Michael Marino, senior vice president of customer loyalty and chief experience officer for Caesars Entertainment, delivered the opening keynote at Mobile Experience and Engagement Training (MEET), a pre-show educational workshop on mobile technology at July’s Casino Marketing & Technology Conference.

Caesars operates nine hotels in Vegas and 40 around the world, and mobile technology is starting to have a huge impact across the enterprise.

“When I started in 2014, I was told our customers are not going to use the Internet, they’re not going to use e-mail or smartphones,” said Marino. “And the answer is that they do.” 

Mobile traffic accounts for over half of all of the company’s website activity, doubling in size over the last four years, and 23 percent of bookings are now done via mobile, up from 9 percent in 2014. Caesars is also seeing heavy growth in its Total Rewards app downloads, and less than one-third of that comes from Millennials (which Caesars defines as under 40). In terms of customer engagement via mobile, Marino identified six different areas of focus: 

Delivery of offers: Direct mail is still very much in the mix, but Caesars also puts all of it in the app or on its website. You can filter it by, ‘I’m going to Vegas next week, what do I have?’ 

“This makes things a lot easier,” said Marino. “We’ll tell you when something is happening and you can go search and find the offer on the exact day and accept it. It’s a substantially better process.”

Players who opt-in for push notifications are put into a communication process where Caesars can tell them about everything else that’s going on while they will be in Vegas. “In theory, you should have received an e-mail about a concert, for example, and all the other things that are going on here,” said Marino. “We try to upsell and, frankly, give them a better experience. The more experiences they have here the more likely they are to return.”

In-trip service: This is delivered via a chatbot named Ivy, introduced 18 months ago, which has a lot of artificial intelligence behind it but with a human element. “You’re going to get canned responses to whatever you ask such as hours of operations, send me towels and things like that, but if you need real advice like, ‘What do I wear to the club tonight?’ which is an actual question that gets asked a lot, Ivy or a person can get you an answer,” said Marino. Average response times are less than a minute, he added.

In-trip experience: If you’re on the property and you have a problem, someone from operations can handle it. But if you want to service yourself, Caesars lets the customer handle it. Examples include the pool and sportsbook. “It’s not fun waking up at 7:00 AM to get a lounge chair and try to hold it down for the day,” said Marino. “Now we allow you to select a seat in advance; you can wake up when you want to wake up and go about your day normally. Customers just love it.” 

Mobile food ordering: Caesars started with room service and didn’t change anything on the menu and revenue went up 50 percent, part of that came from higher average checks because people are more likely to cycle through the entire menu on their phone and they could order from anywhere, not just their room. “No one wants to talk to anyone on the phone anymore, especially in a hotel,” said Marino. Two other additions to the mobile customer in-trip experience are property maps and “Book Anything,” which turns the app into a one-stop shop.

Loyalty experience: Most companies go in one of two directions. Apps for companies such as Starwood and Marriott are 100 percent loyalty products; they’re not trying to sell you anything else. MGM has taken the sales route, where they’re upselling their product really well in their Las Vegas app. Caesars tries to do both. The TR app contains a digital card with updated points and tier data, plus it gives players the opportunity to contact a host. 

Geo-targeted messages: If players opt-in they will be sent contextual messages based on where they are, be it at a Caesars property or a competitor’s. “We’re very careful about what we message; it’s based on what time of day and what we have available to offer for customers,” said Marino. The messages can be informational or they can be offers.