players can evaluate which gaming options offer the best rate of return on entrainment spend, Thistle asserts. A casino’s reinvestment strategy can have a significant and measurable influence on where a player chooses to gamble.

“Gifting programs serve as not just an incentive to help guide a player’s decision on which property they ultimately choose to visit,” Thistle says. “Implemented effectively, it can drive an incremental midweek trip they might not normally take.

“When compared to free play or gift cards which offer a near dollar-for-dollar cost/benefit ratio to a casino operator, gift programs represent the best return on investment for the operator. Concept 3 branded gift programs typically have a 3-to1 value impression. For example, a $20 casino investment into the cost of a gift yields a $60 value impression for the player.”

Concept 3 has sourced and sold everything from Porsches to paperweights to casinos across North America. High-value players want to be rewarded above and beyond what the average player can earn. Compare it with airline frequent flyers seeking points they convert into first-class seating.

“It is our belief that nothing complements a casino’s brand and reinvestment strategy better than experiential gifting,” Thistle asserts. “What constitutes experiential gifting? When a player receives an invitation from a celebrity to come to their favorite property to redeem a gift, customer engagement is taken to a whole new level.”

Experiential promotions are not just fun and memorable for casino patrons, they drive a brand-centric gifting strategy that maximizes rates of redemption while delivering products that have a high perceived value that help keep patrons tethered to the player’s club awaiting the next curated Concept 3 promotion that has yet to be rolled out.

“For some, generic gifts may achieve desired results,” says Thistle. “For others, national brands with broad consumer appeal, and a dose of celebrity endorsement sprinkled in, can create a one-of-a-kind experiential gifting strategy that propels customer engagement to new heights.”

Thistle adds that Concept 3 owns and operates its own screen printing, embroidery, graphics and sourcing divisions. That allows the company to run lean. It can create and deliver brand-named casino gift solutions that are not only exclusive to Concept 3, but to the gaming industry as a whole.

“Understanding why casino marketing is a critical function of a property’s success is so important,” he indicates. “People ask me, ‘So, you are the gift company?’ I tell them gifts are simply a tool that is used to strengthen the relationship between player and property. It’s not what we at C3 do. We are in the ‘value amplification’ business. We take a casino’s limited and valuable player reinvestment dollars and build lasting impressions of trust and confidence, all critical metrics to the achievement of the property’s financial goals.”

Dealing With Change

Paul Gordon, vice president of sales for Rymax, sees the initial sign that the gaming industry looks ready to resume gifting. Base-level precautions like temperature checks, sanitizing stations, face-mask enforcement and social distancing have been accomplished, he says.

On to Phase 2. Deploy the merchandise.

“Having a tangible product as a gift versus free play or additional discounts delivers trophy value and a residual impression that other gifting suites will not,” he says. “People are growing weary of the situation and long for a return to normalcy. The casino player is a family member of the casino. They have developed friendships with the employees and other players. They celebrate special occasions at the property, and a great deal of their social time is spent there.

“They miss the casino. To show appreciation at this time will be a return on that investment that is immeasurable. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to be a known brand. We have done several online and in-person rewards events, and the appreciation by the player is phenomenal. And the casino employees from the valet to the executives see the impact of increased activity.”

Gordon believes Rymax has a multi-layered approach to enticing casino patrons:

  1. Understand the needs of the players. The product rewards they are redeeming are more practical products and in-home merchandise than in the luxury category. People are home, and their needs in household appliances and work from home equipment/conveniences have grown in cookware, vacuums, tools, fitness, WFM technology and home office needs. Rymax has seen an increase in products that have functionality for business and personal use, especially within “smart” home technologies and devices.

The player loyalty clubs need to tap into the psyche of the player and the situation that we are in, he indicates.

  1. Communication is critical. The top-tier players are coming back, but the casinos need to talk to a wider audience, assuring them of the safety precautions and stressing the “escape and fun aspect” that a casino offers. Gordon believes that even a small gift upon check-in goes a long way, and the very effective “play up” is important now.

Gordon also says gifting plays a critical role in the recovery of casinos, not merely the player rewards space. Rymax also targets internal operations, creating employee recognition programs for a landscape that has changed dramatically.

“This industry has been hit with massive layoffs, reduced hours and closures,” he says. “Employees are concerned about their job and their families. Employee recognition is vital, and we are doing the following with clients:

“Training recognition for new procedures and practices. A points program that can be redeemed for products.

“Peer-to-peer recognition so that the ‘team spirit’ can be recognized as employees all pull together.

“Front desk recognition for upselling.

“The employees are the property ambassadors, and they need to be motivated and recognized to get the casino back. The greatest assets in business are the employees.”

Gordon says 2021 will see more brands that want to be in the rewards and recognition space.

“As we see the decline of retailers as a result of the pandemic, brands need to move into other arenas,” he asserts. “The loyalty business is a multibillion-dollar industry, and the programs are in everything that a consumer engages in.

“Brands can be very specific about what industries and what consumer demographic that they want to target. So, where Rymax traditionally increases its new brand portfolio by 40-50 brands, I see that doubling in 2021.

“That is good news for everyone, and will enhance programs and drive business.”

Throughout the industry, companies are poised to pounce if they are encouraged by health conditions. They may tiptoe gingerly in this space now, balancing news of the pandemic.

But when that news eventually turns good, they will be primed to help gaming operators, and their customers, celebrate.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.