Player Portals: Design Concepts to Improve Consumer Engagement

The Internet is a complex market, one that continues to mystify and excite traditional casino executives. Every day, industry news is full of discussions regarding legal and regulatory changes, new people entering and leaving the business, new products and services, and analyst discussions of the size of the market that is lined with gold. Yet as casino executives, we need to pay attention to the player’s journey in our core offerings and the opportunity to improve player experiences by leveraging new digital devices and mediums.

Figure A
Figure A
Google published a research presentation that described the context in which consumers engage in media interactions. The survey revealed key insights that consumers spend 4.4 hours per day in front of digital devices consuming media, and 90 percent of all our media consumption is screen-based (smartphone, laptop/PC, tablet or television) versus 10 percent non-screen-based (radio, newspapers and magazines), as shown in Figure A.1 With consumers spending all of this time on digital content, casino executives are wondering what technologies to invest in and how to maximize their return.

Casinos certainly have been investing in a presence on the Internet and deploying mobile applications—all with the intent of capturing the consumer’s attention in the digital world. Results vary regarding these deployments. Disappointments abound regarding download and open rates on mobile applications and the implementation of player portals. However, for an industry with grander ambitions on how to capitalize on the Internet and its riches, I believe that continued experimentation with these mediums with passionate focus on the player’s experience will provide casinos with tremendous opportunities to create operating leverage.

Player portals are a great place to begin the discussion. A player portal by our definition is a module within the casino’s website where members of the loyalty program can view their rewards (points, cash back, free slot play and promotions) that are associated with their account. I estimate that 60 percent2 of the casinos in the continental United States offer consumers access to a player portal. These player portals offer a wide range of services from simple viewing points to the more complex redemption of promotions online.

The ROI on player portals is pretty compelling. As consumers spend more time in the digital environment and less time with traditional mediums, the ROI story is driven by two themes:

Direct mail is losing its effectiveness vis-à-vis the digital medium.
Digital offers present increased response rates and more efficient delivery of services.
The more content a player sees on the portal, the more aware and therefore the more willing he or she is to take advantage of promotions. The player portal is a means to cut through the advertising noise to your best consumers.

The goal of any player portal should be to encourage customer loyalty by giving players a sense of control. This is accomplished by honoring their need for access to their benefits, creating a sense of ease in servicing themselves and providing evidence that their limited availability for entertainment is being honored. In evaluating the industry’s implementation of player portals, we have identified 10 areas on which operators can focus to improve their ROI.

1. Improve access and responsiveness for the player. Most of the time, we witnessed the player portal positioned deeply within the menu structure of the website or poorly identified within the overall presentation of the casino on the site. The time between account creation and play in the casino versus the ability to access information on the player portal was too long. The Google survey showed that consumers are increasingly using multiple digital devices during their entertainment periods.

2. Login credentials should utilize the email or username standard. Some casinos continue to require that players remember their account numbers. Having the account number as the unique identifier decreases the odds that a consumer will return to the site or decreases the frequency of usage.

3. Simplify players’ password requirements and recovery process. Password requirements should be no more difficult than those used by the major banks. One casino we observed required players to have a password and a PIN to log in to the portal. Again, this type of requirement creates too much friction to encourage player engagement. A casino’s password recovery process should not require human intervention. We witnessed some casinos that require players to call the loyalty program or return to the casino to reset their password. The established best practice on the Internet is for passwords to be encrypted and never seen by company representatives. The player portal should include an automated password-recovery process that allows players to maintain control over their accounts.

4. Not enough meaningful content for the player. You need to show every important detail behind the club: points, cash back, free slot-play and, most importantly, promotions. If you’re going to honor a player’s desire to manage his/her account and have some sense of control, then transparency is key. Show as many personalized benefits of the loyalty program as possible. Promotions are a great source of content that is refreshed on an ongoing basis, so including them in the player portal is necessary to maximize ROI.

5. Allow a player to opt out of receiving direct mail but let them choose to receive emails only. This is a great way to reduce costs and obtain commitment from the player to open your emails.

6. Ensure that you are responsive to players who are struggling to use your player portal. Several times we found that casinos were unresponsive to messages sent to the email addresses posted on their site. In one situation, casino staff at the loyalty-program desk couldn’t offer advice on how to address concerns on accessing the portal.

7. The Internet is a great way to obtain information from your consumer. Most player portals are missing the opportunity for loyal players to provide feedback on the experience and opinions on the casino, the loyalty program and the promotions they receive.

8. The best player portals we experienced automated the win/loss delivery. Eliminate the need for players to fill out a form requesting the document. Automation reigns because it shows respect for the players’ time and reduces the cost of managing the delivery of such a document.

9. The ability to take action on a promotion from the account is performed by those with best-in-class player portals. Allowing players to take action establishes the foundation for the operator to accelerate the offer cycle. Casinos may no longer have to deliver promotions on a monthly basis but could look to offer promotions based on marketing triggers that are uniquely tied to an individual player’s value. More activity between a casino and player’s digital life increases the velocity at which players will act on promotions or remain engaged with the brand.

10. Enabling the player to share, brag and invite friends or significant others to take advantage of a casino promotion will increase response rates. The act of visiting a casino is a social event and should be capitalized. Research reveals that around 70 percent of casino trips occur with another individual; therefore, leveraging the digital medium to share offerings will improve the vitality of your promotions with very little variable costs.

We recognize the Internet can be a wonderful marketing opportunity that can create some anxieties for casino executives. Player-portal design requires a complex interaction of individuals with specialized skills such as engineering, user-interface design and marketing executives who have empathy for a player’s journey. The technical integration with the source casino management system can be daunting. However, for those casinos that embrace the opportunity, it offers a chance to engage in a richer, deeper and mutually beneficial relationship with players.

1 Google – “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior,” Google, August 2012.
2 Proprietary research conducted by Reward View.