Mobile and online forums are the marketing frontiers for casino gaming going forward.

One thing that was clear at last month's Global Gaming Expo is that marketers are moving from the theoretical to the practical on numerous technological fronts. Take the area of mobile and online marketing, which was spotlighted at one of the event's many first-rate sessions.

Customers are using mobile devices to learn about your properties whether you have a mobile site or not, said Craig Border, vice president of database marketing, Marketing Results. The firm has studied client websites, finding 13 percent of people will still access websites using a mobile device even if it’s not a mobile site. When you add mobile functionality those numbers go up to 30 percent. For all mobile and online sites, when you start looking at things like account log-ins and you’ve got a CRM page that ties back to offers, about 48 percent will take advantage.

“When you take that one step further, looking at offers that are aimed specifically at driving visits; say an offer that you put on the website even before they’ve received a piece of mail or an e-mail, we’re north of 50 percent of web traffic going to those areas of the site, coming in just for that purpose,” said Border.

Important strides are being made in the area of customization and personalization, said Aron Ezra, vice president of mobile, Bally Technologies. “We look at everything a casino is doing in its day-to-day business and see how we can augment it,” said Ezra. “We also look at how we can create customized experiences for people who are looking at a particular screen at that time in that place. For instance, we find that between 30 and 40 percent of people using a mobile device will use it off-property to do things like book a room and make reservations. The vast majority of people are using that device on-site to augment their experience as they’re walking around; to locate the restrooms, their friend, or they parked their car; or find out how to play a particular game. In the traditional online world, it’s much more about drawing that person to the property in the first place.”

Ezra encouraged operators to think about the online strategy for all communication that occurs via screens, including digital signage. What is the content that you are going to show people at 10 p.m. vs. 3 p.m.? Is a top-tier player going to see different content on all of those different screens at those different times in those different places?

“More and more, we’re seeing customization become paramount,” said Ezra. “We’re talking about customizing for groups and individuals. If I see my name up there and the games that I like to play, I might not use Facebook, but I might use Twitter and Foursquare, so that’s the experience that I see when I walk in.”

There are real-world success stories. “Your website can reach so many more people than print or direct marketing,” said Border. He described a property in Michigan that put together promotions around a progressive jackpot that had to hit by a certain dollar value, (in this case $100,000). Everyone knew that the game typically hit around $85,000, so they put the real-time amount on their website, be it mobile or desktop, letting everyone see the jackpot scrolling up over time.

“The jackpot tended to hit about once per month, so they leveraged that by saying if you were willing to enroll online and receive digital communication, we’ll send you notification when that jackpot hits $75,000,” said Border. “As a result, they had an immense number of people who were interested in knowing when lightning was going to strike. It translated into a lot of interest online and a huge database of people who they could communicate with regularly and good conversion rates. The club was literally mobbed with people wanting to sign up because people wanted to be a part of it and the only way was if you had a card.”

Ezra cited Pinnacle’s properties for generating massive numbers of downloads and usage. Luxor as well, for doing really sophisticated work with geo-targeting. Golden Nugget does a lot on the social side through their site; and Red Hawk casino in California, which draws a huge portion of their players from Chinatown in San Francisco, “has created some really interesting geo-fences that attracted a lot of business.”

Bottom line: The group of players that has either used the mobile website or logged in online, are more engaged with the property, said Border. “We’re seeing values for this group nearly double what we see from an unengaged customer in the general population of the database,” he said. “We’re also seeing much higher loyalty factors. In the general database, we’re seeing defection rates of 35-37 percent. When we look at people who are highly engaged with online services, the defection rate is down at 11 percent. Engagement from a value perspective and number of trips per visit adds up to jump into this arena.”