7 September, 2021

Worth the Investment

Regular Gambling Insider contributor Alex Czajkowski shares some of his marketing and iGaming expertise on two on-trend topics: a stable alt-coin solely for iGaming; and CRM in the 21st century

Chips and Tokens

When you sit down at a table in Vegas, you “money in,” put your cash down and get chips (although sometimes “money plays” and your cash sits in that little circle). You then get chips that reflect your deposit.

There are lots of reasons for this. It’s faster and easier for the dealer to deal with for one. But there’s a psychological factor, you’re no longer playing with cash money, they’re “just chips.” And as another “free” drink kicks in (always cheaper to drink at the bar), the distinction between real and play money diminishes. You tip with a five dollar chip for that one-dollar Corona…

In iGaming, you “post up” or deposit into your wallet (mainly) and play in your currency. That’s a five-dollar spin. A twenty dollar bet. You are always acutely aware of your spend – although you might not notice how fast it goes. And of course that money goes through myriad hands before hitting your wallet, each hand taking their one, two, eight percent cut. Processing costs are huge for every iGaming site – and the process of processing is getting tougher and tougher.

Ah but enter crypto. Maybe. Here, processing costs (and AML, and KYC) can nicely go away. Sometimes. I’ve heard of $20 bets costing $200 in “gas fees” on Ethereum (ETH).  Not sustainable. Bitcoin (BTC) processing is getting more expensive and slower.

But what if you could buy chips, tokens, that you could use on any iGaming site that didn’t have these dangling liabilities? What if the industry rallied around an “alt-coin” that was exchangeable for “fiat” (cash money) on multiple “exchanges”. Without the ridiculous volatility of BTC or the expensive processing fees of ETH?

Long-time industry veteran Adriaan Brink is following in the footprints of Jez San OBE by embracing the latter’s FUN token. After a controversial ICO (Initial Coin Offering) of his BETR alt-coin, he may be on to something now. Leveraging the astounding international traffic for Freebitco.in, the FUN token has seen an enormous take-up by would-be players taking on a simple Hi-Lo game, a Wheel of Fortune and “lotteries” for prizes like Lamborghinis and Rolexes. Or BTC if the winner prefers.

Poker, proper casino games, Mahjong (of course, Brink saw Mahjong as a larger market than poker more than a decade ago) and other games are on the FunToken.io roadmap. Will this be Brink’s homerun? Maybe. Following on from the indisputably brilliant San’s initial FUN Token and Funfair casino (and innovative, cool games), this effort ticks a lot of boxes: low or no processing costs. A “token” like a casino chip, transportable between iGaming sites; anonymous transactions (like playing with cash in a land-based casino).  It has a lot of legs.

You have to watch this space. Someone is going to crack it; iGaming has notoriously been slow to adopt innovations, but with efforts to expand into markets with highly volatile currencies (Africa, looking at you) and increasingly restrictive policies in regulated markets (Germany and UK, looking at you) there has to be an alternative to heavy-handed government-controlled banking. A stable alt-coin for iGaming could be the answer.


CRM in the 21st Century

So I inherited a very manual and unreliable in-house CRM solution with this client. Better than nothing. If you’re not dropping daily, relevant, authentic and timely emails in your players’ email inboxes, how are you driving monetisable traffic to your site?

SMS; relatively expensive but effective. Webpush: essential but too-often over-used. On-site messaging: great when they are on site. Retargeting via ads. Everyone with an iota of intelligence loves the value-add of data analysis from industry-darling Optimove. It makes tons of sense to automate comms based on player behaviour. But how do you reach these players with your essential “daily, relevant, authentic and timely” messages?

SMS. Webpush. Emails. Inbox messages. On-site messaging. All of the above. And all in real-time. Because different channels work for different players. And different  geos (try sending an SMS with a link to New Zealand). So I needed a CRM platform that would give me all those channels, so we could reach out to players, in real time, via all of them.

I looked at tons, from long-standing Hubspot to Salesforce.com. There are pros, cons and costs for each. I settled on Fast Track for lots of reasons: it was recommended by my CRM geek friends, my client knows the CEO, it seemed like a safe bet and met most of the criteria. Later, I discovered OptiKPI and Simplify, also contenders worth a look.

We really needed “omnichannel” comms. Automated triggers based on player behaviour. Easy access for customer service to see what we’re sending/saying to players. And we’re small-ish, so wanted a small-ish price tag. Fast Track seems to tick all of these boxes.

Phase 1 of the project was to simply get off our old in-house system that was often unreliable, doing things like not sending, or worse, sending multiple times. This was relatively easy to do – and arguably any (well, most) modern CRM solutions could handle these base needs for Phase 1. And that’s a big part of the problem, as your ESPs want to sell you “marketing automation” and promise the world. But can they actually deliver? Look to their roots; that’s what they are good at… and an SMS provider might have this and that on their road map, or an ESP might have “integrated” an SMS provider.

Another important (and differentiating) component for Phase 1 was adding an on-site inbox. This has proven invaluable and popular; it’s one of our most trafficked pages now. We put everything we send in the on-site inbox; we get a decent open rate (and great deliverability) on emails, but still only a percentage opens them. The inbox gives us an easy, safe, uncrowded space to communicate. And in tough SMS geos, we can simply say “log in and check your inbox; you have a new message at <site>.” No link allowed. No marketing/promotional copy allowed. This helps get us through that.

Phase 2, which we’re now on, included “triggered” messages and automated bonuses: fast bust-out, here’s your rebate, via on-site pop-up messaging and/or email and/or SMS.  It also includes “management alerts,” so the VIP team knows when a key player logs in (the iGaming platform itself should do this, but, alas, it doesn’t).

Phase 3 will be using Fast Track to enable “gamification.” There’s lots of positive chat about this, and Captain Up looks like a nice (if pricey at $5,000 a month) easy add-on. But while my webdev team will have to do the front end, it looks like we can rely on Fast Track for the backend.

While I don’t think there’s any easy integration tying your database to a  real-time CRM platform, I know real-time communications based on “player state” are vital. So it’s worth the effort and investment.