Looking Beyond the Point of Redemption to Better Connect with Customers

Nicole Barker

Lace up your hiking boots; we’re going for a climb

Our relationship with our customer is a journey. The Monthly Free Play offer is only a split second on this pathway. It’s a fleeting moment in time. And yet, we agonize over the size of the coupon. We fixate on the redemption rate. We let the reflection of ROI from the Direct Mail program measure our efforts to drive business throughout the month.

It’s time to recast customer relationships beyond a 2D result.

Think about mountain climbing. Unless you have a helicopter, mountain climbing is a journey from the base to the peak and back again. So too is the journey for a player from card usage to coupon redemption and back again.

First, our player gets her gear on to forge a path to our door. She signs up for a card. We send her an offer. The Free Play offer is at the top of the mountain. How long does she get to stay at the top of the mountain? The air is too thin. An oxygen-deprived climber gets minutes after months of preparation. And then it’s over and her weary muscles make the descent. We hope it was a winning experience. We hope the skies are clear. We hope the celebration runs deep. But the journey down is as long as the journey up. Except this time, on the way back down, the journey is known and without the redeemed offer, and without the rush at the top.

Currently, the only measure and understanding we have of the customer is at the point of redemption. In the clickwhir environment of Direct Mail, that’s not enough to justify the expense and make a memory. Did we win the day with our offer? Frankly, I don’t care. I am in the relationship business. I want to win the next trip and the next trip and the next trip. Loyalty marketing is based upon the anticipation leading up to redemption, the moment of redemption, and the aftermath of redemption. We can’t leave our climbers hanging in an oxygen-deprived environment, placing the impact of our endeavors solely on one touch point. Our relationship is a give and take of touch points orchestrated by the marketer and behaviors as measured by trips and spend by the customer. Let’s track this trek to develop better insights into how we can build a relationship that is fruitful and ongoing.


In order to get an offer from us, a player has to establish a value. That’s their way of conditioning for this journey. The spend during one trip sets the valuation of ADT for upcoming Free Play offers. Months of play determine the basket of benefits proffered by the Tiered Club program.


The climb to prove one’s worth has its perils. It may take too long to be recognized. The way a player plays may not match the way the program is set to recognize worth. If a player plays every day in lower amounts, she most likely will not benefit from Free Play coupons or Points.


This is why a player plays: not for the jackpots or the bonus rounds. A player plays for that moment before an anticipated win. She chases the bounty. She imagines basking in the windfall. It’s at this point when the brain releases dopamine. The thrill is at its peak before the summit when Free Play is redeemed or the machine’s bells go off.


In the moment, at the summit, at the point of redemption, watching the bonus reels spin; it’s the eye of the storm. This is a surreal moment when time stops. It’s not fun. It just is. There’s a reason why a slot player keeps her finger on the button. She’s ready to climb again. We may speak of wins and losses, but it’s the pursuit that we feel.


After the win, after the point of redemption, after the chase; it’s the time when a player looks around for witnesses. A player concocts a story that she will tell her friends. In many ways, life is in the telling and not in the living. This is where we store the fuel for the next pursuit. This is where we either have buyer’s remorse, or an increased sense of self-worth. When a person leaves a movie theater, we don’t think of buyer’s remorse. When a person leaves a casino, we assume that remorse for losses takes a larger role. Both people spent money. The difference is that the moviegoer now has a crafted story to tell. She can equally have a critique that she can feel as passionate about sharing. The same can be true of the gamer. She had a much more active pursuit of a story to tell. The question is whether she has a cohort to share it with.


When the dust settles, it’s the memory of the pursuit that will either prompt or dissuade the next visit. Mountaineers relish the peaks that took several attempts to conquer. There is respect for a result that isn’t always within reach. The question is how many obstacles are in the way of provisioning for the next expedition.

Each of these milestones offer a treasure trove of opportunity for marketing touch points. These are now new channels for buying the business. But do we need to buy it to facilitate loyalty? Recognizing the customer, cheering them on, and giving them avenues to share their stories are all means to put value into the journey. Fortunately, we have robust data to set triggers for interaction along the journey and many means of connecting with the customer beyond the monthly mailer.

Nicole Barker