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Raving’s 2nd Annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey

Deb Hilgeman

Key findings indicate promotions and digital spending will increase; email at status quo

In January, Raving released the second annual casino marketing study based on data from more than 80 U.S. casinos nationwide, and First Nations casino properties in two Canadian provinces. Some of the casinos that participated in the study have fewer than 250 slot machines; others are megaresorts with thousands of machines. Whether you’re with a tribal or commercial casino, the results from this study are designed as a tool to help and inform you.

Data for this study is collected via an online survey for several weeks in November and December. Findings are released at Raving’s National Indian Gaming Analytics & Marketing Conference held annually at the end of January. The survey is designed to be completed by a senior marketing or management representative who is knowledgeable about the property.

Before finalizing the survey content and sending it, Raving reaches out to field practitioners for input: How useful was last year’s study? What information can we change or add that would make the content more valuable? Based on that input, this year’s study added questions about gaming revenues, competition, capital projects, players club processes, and job satisfaction. The average time to complete the survey was 19 minutes.

Last year, 69 casinos started the survey, and 53 casinos completed the survey. This year, 90 casinos started the survey and 59 casinos completed it. Some of the 90 casinos that started the survey answered varying amounts of questions before dropping out. Data from all respondents was used in the analyses.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the key findings in just three areas from this year’s study:

Key Finding #1: Casinos are planning major increases in promotions, free play, and direct mail in 2018.

26% of casinos are planning to increase promotions this year, compared to 13% last year. 72% of casinos plan on doing the same amount of promotions this year as they did last year, not a single casino said it was going to do less promotions, and 2% were not sure.

As if that’s not enough to get marketers worried about what the competition will be doing, 29% of casinos said they’re going to be increasing free play this year. That’s more than double the 13% of casinos last year who said they would be increasing free play.

And finally, 44% of responding casinos said they are increasing direct mail this year.

These planned major increases in promotions, free play and direct mail mean that competition in your market is likely to be more intense than last year. Review what you’re doing to monitor your competition’s promotions and mail offers. Be sure you’re analyzing all your marketing programs and running as efficiently as possible.

Key Finding #2: Digital messaging becoming more effective, increased spending planned.

What are casino marketers going to do differently in advertising and communications in 2018? The majority of casino marketers are planning increases in electronic channels – 64% of casinos will increase Social Media and 61% are increasing Digital/Internet.

The survey asked Respondents to rank the effectiveness of 11 different communication mediums. This year, the effectiveness ranking increased by more than 10% in Email, Social Media, Digital/Internet and Mobile Marketing. As casino marketers gain experience in using these mediums, and consumers trend more toward using them, effectiveness grows and spending increases. The biggest loss in the effectiveness ranking was TV, down 12% from last year.

It’s often more difficult for smaller casinos to gain knowledge and experience with newer mediums. But, if you haven’t started using these communication channels, you’re falling further behind every year. There are agencies and companies that can help your casino develop these programs, and you also can identify training that you can invest in to get your marketing department up to speed.

Key Finding #3: Email is not advancing.

More than half of casinos (52%) are going to increase spending on email this year. This should be in conjunction with growing the number of email addresses associated with members in their database, but casinos are lagging at this. At the end of 2017, the majority of casinos (51%) had less than 40% of their database with associated email addresses. Only 11% of casinos had more than 60% of their database with emails.

Since many casinos have not shown strong growth in increasing the percentage of email addresses for database members, it is not surprising that only 12% of casinos send at least half of their marketing communications via email.

For marketers, the challenge is in learning to successfully integrate email into your program. Raving has surveyed tens of thousands of casino customers and the growing trend is for people preferring communications via email. While this won’t replace direct mail for most casinos any time soon, it is going to continue growing in importance. The balancing act for marketers to move forward in email communications is to identify which members of the database prefer email and to ensure that response rates are monitored and adjusted as you transition.

There is much more information in this survey report that is designed to help you determine how your marketing program and department compare with other casinos. If your casino did not participate in this study, we warmly invite you and strongly encourage you to participate next year. The more data we have, the more valuable this annual research project will be.

Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D.

Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D.