Can we do this better?” is the simple question that drives massive change in the permanent technology revolution. The quest for improvement works its way into every solutions-driven process on earth, and system-driven in-game marketing is no different.
What some leading systems providers are finding is that it’s not only possible to do more at the machine, but operators are beginning to respond to the potential. The quality of in-game interactions is improving, as operators work with system providers to more fully leverage player data. And mobile is growing in stature playing a bigger role, as system providers keep pace with the changing habits of smartphone-driven consumers.
These were among the findings of Slot Management & Marketing’s interviews of the leading system providers. Here’s a summary of what they had to say:
“Everyone is coming to grips with how we leverage the online and land-based portions of the business to create the best possible customer experiences,” said Cath Burns, senior vice president systems, Scientific Games. She sees players moving away from the traditional loyalty tools of physical cards and racking up points. “They want a different type of experience and they want the operator to know the experience that they want.”
The industry is in a battle for mind and market share because the ease of consuming content online is driving consumption to levels we’ve never seen before, meaning people have more choices with their disposable income, said Burns. To help operators keep pace, the company’s fourth and latest version of iView enables them to publish content from one source to universal sources. For instance, a player can play the same promotional games in-game on the iView or at a kiosk; they may be able to order drinks at the machine or from their mobile phone; and a new content management solution keeps brand messaging consistent across the entire floor. iView4 also supports cardless play.
“When you look at a casino, even 10 years ago before the iPhone, people had to choose among a comparatively small amount of product categories; today, that number of categories has much more than doubled,” she said. “People are consuming Netflix for $10 a month, they might do a bit of social gaming, spend more money at Amazon because they can do more shopping without leaving their desk. That’s a tremendous opportunity for us to leverage what we’re doing and build an ecosystem where our platforms are talking to any display you can think of, be it a mobile phone, an iView, a piece of signage or the game itself. Those display metrics can deliver any content you want for true omni-channel delivery. That way we’ll be able to say to our customers that players can game at home on things such as sports and social games and we can tie rewards back into the property because we already know what restaurant they like to eat, what machines they play and we’re going to package that up into an individual, personalized customer experience.”
For Scientific Games, strategy-wise, the goal is to have as many iView4 interfaces as possible on all of its systems in its 740 casino sites globally, according to Burns.
“We have all these devices that can be added to the casino to deliver that experience,” said Burns. “It might be a bonusing experience through EBS or a brand new game content download. The reason why the iView4 is so critical to that is that it was developed in HTML5, which is what every online provider develops their games in. It makes them much easier to make, create, download and manage.”
Burns identified Web Content Manager, an app-store style software tool, as the core piece of functionality in the iView4 that was not part of the first three versions. “Operators can now load up as much content as they want, whether it’s advertising; bonusing; property content; or a link back into sports betting, social gaming or anything,” she said. “The reason we think that’s critical is, once we have iView4 rolled out globally, the next stage is mobile, and our mobile strategy will reflect all of the content that you can see on an iView. Customers are asking for this already; they see our lottery, gaming and interactive verticals and they want one view of the player with one wallet sitting right over the top of it. That’s the next big fundamental thing that we’ll be able to deliver.”
The Random Riches bonusing application has emerged as a key in-game marketing vehicle for the Advantage system from International Game Technology (ITG), according to Andy Fisher, the company’s senior manager, product management, player loyalty solutions.
To extend game sessions, players earn points to pre-set thresholds, triggering an award which is usually free play. The awards can be randomized, so once players reach a threshold there is, “some suspense there in terms of what they’re going to get,” said Fisher. Market segmentation is done both with historical and real-time data that can be tracked during the play session. Based on specific player demographic data, specific segments can be included in or excluded from a given promotion.
IGT has continued to make its qualification engine more robust. In addition to the traditional method of creating a patron database from pre-selected criteria to create a group, IGT has added a qualification engine that is essentially a drag-and-drop interface. “You put in specific criteria and then each time a player begins a session we’ll evaluate their eligibility based on those pre-set criteria,” said Fisher. “It’s about building the group in semi-real time based on what’s happening during the course of play and the time-frame that the operator chooses.”
Random Riches is popular with operators in highly competitive local and regional markets, including Asia-Pacific, and there is a lot of variation in terms of how it is being deployed. “We do have one Las Vegas Strip operator who uses it tactically, meaning they’ll turn it on for a specific period of time and then shut it off and run a promotion, whereas others in more competitive locals’ markets use it more regularly, for a specific day, or days of the week,” said Fisher. “Some run it flat, meaning they don’t necessarily segment it. But the product can almost segment itself because you can stack thresholds on top of each other and set thresholds that only your high-end players will achieve.”
In terms of promoting customer service to the total property, IGT has a broad range of applications that can be run in the Service Window that are geared toward providing superior customer service and each of those also has a segmentation piece. “In the simplest sense that’s tier-based, but operators also have the ability to base it on specific play criteria,” said Fisher. Some examples:
- Beverage-on-demand application: “Operators can decide to provide it but only to top-end players based on their play data over some period of time,” said Fisher. “They can also offer an enhanced menu to higher-end players.”
- Host-on-demand: This enables players to call their host right from the gaming machine’s on-screen service window; typically provided to VIP players only.
- I Reserve: A new product that enables players to reserve their favorite machine. “The old favorite is someone tips the chair up or puts a napkin on it and walks away; this is an automated way of doing that,” said Fisher. “We can also segment this application from no availability to full reservation rights but with limits on how long the players can reserve it. The top tier might be able reserve a machine for 20 minutes compared with five for a lower-tier player. Enabling operators to provide services to specific play segments is important. We’ve had some success in that area and I think we will continue to gain momentum.”
On the mobile front, IGT’s philosophy is anything that makes sense in the game screen generally makes sense from a mobile perspective. Its Cardless Connect solution is, “something that will bring value to mobile property apps,” said Fisher. “As you know, there are a lot of them that don’t get used that well or even downloaded that much.” IGT’s Mobile Intelligent Offer has a qualification engine and location-based software that, using beacon technology, enables operators to send offers to players on their mobile devices.”
Another example is Virtual Drawing Manager, which gives players the ability to manage their tickets and enter drawings at the Service Window. “If typically, you were able to do that at the players club or a kiosk we wanted you to have that ability on the game screen,” said Fisher. “A natural extension of that is to give players the ability to do the same with their mobile device.”
There are some new twists on the bonusing front as well. “When you’re running something like Random Riches where players are working toward a goal, it’s important to be able to brand not just progress, but also brand what that looks like from a delivery experience standpoint in the game screen itself,” said Fisher. “Our products have layered the ability to personalize content with ease with our latest M5 version release. This version brings HTML5 technology to our on-game screen communication to the player, allowing for richer property brand awareness that can extend to personalization based on a player’s tier.
“What’s most important about this technology is that for the first time we’re able to do full-screen bonus delivery and player-selectable themes. Much like the ability to choose what a bonus round looks like, we have the ability to do that now as well. For example when a player reaches the Random Riches point threshold, the full screen opens up and they’re given three choices as to what kind of bonus game they wish to play to reveal their reward.”
Lucky Time is a mystery bonus that, “is all about marketing dollars; you pre-set your budget, a specific time frame, number of awards and the amount,” said Fisher. “What it looks like to the player is that awards are being rewarded to the players during this period of time. The Service Windows are opening and it creates a sort of buzz around the area. We’ve had success with it in Australia, Macau and tribal gaming markets.”
In the field, one notable success story is Station Casinos, which upgraded its IGT slot system last year and is starting to see positive results, from promotions like Big Time Bonus, which leverages the Service Window and IGT’s Carded Lucky Coin mystery progressive product to extend Wheel of Fortune bonus spins to all its machines. It is Station’s first enterprise-wide promotion.
In the company’s fourth quarter earnings call that took place in February, Station Casinos parent company Red Rock Resorts CFO Steve Cooty said: “We’re beginning to see tangible results from our new IGT slot system upgrade. Since initiating tests and rollouts in the third quarter of 2017, we have seen a substantial increase in our guest loyalty metrics, affirming our belief that we’re providing a more rewarding and engaging customer experience. As we continue to evolve and refine system techniques, including personalized on-device bonusing capabilities and other reward features, we would expect that our relationship with our guest will continue to strengthen over time, ultimately resulting in greater visitation, time-on-device and spend.”
In SYNKROS with Konami Gaming
Like many systems providers, Konami Gaming is constantly evolving the marketing capabilities of its casino management solution, which is called SYNKROS. Slot Management & Marketing had the following exchange with Jay Bertsch, vice president, global system sales, on the topic of Konami’s latest system-driven in-game marketing developments:
Please provide an overview of your company in regards to in-game marketing solutions…
BERTSCH: Konami’s SYNKROS casino management system allows casinos to use video slot machines as a key touchpoint for player communication and casino marketing. True-Time Windowing allows casinos to broadcast player communication directly to the game screen of any video slot, without interrupting game play. This technology can work in conjunction with system-delivered tournament games through True-Time Tournaments, and tools like SYNKROS Offers Management which promote a lifecycle of player engagement with targeted player loyalty incentives.
In terms of its promotional capabilities, which have proved the most popular with players?
BERTSCH: True-Time Tournaments and SuperSeries are both inherently designed to deliver excitement surrounding player promotions and incentives. These system-delivered bonusing tools have the capability to reach every equipped EGM on the floor, delivering bonus features directly to the game screen for players to experience the chance to win. SuperSeries has a variety of number-pick games that simultaneously invite all carded players to select their lucky numbers and watch the random results unfold. True-Time Tournaments can be synchronized or player on-demand, with different themed slot tournaments that allow players to compete for top scores. In both cases, the games create excitement and buzz across the gaming floor. Because True-Time Tournaments and SuperSeries are restricted to carded players, they are often leveraged by SYNKROS customers to help drive carded play and new players club signups. True-Time Tournaments can even be restricted to certain player demographics or targeted behaviors, for a variety of promotional objectives. Players see others around them participating and entering to win, and they want to get qualified to join as well.
What other marketing-related success stories from SYNKROS can you share?
BERTSCH: When we speak with our customers, they are always looking for new ways to reach targeted audience segments with relevant offers that deliver results. One of Konami’s latest systems enhancements concerning that goal is a tool called SYNKROS Offers Management, which empowers operators to reach, incentivize and reward players uniquely to their demographic and spend. In addition to advanced targeting capabilities for the property, players can select from multiple available bonus awards—such as food & beverage comp vouchers, free play, drawing tickets, tournament entries and extra point prizes—and receive personalized notifications across a variety of touchpoints, including game displays. Offers can be non-contingent or require targeted action, and can be scheduled for specified time periods of activation, selection, and expiration. We created SYNKROS Offers Management to give operators the utmost convenience and control to configure promotions and maximize their results.
Tap-On/Tap-Off is the other area we’d like to address. How would you describe its main marketing benefits?
BERTSCH: Konami’s Tap-On/Tap-Off technology is a hybrid card reader/NFC authentication method that offers several ways for players to connect to their account at the machine, including personal mobile device, room key, fob and traditional players card. It provides more ways to bridge common barriers to carded play and make the loyalty experience seamless with technology players already have in the palm of their hand. Instead of being tethered to a traditional players card each time they visit the casino, players can leverage alternative authentication methods with their room key, mobile device, etc. And rather than waiting in line for reprints when their loyalty card is misplaced or forgotten, they can get right to the game with a number of secure access methods right at the device. Tap-On/Tap-Off provides a multi-channel solution to reach more players using the technology conveniences already interlaced through their daily life and the guest experience.
How has the product been received by your system customers? How many do you expect will be using this solution by the end of this calendar year?
BERTSCH: Several of our key customers are interested in introducing Tap-On/Tap-Off to their players. Trials are currently planned and following that we’ll have a clearer timeline for general release.
In terms of player acceptance, how would you characterize their comfort level with cardless loyalty solutions and how quickly do you think they will grasp their potential?
BERTSCH: As with any new technology, it requires education on practical use and personal benefit in order to drive behavioral adoption. Tap-On/Tap-Off is a hybrid card reader, so it supports traditional loyalty card authentication as well as new methods like a personal mobile device. This allows properties and players to transition to the new technology at their own pace. Long-term however, the mobile cardless solution will likely become most dominant because it offers greater player convenience as well as business cost savings.
Anything you’d like to add?
BERTSCH: For years, True-Time Windowing achieved documented success providing system-delivered tournaments, floor-wide bonusing, drawing entries, awards and incentives. Recently Konami released a wave of new enhancements to its next generation True-Time Windowing technology, one of which is Web Services. Web Services allows players to access a variety of applications such as restaurant reservations, hotel reservations, valet services, live video streaming and any other online HTML5-based tools or programs that the property chooses to grant access.
The latest True-Time Windowing also offers service requests for carded guests to place an electronic drink order or call for assistance. It also supports HD and portrait-oriented screens for the greatest reach and cabinet compatibility across the gaming floor.