Advice for Casino Marketers

Jay asks, “What advice would you give casino marketers? They live off of the frequency of their customer base. The markets are pretty mature in that they’ve had, not one but, multiple casinos to compete with. Right now they just throw more offers out, eroding already thin margins.”

In any business where you’re highly dependent on returning customers, you have to examine the entirety of the customer journey – and that means not only the buyer’s journey, but the owner’s journey. If a casino were my client, I’d start with understanding the entire customer journey and examining the KPIs at every single stage.

The Customer Journey

Let’s briefly look at the customer journey:

The Trust Insights Customer Experience model

Casinos being local and typically physically-based businesses need awareness within a radius of their facility. While they may attract some travelers through tourism efforts, generally that’s not under their direct control. The destination as a whole is a draw, not necessarily any one particular brand for the new customer. So, how much awareness does the casino have in its target population?

One of the challenges of a physical location business is logistic growth; that is, there are only so many customers in a geographic area, and everyone’s competing for them. So the first question I’d ask is how much available audience is available?

When it comes to consideration and evaluation, we’re talking about brand intent. One of the key measures here would be local search. Consideration would be examining local unbranded search – how many people search for ‘casino near me’ in the service area of a casino? That gives us a sense of addressable market. Evaluation would be examining your casino’s specific branded search – how many people are searching for your facility by name?

Again, region matters. Near where I live, the two most well-known casinos are Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. We see nationally that they’re about even, and haven’t re-established branded intent much more past 50% of pre-pandemic levels:

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun US National

Yet when we dig in, we see substantial regional variations. Here’s Massachusetts:

Casino search data Massachusetts

Here’s Connecticut, where the facilities are both located in their respective First Nations, the Mashantucket and the Mohegan nations:

Casino search data Connecticut

And New York State:

Casino search data New York

We see in 2 of the 3 local markets, Mohegan Sun has greater branded search intent, while in 1 of the markets, Foxwoods does. From an evaluation perspective, we know where there’s greater brand intent.

If I had one of these facilities as my client, I’d have these search intent charts up as a KPI on every single dashboard, because we want to know if we’re attracting branded search compared to local competitors.

Evaluating the Customer Base

The most important action I’d take, though, is not on the acquisition side, but on the ownership and loyalty side, the owner’s journey. Most brands that have repeat business needs have done – or should have done – RFM analysis to understand their customer base. RFM is recency/frequency/monetary value of a customer – how recently did they buy from us, how often do they buy from us, and how big is their average order value?

RFM Analysis example

RFM analysis is one of the most important tools of the trade for segmenting customers to understand which customers are your VIPs, and I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a single casino that didn’t run RFM analysis on its customer base. RFM analysis provides much of the data for KPIs in the owner’s journey.

However, that’s where some folks’ analysis stops, at the broad clusters. The next steps in analysis should be on understanding just how much data you have about your customers, at the individual customer level, and using that data to predict and forecast what makes someone a VIP. Are there specific data points that you collect which you could use to build a solid model of “this is the ideal customer” – and not just with demographic data, but with behavioral data as well?

For example, many casinos during the pandemic have turned to mobile apps to keep customers engaged. What analytics package are you running in your mobile app? Google Firebase/Google Analytics 4? Localytics? Mixpanel? Here’s the key question – how well are you merging your mobile app data into your regular marketing data and your CRM? The answer to that question determines how smart your RFM-based models are, because the more behavioral data you have available to you, the less you have to rely on demographic data, and the more thorough a model you can build.

Let’s say you have a mobile app and some basic demographic data. You might find, building a classification model for a VIP, that app usage predicts VIP status much more than age and gender. If you have that information, then not only do you know your customer better, you’d know to move more of your marketing budget and resources into mobile app advertising, to acquire more users that way.

This is the biggest gap right now I see in retail marketing in general – disparate data systems and organizational silos prohibit companies from building thorough, well-informed models to determine who their most valuable customers are. Unblock that data, knock down those self-imposed walls, and you’ll quickly understand who your most valuable customers are and what you need to do to not only keep them, but increase their value.

Casino Marketing is High Frequency Marketing

Because of the nature of gambling, casino marketing is high-frequency marketing, the same category of marketing that applies to things like FMCG – fast-moving consumer goods. Companies in these spaces require lots of transactions, and need to prioritize their marketing based on keeping loyal customers, attracting new customers, and increasing the value of all customers based on the dimensions available to them.

For example, got a recent customer? Turn them into a frequent customer with highly-focused marketing to this segment.

Got a valuable but sparse customer? Turn them into a frequent customer with highly-focused marketing to this segment.

Got a frequent customer who spends just a little? Turn them into a bigger spender with highly-focused marketing to this segment.

That’s the advice I give any FMCG marketer, casino or otherwise. Get your data, model it, and get to work growing your customer base in the ways you need it most.


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