Rymax Marketing has carved out a very successful niche in the North American casino industry by providing gaming properties with customized player loyalty programs. Rymax offers its customers an unmatched portfolio of 15,000 premium merchandise rewards, which it upgrades and augments at a constant rate. The company has also invested in the latest customer service technology, recently unveiling the MaxSite online portal, which offers casino customers exclusive reward experiences.

Paul Gordon, senior vice president of sales for Rymax, recently took some time to field questions from Casino Journal Editor Paul Doocey. Below are some excerpts from his answers.

As a whole, how would you say the casino industry is doing when it comes to the practice of loyalty marketing?

GORDON: The importance of player marketing has always been the cornerstone of the casino industry to capture player data, increase communication and reward the players. Its importance has grown as competition has become fiercer and new opportunities such as sports betting have created a new audience. What we are seeing is that the frequency of rewards and on-site promotions are increasing, and we are seeing a higher level of sophistication in regard to the products and brands used for rewards. The importance of name brands and the perception of the item by the players directly correlate to how players believe casinos value them and their play. We are a brand-driven society and the staying power of brands and is transient. You can’t offer something that is “so 2018” in 2019. So, the collaborative effort to hone in on the right offering, coupled with the flexibility to react to market and product shifts, is paramount.

What can properties do to boost their loyalty marketing efforts?

GORDON: We subscribe to segmentation and concentration and it is the most strategic way to run your marketing. One size does not fit all and the complexity of the player base requires a more strategic approach to drive play and create differentiation for the property. The segmentation should incorporate the level of play, which is obvious, but should also look at the geographic and psychographic makeup of the players. Our ability to offer insights into what resonates goes beyond our programs with casinos because we run some of the biggest programs in air travel, automotive, finance, pharmaceutical and other verticals.

Properties also need to accelerate their communication and put it in the hands of their players. Our research indicates that:

  • U.S. adults will average three hours, 35 minutes per day on mobile devices in 2019—an 11-minute annual increase;
  • In 2019, mobile will surpass TV as the medium attracting the most minutes in the U.S. Feature your promotions on Facebook, Snapchat and WeChat for the very important Asian player base; and
  • Apps account for over 90 percent of internet time on smartphones and 77 percent of internet time on tablets. Casinos must have a fresh-looking and engaging app to make the player want to check in regularly.

So it’s important to engage the players, excite the players and reward the players by talking their language.

Loyalty can be an internal issue as well for gaming properties. What advice can you give gaming facility operators on how they can improve employee retention efforts?

GORDON:  The cost of employee turnover is very high on many levels… and 57 percent of companies see employee retention as a problem. Here are some facts:

  • Average cost to replace a $30,000 employee = $4,800;
  • Average cost to replace a $50,000 employee = $9,850; and
  • Average cost to replace a $75,000 employee = $15,300.

Why are employee replacement costs so high? Reasons include:

  • Time spent on filling the vacant position;
  • Hours/weeks in lost productivity before the employee leaves;
  • Time that coworkers and the manager/supervisor combined will need to make up for the vacant employee (overtime, added shifts, etc.);
  • Number of hours in lost productivity resulting from orientation and training of a new employee; and
  • Time spent on administration and hiring tasks (advertising, resume screening, interviewing and onboarding).

We are in a time of low unemployment and, in the casino business, greater competition. A comprehensive peer-to-peer recognition program, to spot recognition and years of service, will attract better employees and increase retention. Give employees tangible rewards so that the trophy value has a residual effect. Cash is spent to pay bills. Gift cards are often re-gifted. Products are a long-term reward that reinforces their accomplishment over and over again.

How well have casinos marketed themselves to Millennials and younger generations? What can companies like Rymax do to help these properties?

GORDON: This question has come up before and in the last few months, my answer has changed a bit. Millennials in general do not have discretionary income and are strapped with debt. They will spend on services like table services, spas and restaurants because that can be purchased on credit. Eventually they will gamble as their financial picture improves.

The change that I see now comes in the form of sports betting. They play fantasy sports, enter into NCAA tournament betting pools and are engaged in sports activities. This will open the casinos up to this group and if marketed smartly will create other opportunities. Online sports betting and the communal experience of on-site gaming also need loyalty programs. Drive the play with “man cave” products: headphones, game systems, big screen TV’s, beverage mixers and so on. Reward them with lifestyle products that parallel their interests.

Sports betting is coming to a lot of U.S. jurisdiction in multiple ways. How can your company help casinos gain an edge in this emerging marketplace?

GORDON: Building on the idea of motivational rewards and loyalty programs, the most important thing is to initiate trial. The assumption that people are aware of sports gaming or how it works is a mistake in launching this new opportunity. To initiate trial the casino needs entry-level reward plateaus that escalate to drive the player engagement. It also helps to have the loyalty program for sports betting extend into traditional gaming and property services.

What new product trends have you noticed among casino patrons and how are you responding to them?

GORDON: Local markets versus destination markets tend to be more creative because the property is woven into the community. The casino is a gathering place and a social experience—as such, player loyalty promotions are very much event driven to tap into that aspect. We work with our clients to plan like a retailer looking months out. The theme of that time of year or the entertainment calendar should be in sync. Because of price fluctuation among brands and shorter product lifecycles, the actual product should be flexible in order to satisfy the players’ desire based on trends. The rewards should also be part of an experience at the property.

As for the categories, brands have fewer places to go to at retail so they are looking at the incentive channel for sales growth, new product launches and for brand ambassadors. Because of this, we have seen a tremendous rise in fashion brand redemptions and for high brand equity products that were reluctant to be in this space. The rewards business is a multi-billion dollar business and growing; the influx of institutional brands and new brands makes this business very strong.

Please explain your MaxSite offering. What does it offer consumers and how does it help operators when it comes to marketing their properties?

GORDON: Our website offers the following:

  • The ability to offer a revolving product selection, catalog selection and on-trend for immediate shipment;
  • Catalyst for program messaging with the ability to send communications out to players;
  • Provides users a redemption experience that mirrors the experience they would have with any retail site;
  • Automatically generates an order confirmation e-mail with shipping and tracking information for participants; and
  • Provides a “buy up” feature which allows users to use their credit cards, comp points and casino credits for purchases that exceed their point allotment.