Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino is testing an innovative mobile marketing campaign that could revolutionize how casinos deliver player-loyalty rewards.
The San Diego-area resort’s pilot test uses barcode-scanning technology to send 2-D barcode text messages to players. Each text contains a barcode with a special offer for rewards such as restaurant specials, food and beverage deals, and cash offers.
“As one of the first organizations in the country to utilize this technology, our goal is to create a mobile marketing program that will provide convenient services to our players with added benefits,” said Troy Simpson, Barona senior vice president of innovation. “Since the barcodes are sent to players that opt to receive them directly on their mobile phones, they are easily stored and scanned – making this program ideally suited for players who are moving throughout the resort and casino.”
Some 360 opt-in Club Barona Diamond-level players are participating in the pilot test. Each player received a text message with a special restaurant offer. Players with Web-enabled mobile phones are able to view a 2-D barcode from a Web link within their text message. Once at the restaurant, this barcode comp can be redeemed tableside by a server, using a handheld 2-D barcode scanner.
Players without mobile Web capabilities also can redeem the offer via individual redemption codes provided within the body of the text message.
Barona is testing the technology to gauge delivery as well as participants’ acceptance and response of 2-D barcode text message-based offers. Players were selected for the test based on their top tier level in Club Barona (Diamond Card holders) and through exclusive invitations from their executive hosts.
“Our mobile marketing program is the latest effort in our ongoing commitment to technological advancement in the gaming industry,” said Scott Reinhardt, Barona director of database marketing and innovation.
Both Simpson and Reinhardt said they are encouraged by the initial response from players’ initial response.
“We really see great opportunity in this move,” Simpson said. Players weren’t put off by text messages. “What they told us and what we found very heartening for the future is they prefer receiving their offers via texts,” he said.
They appreciated the” simple, short and sweet” offers, and found the instructions on how to redeem the offer intuitive, Simpson said.
“They were very clear in their understanding of all the offer details. That speaks positively about our future ability to use that channel to deliver various offers,” he said.
Immediate benefitsThe technology has clear benefits, to both players and operators, Simpson said.
“It’s real time. If you look at the way a regular mail piece is sent out – there’s three months of production,” Simpson said. “Now we can look at gaming behavior today and send you a real-time text. It’s more relevant, it’s simple and it’s more compelling to our players.”
In that way, he said, Barona can tailor offers and content in a more personalized way to the player who’s receiving them.
Using the phone to deliver text messages also easily accessible, he said, since most people are “probably never with their phone except when they’re in the shower.”
Players, he said, appreciate receiving Barona offers in any form. “What this does is speed up the timeline to talk to them,” he said.
Such programs may cut operator’s marketing costs, Simpson said.
“ Certainly if you are sending somebody a text message, the cost per communication is substantially less than that of a mail piece,” he said. But that’s not Barona’s focus, he noted. Simpson said Barona would plow savings into the player reinvestment kitty.
There is potential for operators to use such mobile marketing as a yield management tool, offering last-minute deals on unused room inventory, or another amenity.
Using text messages also is a good sustainable initiative, Simpson said.
“We like it because it’s a good steward of the environment,” he said.
Rinehardt noted that Barona carefully introduced the new pilot program to participants. “There was a lot of front-end dialogue to get folks to opt-in,” he said.
The casino operator continues to tread carefully to ensure it is respectful of people’s privacy, and that the content is the kind of content people want and a viable communication channel, Rinehardt said.
Players, Simpson said, can provide valuable word-of-mouth advertising for a program. “Players talk to players. They’re our best sales force,” he said.
Out in frontThe ability to innovate has been one of Barona’s differentiating factors, “giving players a very clear reason to select us gaming destination of choice over the competition,” Simpson said.
Rinehardt noted that “everything is engineered at giving the casino player more reasons to want to be at Barona and to be loyal to Barona.”