ROUNDTABLE: INNOVATION IN PLAYER RETENTION

By Gambling Insider
Industry leaders from Enteractive, Ziqni, Galaxsys and Soft2Bet discuss the importance of player retention, and how this crucial aspect of gaming can be improved

How important is player retention in today’s industry?

ANDREW FOSTER: Player retention has and always will be important in any industry. The complexities around keeping a player engaged are becoming more apparent as users have a myriad of choice in brands, each allowing the minimum “barrier to entry” to get started. Today, more than ever, an operator needs to communicate with and understand the desires of the end user in order to truly build this loyalty and thus deliver a mutually beneficial relationship. This means having a number of different options to engage the end user, be it promos, free-to-play games or just a good old conversation – it is fundamental to have a multi-faceted approach for this. 

CLINTON PELTONEN: The demand for new retention tools is gaining momentum, with keywords “engagement” and “loyalty” becoming priorities to invest in as a brand or content developer. The changing landscape, cost of acquisition, wealth of content and data availability are all factors enabling new options and opportunities. Player retention, engagement and loyalty are becoming increasingly important as a business strategy and competitive differentiator.  

TENI GRIGORYAN: Player retention is always crucial. If you have a network of people who trust your brand, your business is ensured to be successful. There are multiple reasons why existing players should have a high priority for the business, and their retention must be on the highest level:

-  Keeping existing customers satisfied is the key to getting trust towards your brand and spreading its awareness. We all know how important referrals are in this business and how efficiently the word of mouth works here. Retained players are a guarantee to bring you more players.

-  It’s way easier to sell a new idea to a network that has an experience with you, is aware of who you are, what you do, and it costs three to five times less in terms of marketing financing than it would be when targeting new potential players. Thus, we should be wise enough to appreciate the value of the existing ones.

MAGDALENA FRANKOWSKA: Player retention is vital. The acquisition of players can be one of the most costly and complex areas of the business, so it’s best to maximise these gains by making sure customers are satisfied with the service they are receiving. This means that customers that continuously spend time on a brand’s site need to be communicated with and shown they are valued.

What is more important and why; new players or existing customers?

ANDREW FOSTER: In my opinion, this changes over time and is dependent on the phase of the business. Initially on start-up, attracting as many players as possible is necessary and these players are inevitably going to come at a premium. So at this stage, new players are fundamental to success. As a brand matures, it becomes increasingly important to have loyal players that can drive monthly revenues, so the focus shifts somewhat to existing players and keeping them engaged. There is never a point at which one is more important than another – in the long run, it’s more about finding the right segment player funnel to focus on to ensure long term success.

CLINTON PELTONEN: You need one to have the other. In a way, you never stop acquiring new customers. The efforts made to retain customers mean you are constantly looking to find new ways to engage customers with your product. Customers will notice if you treat one group as more important than the other. We see this regularly, where you sign up for a great phone package and, after the initial term, the benefits disappear. Customers notice these tactics and leave.

TENI GRIGORYAN: New player acquisition is important, but existing ones are equally essential, and there should be a balanced approach and a certain strategy in place for these two groups of customers. If you put full concentration on new player acquisition and don’t properly retain those who have already made their choice regarding your brand, there are thousands of new, attractive offers that any player can choose at any time. Nobody wants a one-time shopper, we all strive to make them lifetime customers; and if you don’t retain your current players, competitors won’t lose the chance to catch them with new, attractive offers. However, you shouldn’t forget to use proper tools, market trends and strategies to engage new players and enlarge your network. Here, at Galaxsys, we offer a portfolio of fast and skill games that work perfectly, both for engagement and retention. You can engage new players with our fast/mini games, which will be something fresh for your traditional casino offer and for engaging sports betting players as well. On the other hand, our skill games portfolio will absolutely come in handy for player retention. Hence, our company slogan, which is ‘’Engage, Retain, Win’,’ tells it all.

MAGDALENA FRANKOWSKA: Both are important, but given the investment that needs to be put into acquiring players in the first place, it’s best to keep these players happy so they continue to spend and this ROI can be maximised. Effective retention of customers naturally helps the acquisition of new players. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools we have at our disposal. The more players who are happy with their service, the more likely they are to tell their friends and family – allowing us, operators, to get more players on board.

How can player retention be improved?

ANDREW FOSTER: There is no silver bullet for improving player retention. It comes down to product, rewards, communication and one’s ability to be personal, and reward a player based on their value to your brand at the end of the day. Nowadays, there are so many data points and indicators one can consider that, for the most part, you have a great idea of what will make sense and deliver great engagement from a player from the first few touchpoints. Having the ability to track these and use them in a meaningful way when it comes to communication is key to long-term player retention and, in turn, better lifetime player value.

CLINTON PELTONEN: Be relevant, be exciting and, most importantly, be complementary to your core offering as a brand or content developer. One of the biggest mistakes I see is over-engineering that misses the customer at every level. The other is not setting a solid foundation with mass appeal that you can build on. Instead, some jump straight to master-level plans. A solid foundation that consistently engages ensures you can extend it to more targeted and customised player experiences, as the whole system evolves.

TENI GRIGORYAN: Data is the key and you need to keep your players' data in one place, where you can keep your finger on the pulse and dig deep into their behaviour to understand what strategy works well with them; what you lack and, most importantly, what brought them to your business and made them stay. On top of this, you should ensure a variety of choices in terms of content and bonuses so that players never get bored. Also, you can have recommended content based on behaviour so that players can “feel special” with you. Like I always say, nothing will work without being properly communicated to your audience. That’s why Customer Support/Account Management has a huge role here. Excellent support should become an industry standard.

MAGDALENA FRANKOWSKA: Player retention and customer service go hand in hand. One bad customer service experience can be enough to make a player think twice about whether this is the brand for them. For this reason, we regularly test our staff’s compliance knowledge. Our company is bound by strict regulations that we adhere to closely. Another KPI we give employees is a strong understanding of how to market our offering, and what players are eligible for in terms of bonuses and free spins. We conduct regular refresher training sessions to make sure everyone is up to speed, and the diligence and expertise showcased by our fantastic team at Soft2Bet is a big part of how we continue to retain customers effectively. We also monitor the length of our employees’ interaction with customers, through metrics such as Average Handle Time (AHT), pick-up times, average daily chat responses and so on. That’s in addition to our guidelines on tone of voice and upselling, so it’s fair to say we set high standards.

What is the most innovative player retention strategy you have noticed recently?

ANDREW FOSTER: The strategies I feel one can say have been innovative of late are the introduction of free-to-play games, as well as player journeys/gamification of sites. The idea of reaching another level or getting to a certain point in the “game” definitely plays its role in keeping a player engaged. On the free-to-play side, it’s no secret that all of our mobile devices are an extension of us and, as such, if there is something fun for us to do in our “spare time,” and it’s aligned with our genuine interests, we will be keen to participate. Prediction games and quizzes appeal to me, but there are many iterations of these which inevitably will appeal to everyone at some point. Having multiple touchpoints and options together with an appealing holistic offering will win the race to long-term loyalty in the end, every time!

CLINTON PELTONEN: I see many ingenious strategies that are creating new systems of engagement around players. These combine a mix of current CRM offers and promotions with a new layer of always-available activity, short-term promotional missions, challenges and other gamification mechanics that complement and extend the brand or content. At the same time, these strategies are leveraging data in new ways to create advanced mechanics that broaden the audience. These can also be adjusted to hook a more targeted audience with something fresh to try, enjoy and play again.

TENI GRIGORYAN: I wouldn’t exactly speak of innovations here, but mostly of practical and working strategies. As we already know how important communication with players is, I’d add the feedback system implementation that will let your players share their ideas, thoughts, make suggestions for product improvements (take it as free consultancy to make your business better), show you red flags you should work on improving, and more. The second step should be the implementation of the collected ideas which, again, should be properly communicated to players. As a result, you have an audience who feels important and heard; and have a business tailored to your client's needs.

MAGDALENA FRANKOWSKA: Along with optimising customer service, working towards offering the customer as enjoyable an experience as possible is the best strategy. There are obviously many ways to approach this. Creating a community spirit can be effective, sfor example running tournaments where players can communicate with each other. Keynote prizes and gamification are also important factors. On top of this, players should be presented with a complete entertainment and gambling experience across as many verticals as possible. Given the appropriate motivations, sports bettors will enjoy a few spins of the reels at half-time, and casino players will place sports bets. In other words, cross-sell is another good retention strategy. When a player goes to a betting site, they wager on a particular match and then simply wait for the result. After analysing the sports betting vertical, it was found that in addition to betting, players are drawn to live casino and table games. So, to make sure the customer is not bored while waiting for the outcome of a match, it’s important to offer them an alternative. The data collated by the brand manager before the launch of the project will show that players take advantage of this opportunity in the majority of cases.

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