Right Questions to Ask Before Buying that Shiny New Toy

Shiny New Toy

What shiny new toy will you bring home this year …

and will your vendor have the ability to support your strategic initiatives after the technology has launched?

Nicole Barker

My high heels are no longer high. I wore through the treads at this year’s NIGA conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The sessions were impressively packed with attendees eager to hear more about Millennials, social media, and apps. Equally eager vendors offered technologies, software, and offer packages to woo untapped business opportunities.

With a host of shiny new toys to deploy in 2016, which one do you bring home?

Here is a short list of questions to help you evaluate what might work for you and when:

1. Mind your metrics.

Every new marketing tool claims to drive unrealized theoretical and frequency. Each company competes to name that ROI tune in greater percentages in shorter amounts of time. Be wary of overzealous promises. New campaigns tend to guild results by laying claim to all theo generated during your beta testing time period. You are interested in the incremental returns and the more modest comparison of test groups to similar time periods.

2. Make sure that new ideas play nicely in the sandbox with tried and true methods.

Direct Marketing coupons in the casino industry have the highest redemption and return rates of any other vertical known to man. Any shiny new tool should add to the effectiveness of what works for you now. Though the casino industry may be slow to embrace new forms of reaching and influencing customers, our databases are robust. The litmus test for any new method of reaching customers is whether there is a plan in place to integrate the new outreach into existing streams of communication. If you acquire a new customer through an online game, how many touch points will it take to get that customer to a third trip on-site? If an inactive customer uses a coupon thanks to a new and novel means of delivering a compelling offer, what will you do differently in the next six months to keep this customer? A shiny new toy stands amidst an existing marketing program. Take the time to build seamless hand-offs between one form of outreach and the next.

3. Define your core and niche markets first.

A shiny new toy does not need to solve all problems and speak to all customers. If you want to begin to speak to Millennials, then do so. Don’t expect to shift the nature of how you make your money just because you have begun to embrace a new marketing vehicle. Players in their twenties do not have the disposable time or income of retired players. Reaching out to build a new pipeline of business is good, but should not garner an unsustainable percentage of your marketing budget.

Evaluate whether your core markets, your niche markets, and your markets with the highest growth potential are underserved with offers or touch points. Just because a shiny new toy is aimed at Hosted players, doesn’t mean that the property will be best served by adding another form of reinvestment at this target. In many cases, technology and offers can personalize and automate interactions for underserved groups like the high frequency, low ADT guests.

4. Free is not free.

The time it takes to adopt a new technology should be factored into the true cost of pursuing a new endeavor. If the cost of launching a shiny new toy is artificially low or free, consider the resources it will need to feed its integration. Beta testing takes time and patience. A successful vendor relationship hinges on the casino’s ability to absorb new processes, and the vendor’s ability to train and support after the technology has launched.

5. Have a vision for who you want to be in your customer’s life.

Mission and vision statements can be bland. Players don’t leave the comfort of their homes for bland. Think about what makes your customers laugh. Think about what energizes your employees. If you ask your customers and your employees to tell you stories about their experiences at your property, a personality begins to emerge. Feed this personality by using shiny new toys as extensions of your brand. If the shiny new toy doesn’t fit, that’s okay. Sometimes, amazing returns do not resonate with who you are and how you communicate with your customer in the long-term. Other shiny new toys help you evolve into the property that you want to be.

6. Ask yourself whether the new tool represents greater convenience for you or the customer.

Convenience is not customer service. Don’t sell reduced labor costs as a means to deliver a better customer experience . TITO machines do not raise the excitement on the floor. Kiosks have lines of their own. Playing online and receiving a free ice cream cone will not dazzle the customer with your generosity. Automation is a lovely thing. However, make sure that in all of your efforts to become more efficient, that you haven’t created a well-oiled engine that sucks the life out of your interactions with your customers. I have seen energetic casino floors turn into ghost towns devoid of engaging employees and willing customers. You may have your better customers on the floor, but there are only three of them. The ROI may improve, but an empty bank of machines feels as dead as it looks.

7. Just because the dashboard is pretty, you can visualize the results, or results come in real-time, doesn’t mean that you have a plan for what you want to do with it.

Write down your problems, your burning questions, and your most imposing operational challenges before you hear about the bells and whistles of a new tool. Vendors are very good about being very excited about their capabilities. But have they asked you enough questions to find out what your customers are missing, what concerns you most about your competitors, where potential and retention opportunities lie with your existing customer databases, and how you make your money? New toys should solve problems, not add tasks to your to-do list. More reporting is wonderful, it can be actionable, but are you ready for a new piece of data to trigger your next marketing move?

8. Find news ways to engage, rather than push empty offers.

You hate coupon books, right? The people who are drawn to a 2-for-1 buffet coupon are not really your loyal audience, are they? If your shiny new toy is an acquisition tool, it is most likely that you will not have the stomach to push out offers of great purport. We need not create new channels for empty offers.

New channels for acquisition can be positioned as new channels for participation and engagement. This requires a heightened level of creativity and risk. What will surprise and delight a guest? What promotion or activity will make a memory, drive a post, prompt a reason for the player to bring her friends next time? Modern currency of loyalty building redemption is based upon your ability to give your customers stories worth spreading. How can you use the shiny new toy to elicit a new experience that resonates? This is the full circle moment where we flex our marketing muscles, not our coupon generating acumen.

The evaluation process can be maddening. At the end of your evaluation, you should be able to answer the following questions:

How will the shiny new toy:

  • Reduce complexity for the customer?
  • Reduce complexity for the employees?
  • Reduce complexity for decision makers?
  • Be more timely?
  • Cost less?
  • Connect better?
  • Resonate deeper?
  • Improve the relationship?

Before you invest in a “new toy” for your casino, ask us about our technology and marketing audits. Many casinos don’t realize that they already have the systems in-house that can accomplish their goals; all they need is more training to leverage their existing software. Some casinos may need new technology, but how can you be sure? Which ones will give you the biggest bang for your investment dollar?

Nicole Barker