Home Where is the Money? Part 8 of 36: Player Development in Mobile Real-Time World

Where is the Money? Part 8 of 36: Player Development in Mobile Real-Time World

Authors’ Note: Player development exists as a special gateway between customer and business, and the numbers are often substantial. The percentage of hosted business varies tremendously between markets, with a typical casino running about one-third of its business as hosted. Player development teams work hard to communicate, market and personalize the gaming experience for their players. But in today’s real time, mobile-enabled world, player development needs new tools to achieve great results. In this article, we dig into the core requirements for player development tools.

Our customers are vastly more sophisticated in 2015 than they were in 2005. Nearly three-quarters of them are carrying powerful mobile computers—a.k.a. smartphones. Smartphones are windows into the world and key to the B2C interaction. To understand how B2C mobile is changing player development, let’s break down the smartphone-enabled patron database using two dimensions: social information and apps.

Table 1 shows a basic breakdown of different categories of smartphone usage styles relevant to player development.
Table 1 shows a basic breakdown of different categories of smartphone usage styles relevant to player development.
The use of social tools on smartphones transforms how people interact with the world. Aside from updating their statuses, checking up on friends and posting pictures, these users are also likely to be performing other tasks, such as Internet searching or calling up a map, among other in-phone tools. They are more than familiar with tools such as Facebook and how to use the camera to create continuous interaction with their social world.1

As for business apps, nearly every business is either building or has built a mobile platform of some kind. These range from brochure-ware to sophisticated applications. We are strong believers in the future growth of business-specific apps, especially if they have unique utility to the property.

To understand the impact of smartphone usage on the gaming industry, let’s take a step back and first look at the Internet and social media. This deeper dive shows that all age groups are adopting mobile and social media. Furthermore, we can see that Facebook dominates social media usage, and other mobile platforms show just small fractions of its penetration level.

In Figure 1, we can see two important trends. First, the global daily access of Facebook continues to grow, and second, the percentage of mobile usage2 is also growing.3 What’s more remarkable is that 30 percent of users only use Facebook on their mobile devices.4

The numbers for the U.S. only, however, are actually quite different. Facebook usage has stabilized at approximately 206 million daily active users (only 2 million more than 2013).5 Assuming (due to difficulty finding actual numbers) that the mobile usage in the U.S. is similar to the global trend, that means there are approximately 161 million daily active mobile Facebook users in the U.S., with this percentage growing 5 percent from 2013. Furthermore, we can no longer say members of our older gaming demographic do not use social media, as more than 70 percent of people ages 55-plus are using Facebook in the U.S.6 The backbone of this number is the increasing number of Internet users in the U.S., where after stabilizing in 2009 at 219 million has now grown to 279 million.7 Outside of LinkedIn, other social platforms run penetration of approximately 10 percent in the 55-plus demographic.

Based on the numbers above, we estimate that Figure 2 shows a typical distribution of the 55-plus age category based on usage type.

For player development, the point is that the smartphone is here and users are deep into Facebook and probably also Google search and other phone features (such as the camera). We can also say that specialized applications have much lower penetration rates. However, we believe that as the utility of the business application increases—with wayfinders and mobile kiosks, for example—this penetration rate will increase.

Usage Styles and Customer Intimacy
Player development is a business in which building a relationship of trust and understanding with the patrons is central to success. This style of business is often referred to as customer-intimate business. If we are going to understand today’s customers, that means we must also understand their smartphone usage styles.

Let’s examine each of the four usage styles, Leaders, Socializers, Utilitarians and Laggards. To make this examination more real, we will create a mobile interaction archetype for each of the usage types (see Table 2) and compile considerations that must be taken when trying to develop each type of customer.

Implications for Business
Traditional player development focused solely on personal relationships. The host would act as host, contact management system, player development reporting system and player tracking system all at once. With the right number of players to manage, these hosts were very effective at keeping track of every little detail about their small group of customers—including how much they gambled. However, there were problems with this. First, there were sharp limits on how many players an individual host could handle. Second, hosts were using their best guesses on how players were performing and how much to reinvest. Third, there was very little accountability as to how the hosts were performing. And finally, the risk to the casinos was great—if a host left the company, their players (and more importantly, all the associated information about the players) left with the host.

Player tracking systems have helped the situation somewhat, but even with a better record of what the players are gambling, there is still a vast amount of data residing with the hosts. In particular, the following problems still exist even with after the advent of player tracking systems:
1. All the contact history and preferences for hosted customers resides with the host.
2. Host performance is still difficult to track.
3. Customer reinvestment is difficult to track and maintain.

Many player development tools have come along that attempt to resolve these issues. They come with contact management systems, host performance reporting and comp reinvestment formulas. Unfortunately, many of these systems lack real-time data, lack a mobile offering, put data into the cloud or any combination of the above.

Let’s touch on these issues one at a time.

Real-Time and Mobile
It’s great for the casino when a player development system is installed that helps solve the problems mentioned above… until the casino learns that the hosts hate the system and are doing everything in their power to subvert its use.

If the system lacks real-time data, the hosts are left wondering what the player did today when asked for a comp. Now they have to go into the player development system for historical information and then go into the player tracking system to get today’s updated information. Guess what ends up happening? They simply skip the player development system and revert to their more comfortable behavioral pattern of using the player tracking system.

If the system lacks a mobile offering, the hosts are going to either be less efficient, as now they are forced to spend time chained to their desks working with the player development tools, or they are going to continue their normal behavior of working without the player development tools. They will continue to use their cell phones to call customers, walk the floor and in general do things the “old-fashioned way.” In short, the player development tool will not get used.

Challenges with the Cloud
Cloud-based solutions may have a real-time component, but there are significant dangers in placing the data of your best customers in the cloud. Imagine the repercussions if a government agency investigates the cloud data, and does so without informing your casino. We have discussed this in detail in prior articles.

Fully Integrated Solutions
A proper player development solution will be one that:
1. Resides within the casino’s four walls (is not cloud-based).
2. Helps the casino own all of its customer information (play behavior, contact history, preferences, etc.).
3. Allows casinos to better manage hosts with a system of assigning tasks (for hosted customers as well as high-value unhosted customers).
4. Identifies host performance, and quantifies goals and achievement of those goals.
5. Helps the hosts do their jobs better, faster and with real time data.

This last component will lead to hosts embracing the tool as opposed to fighting it. Here we are talking about real-time and mobile (as discussed above). But more than that, the tool should seamlessly interface with the rest of the organization’s tools, particularly player tracking and the hotel.

In conclusion, player development tools need to be developed with the needs of both the hosts and the host managers in mind.

1 Refer to http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/january-2013/where%E2… for more background on social media.
2 Refer to http://www.statista.com/statistics/346195/facebook-global-mobile-dau/ for mobile facebook usage.
3 Refer http://www.statista.com/statistics/346167/facebook-global-dau/, for facebook usage.
4 Refer http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/23/5930743/facebooks-new-stats-1-32-billi… for mobile only users of facebook.
5 Refer http://www.statista.com/statistics/247614/number-of-monthly-active-faceb… for U.S. facebook usage.
6 Refer http://www.statista.com/statistics/305245/us-social-network-penetration-….
7 Refer http://www.statista.com/statistics/276445/number-of-internet-users-in-th….
8 Refer to http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/february-2010/why-do-… for more information on gaming interactions.
9 Refer to http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/november-2014/where-m… for cloud based solution discussion.

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