Does Your Casino Marketing Program Pass the 10 Year Test?

The 3 (glaring) reasons you’ll fail to keep customers coming back.

It used to be much simpler.

People had vacation spots that were their vacation spots. People had casinos that were their casinos. To keep them coming back, all you had to do was make sure they had fun.

But things are different, now. People only spend their money after scrolling through a sea of Yelp reviews. Competing loyalty programs offering free stays, double point days, and a whole host of other offers—asking, pleading, begging for visitors to return.

But there’s good news. Real customer loyalty does exist. Your customer loyalty program can be the customer loyalty program for the visitors you care about most. You just have to know who they are, and what they’re looking for.

We’ll make it simple.

Here are a few reasons your loyalty initiatives are failing, and a few clear steps you can take to fix them.

Problem #1: You’re neglecting the ones who will stick around:

Who do you think your casino’s major players will be in 10 years?

We’ll give you a hint: it sure as heck isn’t the same group of people who were visiting the last 10 years.

More and more: the market is saturated with millennials. They’ll make up a third of all spending within the next 5 years. They’ll represent half the American workforce. And they have a wildly different set of expectations, wants, and needs.

Some of these are pretty easily met (here’s looking at you, free WiFi). Some are a little more nuanced: like the millennial love for social enterprise. And their desire to “co-create their experience.”

Insights association has a great breakdown of what these “next gen” players look and behave like. But for a quick primer: here are the things you should ensure you’re accounting for:

  • Millennials make social, engaged purchases. The traditional casino layout that “siphons” people, and allows them to get “lost—doesn’t appeal. Similarly—they gravitate towards social games like blackjack or poker—over individual activities like slots.
  • This “social” element also carries over into the prizes that might appeal to Gen Y. Either through a loyalty program, or gaming itself—a restaurant credit to share amongst friends, or a spa treatment for 2, might have a real appeal.
  • Millennials want to engage with “compelling, interactive online content.” If you’re looking to market to them—you’ll want to reach them well beyond the casino floor, and meet the where they spend the most time: online. Choosing a customer loyalty program that engages them as they shop, or building an online gaming or app experience—keeps them interested.
  • Millennials’ desire for social interaction and online engagement lead them to trust companies and products that are recommended by friends, or trusted strangers. Nailing word-of-mouth marketing and the customer experience is huge for keeping Gen Y onboard.
  • They want to feel like their experience is doing good. Special initiatives or promotions, with proceeds going to a noble cause—goes a long way towards keeping millennials engaged.

Problem #2: You don’t recognize your elite, and you’re not treating them like your elite:

It’s something market researchers have scratched their head over for awhile: Casinos have problems identifying their best customers—and keeping them engaged.

Now you might be thinking “What do you mean? I have a customer loyalty program that makes my best players feel special. And we have a roster of ‘whales’ that we look out for, or lure in.”  

Here’s the issue with that. Everyone is competing for the attention of the select few big spenders—so the only way to “win” with them, is to cough up more perks. And for that matter—everyone is offering their more loyal guests free drinks, or hotel stays. People are starting to expect more. A loyalty program alone is no longer a competitive advantage.

But here’s the thing that does help: finding your “elite” members, and making them feel elite. They’ll make up about 11% of the overall casino market, spend more nights a year at casino hotels, fill out comment cards, give high marks to helpful staff, and engage more with offerings—according to a study by the University of San Francisco.

Here are a few pointers for turning your elite customers it your loyal customers.

  • Choose a customer loyalty program, or redesign your customer loyalty program, so that it offers distinctive tiers. Studies show that players with top-tier status tend to be more satisfied with a loyalty program, and increase their spending more dramatically, than non-members and lower-tiered members. They were also more likely to develop an “emotional bond” with the casino they have top-tier status at—a big win for retention.
  • Keep your top tier relatively exclusive. It’ll increase perceptions of status, and maintain a sense of privilege exclusive to your elite members.
  • Personalize the experience of your VIP or top-tier loyalty program members. Make smart use of the data your customer loyalty program offers, and make sure you’re offering VIPs perks and specials that make them feel most important. If they spend money on entertainment—throw them a private chef dinner or backstage tour, or VIP seating. If they stay at the hotel, offer them a free spa package or a room upgrade.

Problem #3: They leave, and they forget all about you.

So we’ve considered the customers that are on your casino floor often. But what about the ones you don’t see all the time? The ones who come for a special occasion, and spend a fair bit of cash—but may not engage with you for months? How do you make the “once-or-twice-a-year” crowd, into a “once-or-twice-a-year-for-a-decade” crowd?

We know that casino loyalty programs can work—that they can make your customers engage more, spend more, and come back more often. But if they’re only racking up points once every turn around the sun—they may not find your perks program very worthwhile.

Here are a few things you can do to keep them interested:

  • Get them signed up with your loyalty program first. Customers perceive the “switching cost” of changing their loyalty programs to be high. Once they like a program, they’ll stay with it. But they have to like that program. Offer a sign up bonus that will get them through the door. And make earning points or acquiring status easy from the get-go.
  • Reward them year round. Consider investing in a coalition loyalty program—or, a loyalty program that rewards your users for shopping with retail partners. Do they need to make an online purchase at Walmart? Great. With the right browser plugin, and the right loyalty program, they can be earning points at your casino. It keeps you top of mind, keeps them engaged, and gives you a chance to do more targeted outreach—as they make certain purchases, or approach certain milestones.
  • They don’t need to hear from you all the time, as long as they hear from you at the right time. Your casino CRM should keep track of important days and trends. Do you have a customer who comes in every April? They should be hearing from you in March. Have a recurring visitor with a birthday coming up? Now’s the time to offer them that free upgrade.
  • Run smart paid marketing campaigns. If you have a customer loyalty program, you have access to customer data. If you have customer data—you have a whole world underutilized marketing opportunities at your disposal. You can retarget them with an ad on the sites where they shop most. You can shoot them an SMS when that band they enjoyed last time is performing again. We wrote an easy-to-follow walkthrough on how to market smarter with customer data here.

Summing it Up: A Smart “10 Year” Strategy, Calls for a Smart Loyalty Program

The stakes are high, and players’ standards are higher. If you want your customers to be loyal—your loyalty program has to bring its A-game.

Here are the things your loyalty program should help you do—if you’re hoping to maximize the value of each casino customer.

  • Engage millennials: offer “social” rewards, that are relevant to the next generation.
  • Engage millennials: interact with your customers online, as well as on the casino floor.
  • Engage millennials: build trust and encourage word-of-mouth, by investing in a loyalty program people find easy to use, and easy to love.
  • Engage the elites: choose a loyalty program that identifies and rewards the most engaged participants
  • Engage the elites: pay attention to how your “big-spenders” spend, and tailor their perks to the luxuries that appeal to them most.
  • Engage the once-a-year crowd: collect key data, and so you can reach them at the right places, at the right time.
  • Engage the once-a-year-crowd: allow them to earn points, even when they’re not in your casino, by finding the right partners, and investing in a coalition loyalty program.


Need some help finding a loyalty program enhancement that’ll work for you? Reach out.