Improving Loyalty Programs May Just Be a Selfie Away


Why phones are key to improving guest engagement

As a society, we are obsessed with our phones. Sure, we realize it, but it wasn’t until I spent the day observing it that I truly saw the addiction. It was Easter Sunday, and I was enjoying an amazing brunch in San Diego complete with endless Mimosas. My husband and I were laughing and enjoying a conversation along with sending a few pictures to our kids when I began to look around the restaurant. Everyone in our section was engaged with their mobile device rather than the person in front of them. A table of twenty-something girls were texting and taking selfies; a couple sat across from each other gazing into their phones, and a family of four sat silently mesmerized with their devices. A few hours later we were sitting at the beach enjoying the fresh ocean air and warm sunshine when I noticed it again.

All around me, phones had become the center of attention. A woman spent eight minutes (yes, I timed it; at this point, it was research) flipping her hair and posing for the perfect selfie while others were taking their phones with them into the water. Yes, in the ocean, to continue a conversation or snap a few photos. From young to old, our phones have become our BFFs and an extension of our personal image.

Mobile devices have transformed how we interact in all aspects of our life. We can do everything on our phone, except interact with our casino players clubs. Imagine the possibilities if we embrace this technology to deliver our loyalty club experience.

As a culture, we have a love-hate relationship with loyalty programs. According to Colloquy, a publisher of research on customer loyalty, there are 3.3 BILLION loyalty program memberships in the U.S. To put that in perspective, that is approximately 29, on average, per household. No wonder so many women carry around huge purses! (I think I can get away with saying that.) Anyway, that is a lot.

According to Raving’s 2016 Indian Gaming Marketing Survey, 81% of casino respondents cited having a tiered players club. Raving’s Senior Research Partner, Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D., has conducted hundreds of casino surveys and although a majority of players rank club benefits as one of the top three visit-drivers, they also cite high levels of dissatisfaction with the clubs in general.

Let me cite a few more statistics we need to consider:

  • 85% of loyalty program members prefer interacting with their favorite loyalty program online (Collinson Latitude)
  • 72% of consumers said they would be more likely to sign up for a loyalty program if the process was simplified by text message (3Cinteractive)
  • 70% of consumers do not sign up for a loyalty program due to the inconvenience and time required to complete registration. (Colloquy)

These statistics further show that we must modernize our player’s club process. If casino loyalty programs are competing with 28 other cards in a player’s purse (btw – where does a guy hold his 29 loyalty club cards?), then the club must create a true relationship with a guest. Since our guests already have a relationship with their phone, let’s use it to our advantage:

  1. Replace the plastic entirely. It’s time to start talking to our slot vendors about simplifying the sign up and tracking process. The technology is out there, we see it in other markets and industries that offer card-less systems. Why can’t our guests securely enter their players club codes or use their phone directly at the game or at the hotel, restaurant or spa? And until that happens, you can give your guests sign-up options online or from a mobile device.
  2. Get rid of the lines. Don’t make your players stand in line to get a card, redeem or cash out. Offers should be downloadable at the game or on their device. Just like the airlines or Starbucks. Gone are the days a player must bring in a coupon to redeem an offer.
  3. Use mobile devices to provide machine-side service. Equip your guest service team with mobile devices to receive push notifications based on a player’s transactions. For example; a player hits a $100 loss and a slot staff member is dispatched to offer a free play bonus or after their first spin a manager stops by and says, “Welcome, can I get you a beverage?”
  4. Encourage your team to take photos of guests on their device. The more photos they have at your casino having fun, the more they will post and share with their friends, spreading the word about your property. (Even at table games!)
  5. Find ways to personalize their player profile. We love to take pictures of ourselves, our food and our friends. Help your players show off and record their history of winning and fun at your property. Why not a casino profile similar to Facebook?
  6. Most players don’t think we reward them enough. So how about pushing free games to their phone for chances to win additional points? This won’t cost us much and will increase engagement even after they leave our property.
  7. Expand how your guests earn points. Check out new loyalty club add-ons that offer your guests ways to earn points doing other things they love like shopping or dining. (Check out complinks).
  8. Use their property actions to deliver personal offers via their device. If they ate in the steakhouse, don’t send them a buffet offer. Beacon and Geofencing technology make it possible to send personalized offers while on-property, or better yet, while your customer is at a competitor’s property.
  9. Issue company cell phones so your team can text and send photos to their guests. Your hosts do this all the time. No need to limit this personalized communication only to your top players. Plus your employees love to use these devices. Let them have some fun with their guests.

If implemented correctly, our narcissistic obsession with our phone may finally be the answer to creating a club loyalty program that creates engagement and guest satisfaction. Not to mention, wouldn’t it reduce the amount of plastic we carry around, which would free up a lot of space in our purses and/or wallets?

Deana Scott