Experience is Everything
For casino operators, Covid-19 prompted greater appreciation in the value of a digital outlet for their brands. Those who already ran multichannel operations were able to communicate with customers to push them to digital propositions when venues were closed.
For retail operators unable to capture revenues during the pandemic, there is now a clearer understanding that operating online doesn’t cannibalise existing venue revenues. This has increased their appetite to make the move into the online world. The uptick in land-based casino revenue in the US, amid a wave of online expansion, provides ample evidence of a rising tide lifting all ships.
There’s ample evidence of land-based betting, gaming and lottery operators investing into their digital offerings. But how much consideration are those operators giving to unifying customer journeys between channels?
The customer sees the brand and not the channel. They expect a seamless experience, as they would when engaging with any other multichannel brand.
Once the shiny new digital site is up and running, day-to-day operational and revenue pressure can take over. The tactical fight for FTDs and revenue growth from the new channel becomes the priority.
With organisations usually moving into siloed channel support structures to drive growth in those areas, it is easy to see how efforts to drive revenue from an overlapping customer base can cause internal conflicts. Prioritising the provision of a brand-led, seamless, omnichannel customer experience can easily fall down the priority list.
This means it’s crucial to consider the customer proposition from clear strategic and customer-centric eyes upfront and working backwards, especially when moving into digital technology partnerships and investments.
Taking the evolutionary step from being a successful multichannel operator to offering a true omnichannel customer proposition is potentially more difficult than launching a digital site itself, if not sufficiently planned.
Strong top-down leadership that pushes the unified customer experience narrative at every opportunity, supported by a leadership team that buys into the single vision perhaps at the expense of short term channel-centric opportunities, is required. A great example is Bally’s CEO Lee Fenton, who has set an impressive and clear omnichannel North Star vision.
But is it really that difficult to deliver omnichannel? It can be. It involves two vendor worlds colliding; even if the two largest vendors in each channel were to merge tomorrow, solution gaps would become apparent.
A lack of historical experience in serving one channel, or fully understanding the multichannel pain points, would come to the fore.
With online advertising rules tightening, a land-based presence could become increasingly important over the next decade. There are many that have spotted this omnichannel opportunity: it’s the rationale for 888 buying William Hill, or Flutter acquiring Sisal. In each case, venues not only provide a marketing opportunity, but an additional customer service touchpoint.
Fanatics’ move into sports betting and gaming is particularly intriguing, given its retail and ecommerce background. Could it be that an ecommerce gaming industry outsider shakes up the market and demonstrates how to successfully blend a seamless customer experience? I wouldn’t bet against it.
My experience in this area demonstrates the power of a successful omnichannel investment. It not only benefits the digital channel but also drives visitation and revenue for retail businesses, something that is often overlooked but equally important.
THE FUTURE IS CASHLESS
The key to unlocking this potential was the successful, world-first launch of a cashless, cross-channel single account and wallet across multiple channels in 2019. Cashless itself is an area of increasing international interest, driven by regulatory change in markets including the US and Australia.
This is a solid foundation for cross-product, on-premise and cross-channel customer journeys. But without an aligned and proactive team recognising the benefit to the customer and marketing those benefits, its potential may remain unrealised.
Nor, based on analysis of the market at G2E in Las Vegas, are all cashless solutions created equal. They must be integrated into casino management systems and online platforms, and it’s important to have defined journeys based on customer value, loyalty programmes and brand marketing implemented from day one.
Taking the extra step with investments that enable unified journeys across customer onboarding, KYC, regulation compliance, creates unified data records and the ability to personalise and tailor messages by utilising the latest technology developments in martech platforms and engines. Personalisation drives customer loyalty and reduces churn, hence why operators are prepared to invest in such solutions.
Multichannel operators have a potential loyalty advantage over their single channel digital competitors by including tangible retail rewards and benefits into their promotions; experiences that the consumer only benefits from in their retail venues.
A successful omnichannel proposition should include game preference recommendations and promotions based on the customers’ activity across both channels. Historically, game content itself has been marketed as “omni”, however, in reality, it is usually proven land-based content that is available to the consumer online.
Mirroring the casino floor in the online site is a good starting point for retail operators moving online, and I anticipate an increase in proven online content being made available to consumers in venues. Traditional retail casino vendors are investing in online studios for slot content; IGT’s purchase of iSoftBet being one example.
This trend also extends to table games, where tables from both Evolution and Authentic Gaming are a core product for operators attempting to provide a unified customer experience. The imminent launch of Evolution’s online title Lightning Roulette for cabinets further extends the omnichannel content trend.
The next decade has the potential to see supercharged omnichannel offerings, delivered at scale, especially by multivenue, multinational brands who own quality databases bigger than many countries’ populations.
The operators most likely to succeed will be those that can successfully blend the best of both worlds and seamlessly join the channels, thus creating one unified proposition that rewards engagement across all customer touchpoints. That goes far beyond the days of some leaflets for a digital sister site being left at the door in a casino.
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