Recently on my way to work I heard a news report about how people were claiming that their “Alexa” device was spontaneously laughing at them.

Tech experts and representatives from Amazon explained the cause of this odd, somewhat creepy behavior and quickly worked to resolve it.

But it got me thinking…

This story was everywhere. From the radio to tech blogs, every news outlet in the country was buzzing about Alexa’s “inappropriate behavior.” Suddenly it occurred to me… “Alexa” had reached a celebrity status. Even if they didn’t own an Alexa-enabled product, even if they’ve never used one, everyone who heard this story knew what Alexa was and was intrigued by its peculiar behavior.

I did some research. While Amazon won’t give an exact number of how many Alexa devices they sold last year, we do know it’s in the millions. Forrester Research predicts that by 2022, more than 66 million U.S. households will have a smart speaker like Alexa… that’s half of all U.S. households. Clearly everyone is getting on board the Alexa train; and the train isn’t slowing down any time soon.

As a product that’s driving the electronics category, Alexa (and other devices like it) are a top motivator for consumers. I mention this in the context of gaming because, well, consumer trends dictate incentive trends, so anyone who has a player loyalty program needs to pay attention the voice-control craze.  

As more and more companies find new ways to incorporate Alexa-technology into their products and as Amazon strengthens its relationship with consumers, the trend towards virtual assistants will just continue to gain momentum. And as a casino property seeking new ways to engage and motivate players, or better yet, acquire new ones, you need to consider the reward trends that motivate them as consumers. Overall, offering rewards that resonate with today’s player ensures a higher engagement and promises more spending.

It’s critical that your rewards programs offer products with high brand equity and the “latest and greatest” models. The most effective player rewards programs omit logoed, low-priced, disposable items and instead, offer a healthy mix of today’s most in-demand products from aspirational brands.

Players and consumers of all types appreciate exclusivity and VIP access. We’ve come a long way from the generation that couldn’t set the clock on their VCRs to consumers that can’t live without a smart device. That said, technology can still be intimidating. Hosting interactive events that allow players to learn about the merchandise can be a great way to engage and inspire valued patrons. It gives them exclusive access to trophy value gifts as well as access to management. These events are also beneficial for organizations, because they provide an opportunity to gain valuable feedback from the target market and serves as the perfect icebreaker for initiating trial.

Further, trending merchandise shouldn’t be limited to player loyalty programs. Implementing a robust employee engagement program that rewards staff with premium products for upselling, engaging with players and promoting ancillary services is a great way to drive repeat spending both on and off the casino floor. Remember that they love trends too, so offer a carefully-chosen mix of products across multiple categories that capture varying tastes and demands.

Follow these simple rules and you’ll be the one who has the last laugh.