Bonusing and loyalty strategy key to mass-market retention

With Macau continuing to haemorrhage VIP gamblers, there has never been a greater onus on operators in the special administrative region to latch on to the relative predictability afforded by the premium and mass markets.

This is not a trend confined to Macau, though. A 2019 report by Mordor Intelligence found that gaining new customers can be 25 percent more expensive than retaining existing ones for companies in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report also outlined how the loyalty management market in the region will expand by a compound annual growth rate of 25.1 percent to reach $2.297.3 billion over the five years through to 2024, illustrating an appetite for consumers to enjoy stable and sustainable relationships with brands and services.

“Operators, especially in Macau, are shifting their player loyalty marketing efforts from a VIP and junket priority to that of a premium or mass market,” Everi’s executive vice-president of financial technology and loyalty, Darren Simmons, says.

“Attention is now being placed heavily on how to reward based upon the player’s loyalty. In the past, it was easy to identify VIPs and to focus on these customers with direct interaction. With the emphasis now on the mass market, additional consideration is being placed on getting a player’s card in their hands. Marketing and loyalty are becoming more important for operators.”

On a basic level, mobile is seen as a crucial tool for encouraging loyalty through personalised communications.

“We are beginning to see more penetration of mobile technology among mass-market players,” Simmons adds. “Casino guests want and need to receive information via mobile applications on the property’s events, competitions and offers. A mobile loyalty program enables operators to interact and engage with their guests regardless of their location.”

According to Nelson Cheung, IGT’s System Sales Manager, Asia, such programs are improving efficiencies in casinos, as well as boosting revenues.

“From a loyalty and bonusing perspective, operators want to offer bonuses to players during a play session and market directly to the player’s mobile phone while on the casino floor,” Cheung says. “Venues want to be able to identify hot play areas and new players in real time so they can proactively and quickly enrol uncarded players while catering to hosted players, which are features that our Mobile Host solution provides.”

The mobile focus also tallies with the increasing shift towards cashless payments in Asia, with Cheung highlighting IGT’s Resort Wallet and Cardless Connect solutions.

“A notable trend in Asia markets is that consumers are accustomed to using their mobile phones for both loyalty and currency transactions,” Cheung adds.

“Cardless Connect enables a player’s smartphone to become a loyalty card and, in conjunction with this, Resort Wallet transforms a smartphone into a secure digital wallet. IGT’s Intelligent Offer allows operators to factor real-time player behaviours and events in the evaluation and award of bonuses.”

The IGT ADVANTAGE Intelligent Bonusing products, which have been especially popular in the Philippines, offer non-cashable rewards. Random Riches gives operators the ability to deliver random or fixed amounts of ‘Xtra Credit’ non-cashable rewards when the player achieves points levels set by the operator, while Intelligent Bonusing deployments in the Philippines also include Lucky Coin, a pool-based jackpot; Lucky Draw, which creates exciting floor-wide bonuses; and Lucky Time, a time-based mystery jackpot.

Non-gaming bonusing as a broader offering is important, especially for the reputation of the operator.

Some research suggests loyalty programs can exacerbate problem gambling. According to a 2016 study, 47.1 percent of punters who were part of gambling loyalty programs were either moderate-risk or problem gamblers.

Everi’s loyalty platform offers self-service solutions through enrolment and promotional kiosks – which boast high-resolution monitors, integrated touch screens, and multiple interfaces – alongside a loyalty mobile application. The enrolment solution, which features facial recognition and biometric authentication, offers instant bonuses when players sign up, providing “complimentary services that can increase overall satisfaction and generate loyalty” like shopping, entertainment and dining.

“We believe this technology enhances the guest experience while assisting with security efforts on the casino floor,” Simmons said.

Everi’s promotional kiosk allows players to view their status progress and available rewards, as well as redeem rewards, with a multi-language platform available in Asia. Meanwhile the loyalty mobile app can be tailored to enable guests to engage and interact with the casino on or off property.

Everi is anticipating significant growth in the Philippines, South Korea and Singapore, and “especially Macau, where the focus is on mass-market players… and promotional kiosks interact with the mobile marketing efforts of the casinos”.

Transact Technologies is another supplier seeing strong demand for loyalty based products across the region.

“Player loyalty continues to be a key focus for operators, and they are looking into the technologies encompassing this. Fortunately for TransAct, we have the perfect tool in Epicentral which can increase player loyalty and as a result, deliver positive results for operators,” it says.

Simmons adds: “We believe operators will try to advance their marketing efforts and maintain their competitive advantage both in their local market and throughout Asia by borrowing this mass-market approach to linking loyalty to rewards.”

Whether it is via mobile or via self-service kiosks, targeting customers with a personalised approach can be powerful.

For example, IGT’s Intelligent Offer allows beacons to transmit a specific offer to a player within a designated range, enabling the operator to deliver relevant promotions in real time.

However, in general, Simmons believes that casinos in Asia are “still playing catch-up with the loyalty aspect of marketing and even more so with the technology associated with those marketing efforts”.

He adds: “Technology that unifies all aspects of the player card attributes is required, almost modelling how loyalty and marketing is executed in markets like Las Vegas. Attracting mass-market players by applying Las Vegas experiences can be an effective method to sustain a competitive edge for operators.”