In our previous article, we discussed how the race is on to extend the gaming experience from the casino to the patron via the Internet. A framework was provided that defined the basic building blocks of a Web 2.0 application. In this article, we’ll outline Web 2.0 strategies and factors to consider as you cultivate your website community. These include:
• Leverage social needs to achieve Web 2.0 success.
• Test, listen and learn to penetrate hard-to-reach segments.
• Strive for openness to create an energetic and engaged community.
• Help players help each other find rewarding gaming experiences.
• Use social interaction data to quantify player insights and add revenue lift.
Leveraging Social Needs
The common theme of successful Web 2.0 strategies is that they leverage basic social needs. These powerful motivators include the needs to feel unique, connected and informed. These three factors are highlighted by WMS in its Active Gambler Profile Survey. However, as you embark on developing your company’s Web 2.0 development, it is useful to consider several nuances. For example, segments of your gaming population will vary greatly according to how they find social fulfillment.
An article by Candace Lucas, executive director of marketing at WMS, observes that generational differences play a significant role in how social needs are satisfied. As an example, consider the importance of texting as a means to achieve social connectedness by those in their 20s. In contrast, seniors feel connected by taking part in activities that place them in close proximity to each other. These differences have strong cultural roots. Seniors’ sense of community evolved from more traditional forms of being together, such as church and other gatherings. For them, the casino bus tour has proven to be a reliable way of meeting their social need for connectedness. This group offers an intriguing example of how Web 2.0 might be used to satisfy needs for social connectedness.
Test, Learn and Listen
Does the senior preference for close physical proximity suggest that segments of your gaming population may be unreachable via Web 2.0? Not necessarily. Even this group may be more “connected” than a casino marketer might initially think. Surprisingly, WMS reports that the “Mature” and “Boomer” segments have a personal page or profile posted online—46 percent and 58 percent, in fact.1 While reaching this audience may not be as easy via Web 2.0 as reaching Xers and Millennials, their level of participation warrants being creative about how we penetrate these seemingly hard-to-reach segments.
Test-and-learn methods that are supported by Web 2.0 make it possible to introduce trial offers to your community. Early adopters and influencers in your gaming community will give you early signals as to whether these initiatives will pay off. Influencers are easy to spot and will tell you if you are making headway into your difficult-to-reach segment. They are active contributors and initiate online conversations that are picked up by others. Pay close attention to how they react. Do they pick up on your trial offer? If they do, then follow their lead to reach further into the segment.
Strive for Openness
A vibrant and energetic community is characterized by openness. Current industry websites are muted in a one-way conversation that lacks intimacy and surprises. Remember, gamers are inherently drawn to situations in which the outcome is uncertain. Does the prospect of creating an “open” community sound scary to your marketing and management team? We think it shouldn’t. However, there are trade-offs to consider. As a moderator of your Web 2.0 community, you will have the power to delete comments and even ban offensive users. While you will encounter clear-cut cases in which you need to exert editorial control, there will be many decisions that are not so straightforward. The judgments that you make in this gray area will affect the energy level of your online community.
Cultivating an open community has other indirect benefits that ultimately find their way to your casino’s bottom line. Your online community is a living, dynamic expression of your casino’s brand. The dialogue that unfolds as your casino openly addresses patron complaints will draw your patrons closer. Heartfelt testimonies from patrons about how your casino extended itself are the most powerful statements of your casino’s dedication to its patrons. Community members will judge the character of your casino by your willingness to be transparent in handling these matters. As Gavin Bell states simply in Building Online Communities, “genuineness and authenticity are key values in community management.” Your Web 2.0 website should have the same inviting, open qualities that you strive to bring to your physical property.
Help Players Help Each Other
People’s sense of connectedness is cemented when they help each other. Web 2.0 provides the perfect platform for leveraging this powerful social motivator. One of the biggest decisions that players make is whether to try a new game. This decision is fraught with anxiety and a sense of uncertainty, especially for new players. Recently at G2E, a well-known game designer said that the slot floor of today is more like a jungle. It has also been likened to a “grocery store on steroids” with the vast number of game choices presented to patrons.
A Web 2.0 community can give players a sense of knowledge and control as they enter this intimidating venue. Importantly, multiple roles are fulfilled as players guide each other through the confusing maze of game selection. Each of these roles provides social reinforcement that binds members closer within your community. Experienced players are the mavens, valued for their knowledge and willingness to share. Newer players gain the benefit of that knowledge and find support as they overcome their fears related to trying new games.
Use Social Interaction Data
With sufficient time on a casino floor, your staff inevitably develops an intuitive feel for various player types and their preferences. “Experiencers,” “grinders” and “tag-alongs” all have distinct patterns of play that are easily recognizable to those who are seasoned in our industry.
However, in these days of high-volume customer activity, we need to turn to data to tell us who our customers are and how they respond. From an analytical perspective, Web 2.0 interaction data is similar to point-of-sale transaction and slot machine session data. Each of these data types contains time-stamped recordings of events. In the world of Web 2.0, these events may be a log-in, an opt-in, or the viewing of a video that shows the bonus round of a new game that is newly placed on your casino floor.
The sequence of logged events forms a history of each patron from their Web 2.0 interaction to your casino floor. From your casino’s perspective, your Web 2.0 strategy should support a sequence of events that ultimately lead to each patron’s active participation on your casino floor. The analyses of these logged events reveal areas that need to be improved or abandoned in order to optimize the financial success of your casino.
In conclusion, just the act of placing your casino’s promotions on the web increases the velocity at which you can communicate with the player. Casinos are no longer dependent on direct mail alone. Promotion planning windows can now be shortened from months to days. By making your website and mobile applications a favorite destination for patrons, you increase their commitment and longevity.
1 “WMS Survey Explores Trends in the Lifestyles, Leisure Habits and Gaming Preferences of Gamblers, Part 4: The Social Network and Impact of Technology,” Casino Enterprise Management, August 2011.