The Results Are In: A Seismic Shift Regarding “Big Data”

Big Data

You can’t open an industry publication or attend a conference without seeing a discussion about Big Data or analytics. Now, that’s good news! Have we finally given the “millennial topic” a rest and could we be on our way to recognizing the need for data-driven decision-making in our operations? It appears an operational focus may be underway.

According to Raving’s 2nd annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey released this February, respondents were asked how they were handling big data – very large and complex data sets – that require special analysis. According to researcher Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D., who conducted the study, there was a seismic shift in the results.

Last year, 54% of casinos did not have a plan for dealing with big data, and only 6% were actively working with it. This year, those numbers virtually reversed. Only 6% of casinos now are not sure what they’re doing with big data, while 50% are actively working with it. See figure A above

According to Hilgeman, “It appears analytics, in general, is a top priority for casino marketers. When we did our preliminary field research this year to talk to practitioners about what we could add or change to make the survey more valuable to them, analytics was the number one topic.”

These results were similar to a pre-conference attendee survey conducted during the Raving NEXT Conference held this previous January at Choctaw Casino Resort, Durant, Oklahoma. 76% of the operators listed analytics and analysis as the primary area they wish they had more time to devote to. Additionally, this year’s Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey found that only 55% of the properties surveyed reported that they consistently analyze all of their marketing programs, 22% consistently analyze only some of their marketing programs, and the remaining 23% intermittently analyze all, some or none of their marketing programs.

Furthermore, finding solutions to allocate resources and time in this area becomes even a greater priority as a majority of casinos are reporting planned increases in promotions, free play, and direct mail. See Figure B below

Say what? We are spending more on marketing, and at the same time, we are just beginning to determine how we will tackle our challenges around analysis and analytics?

As I read the results, I find myself becoming more in line with that of a CFO. I know this statement horrifies my marketing colleagues, but how can we increase spending on these programs without having a solid analysis and analytics program in place at our properties?

Now CFOs, you aren’t off the hook either. Many times, the initiatives presented to address this lack of analytics staff, data-access or analysis reporting get shot down due to cost from those who – I find at least – are temporarily aligned. One thing we can do to solve this dilemma is to consider approaching this problem as a property issue, and not solely the responsibility of marketing or finance. Developing an analytics strategy is imperative to the success of the entire organization, so we should begin to create systems to ensure all initiatives get the evaluation needed.

Most properties have harvested the “low-hanging fruit” available in their market. Winning the business going forward will be a dance between reallocating dollars to the right people and truly becoming more strategic and innovative operators.

The 2nd annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Study included data from 59 Tribal casinos, representing 19 states in the U.S. market plus two First Nations’ casinos in Canada. 65% of the casinos reported over $30 million in gross revenue with only 5% reporting annual gross revenues under five million. Additionally, 70% of the marketers who completed the survey have over ten years of casino marketing experience.

Deana Scott