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Online and offline casinos: two worlds colliding or two giants standing hand-in-hand? ComTrade’s Ales Gornjec discusses.
The land-based gambling industry is rich in history having played an important role in the lives of its customers for decades. The online gambling sector only came into being around the mid-to-late nineties, and to land based gambling operators - where casinos date back to hundreds of years - the online industry is just a mere drop in the ocean. So where do the similarities lie with these two very diverse sectors with different levels of maturity and experience, and do they have more in common from a marketing and CRM perspective than is currently recognised?
As both are present in the same industry the two seem relatively similar. Both offer the same variety of games such as slots, table games, poker and multi player games, and both use independent agents to help with customer acquisition, run loyalty schemes and provide bonuses. Also, from a player perspective both industries strive to deliver the best player experience as each sector has a strategic focus on customer loyalty and churn rates.
But by taking a slightly closer look at how both sectors are managed reveals some differences. For example, land-based operations are far more complex compared to online and therefore require a greater investment in manpower and infrastructure. However, what both sectors strongly depend upon is purpose-built software that should never limit the support of the operator. This is especially important in marketing and customer service where focus on player acquisition and retention is key.
Promotions and how a land-based casino attracts its player versus online hold very different principles, but the most widely used by both sectors are welcome bonuses in order to build relationships. Land-based operators have more options as resorts can offer a variety of services and therefore attract players with package deals that include discounted rooms, playable promotional credits and free tickets; these can also add up to loyalty bonus points for regular use. Additionally junkets are used to increase visits and are very similar to the online affiliate model. Both sectors also create special promotions specifically for the affiliate or junkets for easier player acquisition.
Technology & Redemption
From a technological standpoint tracking of spend is much simpler online as the affiliate is mapped to the player account. In the case of junkets land-based players have to use a given rating card by the junket agent in order for the casino to evaluate the deposits of the player on a particular slot machine. For table games wagering is monitored manually by casino personnel based on averages and not actual amounts making online tracking more accurate.
Once the player has been acquired both sectors use a very similar approach for player retention and customer loyalty. Loyalty programs are mostly used to award players and almost all operators leverage loyalty points. However few have centralised loyalty or bonusing systems to run a promotion across multiple platforms or at different locations. This is a major opportunity for the land-based casinos that have launched online as this is where the two industries do combine. In the past - and as an example - operators have used cross-point, bonus build-up or cross-redemption campaigns to give players the opportunity to ‘buy’ items such as holidays using loyalty bonus points secured in either an online or offline environment.
Redemption is also much easier for the land-based industry as it has more options with several shops and shows on site that can be linked to a promotional campaign where points can be exchanged for drinks, gadgets, gifts, food or accommodation. It’s much harder to redeem offline promotions through online operations due to its virtual nature and third-party requirements.
Another difference between these sectors is that traditional marketing is rarely used in the online sector due to its high costs. However, this form of communication is very popular amongst land-based operators and direct mail campaigns are frequently used.
Back-end data collation is one area that is important to both the online and land-based sectors and plays a vital role in the success of the business. Although some land-based games are hard to track due to the anonymous nature of the game, land-based casinos can still collect player data through tracking club visits. Alternative tracking methods are also used for other games and these include points based systems or player rating tables.
Both sectors want real-time information and for land-based this is only possible on slot machines. The online sector uses a very similar approach but players are tracked in real-time due to the online nature. This also means that the online operator is able to launch a reactivation or retention campaign quicker than a land-based casino.
Cross Promotional is King
To conclude, the land-based industry is cottoning on to the value of cross promotional activity so that players can earn points in a land-based environment and simultaneously see the same status online and vice versa. Those land-based operators who leverage and integrate in to an online society will also have the overall advantage as they are able to offer a complete player experience regardless of how the player plays or in which location.
However it is the player experience which is the ultimate factor in running a successful casino operation whether this is land-based or online and we believe that the two sectors could and are learning from one another.
Director of Gaming, ComTrade
Ales Gornjec is the Director of Gaming at ComTrade, formerly HERMES SoftLab. Ales launched the ComTrade Gaming Division and is responsible for 200 engineers fielding the area of online casino, casino management, sports betting, online poker and live casino software. He joined ComTrade in 1996 as a software engineer and designer after graduating from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Maribor.