Authors' Note: In the sixth of a 12 article series themed on where the money is now for “smart” casinos, VizExplorer executives delve into social technology and discuss the five apps operators need to integrate into the gaming enterprise to succeed in an increasingly mobile world. Please note these articles are meant to stimulate thought and that we are using some deliberately provocative metaphors which should be taken with a grain of salt.  

In a recent article, we described five critical actions operators must make in order to better compete in the social world. To summarize: gaming providers need to understand how mobile apps are adopted by users; how the innovation in the mobile space tends to take place; how to measure usage and collect the data; and the importance of real-time automation.

In this article, we will focus on apps, and the need for the modern casino enterprise to incorporate the popular ones into social media strategies.

BLACK SWAN APPS

In his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Author Nissam Talab discusses how unlikely events and outcomes tend to shape the world. To that end, Talab believes that common results from experiments, studies, etc., are not as important as outliers, and it is these outliers that truly warrant
extra focus and attention.

Looking to the world of apps, it seems that the “Black Swan” effect is in full force, in that most apps have very low usage and a few are highly successful. Let’s look at one recent highly successful app, the game called PokemonGo. This app exploded onto the scene in July 2016, and within two months it had over 20 million daily users. This growth placed the new game in a very unusual bucket, namely one with overnight significant daily usage or, in analytical terms, an outlier.

When examining the world of apps more deeply, it seems like the usage is dominated by outliers. Consider the examples of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Maps; all of these apps are outliers with extraordinary usage rates and an almost ubiquitous usage. The challenge is that all other apps seem relegated to the back seat with the number of devices that have one of these other apps installed rarely exceeding 5 percent. This analysis becomes even more remarkable when we consider that there are over two million apps to choose from on Apple’s app store. It is simply unfathomable to imagine how anybody is going to even use a small portion of these apps; it is even more remarkable when you look at Figure 1 and see that we are adding 500,000 apps per year.

Clearly, any strategy that involves your business needs to take into account how you are going to exploit the Black Swan applications. To dig into this, we will consider four apps in turn and look at how a business may want to strategically think about and use them.

CORE APPS

The core apps are the massive leaders that dominate the social world with their incredible market penetration. Other apps seem to come and go, but these core Black Swans remain front and center of the digital world.

Facebook—Facebook may be the prime way a single person interfaces with the social world, but it is truly designed to build relationships between people. That said, Facebook is not really designed to allow your business to send messages to hundreds of thousands of users. Your Facebook strategy needs to be engaging and informative, encouraging people to want to follow your news feed. This means that you need content continuously created and shaped to attract people to follow the property and what it is doing. So for a business, Facebook is not really a focused marketing tool… it is more of a channel for high-volume, personalized communication.

One exception to this rule within the casino enterprise is the player development department; where hosts are likely to Facebook friend their players and form lasting relationships with them. The problem: these relationships exist outside of the information flows of the business. The solution: encourage groups of hosts and host managers to all friend the special players so the relationship is spread wider than a single host.

Twitter—This firehose of data is wild and untamed, almost anybody can post almost anything. To partake in this constant stream of information, you will need to make content and have surrogates empowered to respond in real time to information flows. Consider the example of an upset user posting on Twitter and starting a flame war directed at your business. In order to stop this, the business needs to respond in minutes and try and defuse the situation.

Twitter can also act as a proactive “guerilla marketing” application where (again leveraging real-time data) your surrogates can react to events in the casino and relay this important information to anyone who is listening.  For example, when a concert featuring a famous entertainer (let’s call her Ms. X) ends, a marketing tweet can be sent out, something like… “Ms. X just wrapped up an amazing concert!  Check out our Facebook feed for highlights. Or come on down and see if she decides to show up on the casino floor!”

LinkedIn—LinkedIn is far more than an online resume repository; casino team members use it to share stories, join professional groups and, sometimes, search for jobs. LinkedIn also offers the following services which can be of analytical use to gaming operators:

• Statistics Monitoring: LinkedIn provides levels of paid membership, these higher levels can provide detailed data about your digital footprint.

• Competitive Intelligence: Watching LinkedIn is fascinating, you can monitor team members (from your business and from competition) looking for and finding new jobs.

• Professional Presence: The average LinkedIn member has a household income of 109,000, according to some studies. This is remarkably high and a result of the large number of white collar professionals who have LinkedIn accounts.

Thus LinkedIn can be leveraged to handle internal matters like hiring/preserving the best talent, or as a player development tool to identify potential high-value gamblers.

Google Maps—Google Maps is an incredible marketing tool and you need to make sure that you are included in search engine results. In Figure 2, you can see that the search results include a name and a short description. Furthermore, when you drill down, you can see ratings and reviews of each property. People often make the decision about what property to visit based on this information, so don’t leave it unattended. In addition Google (and others) will sell you services to improve your search ranking and results; these efforts should be a critical part of your digital strategy.

In addition to these core apps, there are some emerging apps that can help round out a property’s social marketing efforts. These include:

• Waze: This app provides real-time reports on the best routes to get to a casino or other specific location.

• Yelp: This app allows customers to review just about everything, and has become the go-to place for many people when they are deciding where to spend their entertainment dollars.

• OpenTable: This provides for online restaurant reservations, payments and ratings. If your property has restaurants, you need to be active in this network.

BEHIND THE APP

Recognizing and catering to the proper apps is only part of a successful social media strategy. Other actions to consider include:

Participation—The digital world is active and requires constant tending. It is not good enough to simply provide a website and update it monthly. The digital world needs constant participation and a hyper mindset to participate in the constant flow of information.

Real-time Response—To be in the digital world, you will need to act in real time and with intelligence. Consider the difference between a social communication that begins with, “Last night …” and one that begins, “Right now in our casino …” These communications need to be based in data, and day-old data warehouses are not going to be able to keep up with the new social media order. 

Data Collection—To put it simply, the days of the day-old data warehouse are coming to an end; there are now new technologies and methods that allow the business to move into real time.  The traditional data warehouse approach when applied to real-time data projects are highly likely to fail.

To move to a real-time data feed means a new model for data gathering. This new model must be nimble and not subject to the demands of a traditional dimensional data warehouse with pre-built data cubes processing the data once a day.  This new model needs to take the data as it comes (often via very robust real-time replication processes already developed by major companies like Microsoft) and then process the data as it is needed to the casino business users. For example, the surrogate casino employee who is communicating the casino’s Twitter account needs access to what is happening on the casino floor (which includes both gaming and non-gaming transactional data) as well as what the customers are saying about the casino on social media.  This prepares this employee to react to customers using the data, and to be proactive in leveraging the data to create a compelling message for the customers.

Automation—Getting real-time data is obviously critical, but then the question is what to do with it?  Here is where automation business rules come into the forefront. In our Twitter example, the surrogate employee will be instantly overwhelmed if they are only presented with a stream of transactional data. Use cases need to be developed for both proactive and reactive communications. From these use cases business rules can be adopted that summarized the data and then leverage triggers in the data (such as when a major jackpot is hit) to provide actionable information to this employee.

Finally, this entire workflow—summarized and trigger-based use of the data built from business use cases, employee actions taken, and the results of these actions—can be analyzed using predictive and machine learning methods.  These methods can inform the next set of business cases as well as optimizing the current use cases, providing a continuous improvement loop whereby the casino gets better and better at leveraging these Black Swan apps.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

The world is changing rapidly and a small handful of Black Swan apps are grabbing the attention of billions of users.  Casinos cannot simply retreat to the world of their own personal casino app and ignore these bigger, ubiquitous apps that their customers are using.  Casinos need to engage with customers, both proactively and reactively, and this engagement needs to be based on real-time data.  With a combination of business operator experience and data science, casinos can build highly productive workflows to deal with these interactions. Finally, building advanced predictive models and machine learning algorithms can allow an operator to constantly improve the ways they interact with their customers through this medium of third party Black Swan social media apps.