A key differentiating factor to the casino experience, both today and in the future, is the unrivaled ability for casinos to provide patrons with a unique and special experience, a VIP experience. The level of amenities and hospitality at many casinos today is not found in any other industry or venue. Which brings up the question: What truly defines a VIP experience?
This article proposes four pillars from which to create a VIP experience: brand, environment, experience and culture. These four pillars reflect extensive research and conversations both inside the casino industry and more broadly across customer-centric businesses such as retail, entertainment, restaurants and technology.
For today’s businesses, everything does, or should, start with the brand itself. There are many ways to define and position a brand, though one of the best starting points is as Seth Godin states: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
Godin’s description touches on some key points, including expectations, memories, stories and relationships. Other considerations may also include value and authenticity. Many casinos have developed highly acclaimed and valuable brands and are in a position to evolve those brands to further appeal to the upcoming generations of consumers.
This brings up the importance of community, and how casinos can continue to engage with their current customers while working to attract a new, younger and differentiated audience. Early adopters of eSports at casinos, such as the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas, have proven that innovative programs can be run alongside traditional casino operations without disrupting or displacing existing patrons—a critical concern as casinos leverage their infrastructure to appeal to gamers and a more tech-savvy audience.
This leads us to the second pillar of the VIP experience—the environment. Casinos have invested billions of dollars in creating engaging and one-of-a-kind destinations that attract both locals and destination customers. Properties are often differentiated by themes (such as pirates, circus, destination cities) or by the level of extravagance (think Wynn or Bellagio). Underneath these differentiators are core attributes such as appeal, cleanliness, quality and efficiency that casinos must strategically juggle for a property to be successful.
Now the opportunity arises to leverage these world-class properties to attract and retain new generations of gamers who’ve grown up with technology as a part of the fiber of their everyday life, including interactive entertainment and high-tech connectivity. That’s where the concept of experience becomes paramount.
While always evolving, casinos have historically provided a meaningful experience to a core customer base, though it increasingly has included those seeking a broader entertainment experience.
To attract an audience of gamers and younger patrons to the casino floor, operators are looking to leverage other areas outside the casino floor—particularly via new technologies and trends such as video games, eSports, virtual reality, social media and other interactive experiences. Further opportunities include a greater level of unique personalization, likely provided through smartphone applications—customizing and managing your experience from booking through your stay to sharing after departure.
Finally, we take a look at culture. While culture is usually intertwined with the brand, it’s interesting to consider the components of an authentic culture that appeal to the next generation of casino patrons. Brand loyalty is a powerful “magnet” that attracts customers to want to repeat an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations. Conversely, loyalty from the brand towards the customer is key, and casinos have the ability to leverage their extensive and powerful loyalty programs to facilitate a genuine two-way communication and better understand patrons’ interests and desires, customizing loyalty tiers and offers to specific segments.
This creativity allows for differentiation among casinos and elicits delight from customers. Providing a responsive dynamic is also critical—whether digitally via social media or physically on property—as one of the best ways to make someone feel like a VIP is to be responsive to their needs.
In summary, casinos are uniquely positioned to provide a powerful offering to the next generations of customers, just as they have to prior generations. No industry is more experienced at delivering a level of hospitality and a vast array of amenities. Casinos have developed world-class brands that communicate their personality and deliver on visitor expectations and create memories, stories, and relationships that live on long after the customer leaves the casino.