In these early stages of reopening after COVID-19-mandated casino shutdowns, hotel room capacity and casino floor play are limited, and it seems most operators are primarily relying on free play offers to lure customers back to the gaming floor.
However, in a saturated market, free play and room comps can easily be matched—or even bettered—by the competition. In response, land-based gaming enterprises are often looking for new ways beyond the usual perks to reward loyal players—a fact not lost on loyalty product companies, who are more than happy to provide operators with the latest consumer products and specialized prize programs to entice ongoing player visitation and participation.
“If you give a player a product with a perceived value of $50, $250, $500 or more, that reminder of how they got it and where they got it is long lasting,” said Paul Gordon, senior vice president of sales at Rymax. “That same dollar value in free play is a draw but it has no ‘stickiness’ reminding them of the property. Also, from a P&L standpoint, the perceived cost of the product is higher than the actual cost to the casino, which is great for the marketing spend.”
Indeed, utilizing player reward programs has been, and will remain, a primary marketing initiative for casinos—especially now when customers need to be welcomed back, feeling that they were missed and that their loyalty is appreciated on a personal level. In fact, company research at Rymax shows that the loyalty program is a necessity with 93 percent of players reporting that they want to be enrolled in a casino loyalty program. The research also showed that 72 percent of players say that they want a personalized experience and are more likely to play at a casino that has a uniqueness to their player loyalty program.
Beyond delivering incentives, player reward programs can be a key channel for communicating critical business messages quickly. Players are looking for reassurance when considering their return to the casinos, and casino operators are using their player programs to not only reward players for returning, but to communicate why they should feel good and, more importantly, safe about that choice.
What follows are profiles of two companies that are leading the way when it comes to providing innovative loyalty awards and cutting-edge programs for the casino industry.
Rymax was founded in 1995 and has played a noticeable role in transforming the incentive industry by offering products with high brand equity as opposed to off-brand and logo items. At that time, this approach was truly revolutionary and tapped into the desire of participants to have aspirational rewards in their programs. Today the company offers comprehensive loyalty programs in all businesses including airlines, financial services, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, casinos and more.
Rymax has been in the casino player loyalty space for 25 years, and in 2009 created a dedicated sales force in response to the rapid expansion of casinos. “Our national presence has given us a unique perspective on what the brand and redemption trends are and helps our clients in their marketing efforts to drive play,” said Gordon.
For years Rymax has worked with its casino clients on several employee programs including:
- Peer-to-peer recognition whereby employees can reward other employees with points based on performance and collaboration, to improve team environments;
- Programs for awarding years of service and annual recognition; and
- Rewards programs for training, which are currently high demand as new COVID-prevention procedures need to be disseminated and understood by every employee at every level. By adding a points certificate upon completion via a questionnaire or test ensures that the employee has completed the training. The points are redeemed with a choice of products to be selected.
To ensure players are excited about returning to casinos, Rymax worked with many of its clients on sending rewards to key players during the shutdown. The company had some Mother’s Day fashion items sent to casino players to let them know they were appreciated. Rymax also created several themed product rewards for continuity programs such as:
Good To See You Again—featuring sunglasses from Ray Ban, Marchon, Costa Del Mar, Michael Kors and Quay;
It’s Time To Get Back Together—offering watches from Citizen, Seiko, Tag, Kate Spade and Fossil;
Ready To Be Seen Again—showcasing fashion and beauty products from Swarovski, Gucci, Kiehl’s, L’Occitane and Pai Shau;
Hey What’s Cookin’?—highlighting cooking products and gadgets from Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, Cuisinart and SMEG;
We Are Listening To You—centered on Klipsch, Sennheiser and Skullcandy headphones; and
- Building Our Relationship Again—a celebration of tools from Black & Decker, DeWalt and Worx.
However, Rymax notes that incorporating incentives into online gaming has been a slower evolution.
“We have clients that understand that the player loyalty programs need to encompass online as well as non-gaming revenue streams,” said Gordon.
“The desire of the player is to be appreciated on all levels and in all areas of spending. The more comprehensive the program, the greater the ability to initiate trial and extend retention of the player. There is a lot of competition for that player.
“Our success has been in the creation of large-scale shopping experiences and in product, brand and category specific on-site experiences. Since COVID-19 that experience is shifting toward online. We provide a virtual shopping experience that can be viewed on all platforms but the redemptions will take place at the property. The chosen product will then be drop-shipped to the player. The redemption categories are impacted by economic drivers. When unemployment is low and consumer spending is strong, luxury categories redeem well. When the economy is fragile more practical products are chosen.”
When addressing how the company envisions rewards programs changing in the near future as a direct effect from COVID-19 Gordon believes that in the short term there are several factors that will need to be played out:
- The psychological factor concerning entering the property and the risk.
- The economic factor. People have been hit very hard with record unemployment numbers and real hardships. This recovery will take time and the casinos need to concentrate their marketing on the 80-20 rule—that 80 percent of the business will come from 20 percent of their players. The loyalty programs need to be about segmentation and concentration. Take each player segment and concentrate on specific loyalty strategies.
- Shopping sprees and interactive rewards events will move toward online events. The need for a display of products and signage to draw attention and excitement on the floor will deliver the message and drive play. The fulfillment will primarily be viewed online and redeemed at the player’s desk.
“The impact and the history of COVID-19 is still being written,” said Gordon. “But this industry is so vitally important—not only for the jobs that it creates at the casino, but also for the businesses around the casino.”
SCA Gaming has been an industry leader in promotional prize coverage since 1996, offering comprehensive marketing solutions to power casino promotions around the world. SCA’s portfolio includes loyalty and mobile gamification platforms, digital kiosk promotions, interactive game shows, prize wheels, prize coverage up to $10 million, and more tools to attract audiences and maximize marketing reach. To date, SCA has paid more than $212 million in prize coverage over 120,000 promotional events.
Like casino operators, SCA Gaming is always exploring innovative ways to deliver exciting big-prize promotions through new technology. During the shutdown, the company saw an influx in requests for digital solutions to help land-based and online operators stay connected with players. Operators recognized that SCA Gaming’s mobile gamification was an effective platform for delivering business critical messaging, like reopening dates, while also delivering instant rewards and incentives to players.
Players are attracted to properties that offer the chance to win big, life-changing prizes and SCA Gaming gives operators the financial power to offer these mega-prizes, along with secondary prizes that attract and keep players on property.
With the new focus on guest safety, SCA reported now offers a touchless bonus game option on its kiosks. Flexibility is key right now, so the company’s kiosk prizing allows casinos to customize and adjust prizing as needed to suit new player and property needs.
Going beyond the player, land-based casinos are also looking for way to develop reward programs for their loyal employees. As properties reopen, they are looking for ways to both inform employees of new safety practices and property developments, as well as reward performance. That’s where SCA’s mobile gamification platform can also assist businesses with rebuilding. The shutdown sent a clear message throughout the gaming industry that online communication channels are essential to business continuity.
SCA stated that it is already seeing encouraging signs of initial recovery in the gaming industry, following the closures brought upon the industry from COVID-19, as evidenced by the lines of loyal players outside the casinos for reopening. At the same time, SCA noted that there’s a long way to go before the industry fully recovers from the pandemic.
“The innovation that has always been at the forefront of the gaming industry will continue to serve it well as uncharted territories remain navigated,” said a company spokesperson. “Manufacturers and casinos have always excelled at finding new, exciting and effective ways of driving and rewarding players. This time around, we could see even more creative solutions and enhanced focus on analytics to gauge player response and adjust reward offers accordingly.’
SCA is proud of its continued work with operators to improve the gaming floor performance.