21 September, 2023

Mridula Saini: The burgeoning use of AI in casino marketing

Mridula Saini, Chief Revenue Officer at Ikasi, highlights how the use of AI in casino marketing is helping player experiences and how this can lead to greater profits.

It’s no secret that individuals are fairly susceptible to flattery and enjoy it when other people pay attention to them. As humans, it confirms our belief that we’re somehow special – or at least a bit different. This is why people like it when a business takes the trouble to get to know them and treat them differently than other customers by identifying and catering to their specific personal preferences.

Using AI to treat customers like they’re the only one (even if they’re one of millions)

It’s clear that the more successful a business is at making its customers feel exceptional, the better it performs in areas like customer satisfaction, loyalty, retention, sales, ROI and revenue growth. Customers reward businesses that deliver a truly personalised experience. Not only is the experience enjoyable for the customer, but almost by definition, it conveys a strong sense to them that he or she is valued.

Today, no technology has proven itself more capable of delivering a high-quality personalised experience to thousands or even millions of customers simultaneously than artificial intelligence (AI). The power of AI to deliver personalisation en masse derives from its ability to identify patterns in customer data – patterns that are generally imperceptible to individual human beings and are often missed by standard data analysis tools.

In the casino environment, AI is capable of leveraging customer data and thousands of external data points to gain insight into who a customer is both psychologically and behaviourally. This insight goes well beyond what can be gleaned from basic demographic indicators like age, income and educational background. Until the advent of AI, market segmentation, which relied on these indicators, was the go-to option for figuring out which customers would respond to which marketing actions. As a result, customers were simply dumped into broad-based marketing categories on the basis of a handful of characteristics.

Not only can marketing deliver better results, but customers also benefit from the increased level of personalisation and, in turn, are responding with increased loyalty and spend

However, with the help of data proliferation, AI is making market segmentation redundant for the simple reason that it successfully shifts the focus almost entirely to the wants and needs of the individual customer – or, in the context of casinos, the individual gambler. Having identified patterns in vast swathes of player data, AI – using predictive analytics – is able to draw conclusions about how specific players are likely to behave in specific situations.

In a casino context, the system is capable of determining, among other things, which games a player prefers, when and in what order they select them, how much he/she typically bets and when and what type of incentive is sufficient (and not overly-sufficient) to convince the player to respond positively to an offer or promotion.

The system can also identify an endless number of extremely subtle distinctions that can – and should – have a profound effect on marketing. A good example is the fact that some players prioritise winning above all, while others gamble primarily for the fun of it. Being able to separate the two is crucial, because it tells a casino who should receive offers focused on financial incentives, such as bonuses and who should receive offers tied to new games and guaranteed thrills. Unlike the older segmentation models, AI draws conclusions about the best ways to engage with, and incentivise, players at a level that is most meaningful to the individual.

It’s also important to keep in mind AI’s growing capacity to integrate external data, including mobile, social and geo-location data. This blend of customer and external data gives casinos even more capacity to tailor highly-personalised messages, offers and experiences, to a degree that would have seemed absurd a decade ago.

AI in action: How is it done and who leads the charge?

Earlier, basic platforms left the responsibility of crafting these offers and experiences to a casino’s marketing team, especially when time isn’t a factor like it is with seasonal marketing campaigns, for example. Advanced AI platforms, however, run autonomously and respond to player activity using real or near real-time, next-best-action. They can create and deliver just the right offer to just the right customer at just the right moment, with remarkable consistency.

Many of these machine learning-based systems can adapt and grow even in the absence of explicit programming. They absorb all experiences, positive or negative and, in effect, they become smarter and more capable over time. The more data they can access, the more success they have appealing to customers. The key driver of personalisation is the desire to deliver the optimal experience to each customer because a superior experience translates directly into higher customer satisfaction, retention and spending. A player’s Lifetime Value (LTV) is the amount by which revenues from an individual player over time exceed the casino’s cost of attracting and servicing that player.

AI, by introducing immense and ever-increasing efficiencies into marketing, allows businesses to dramatically lower their spend over time. Not only can marketing deliver better results, but customers also benefit from the increased level of personalisation and, in turn, are responding with increased loyalty and spend. Exposed to perfectly calibrated offers that push all the right buttons, casinos are lowering their costs and realising more frequent spending and engagement that increases player LTV substantially.

How being all-in on AI translates to greater profits

AI is increasingly central to helping casinos deliver the ultimate customer experience. It cannot only identify player preferences and tendencies but can also predict player behaviours, and then create and deliver personalised offers and incentives that take direct account of this understanding. Simply put, AI can create personalised appeals that players have a difficult time resisting for the simple reason that the appeals are designed specifically for them.

Equally important is the fact that AI delivers this vastly improved customer experience continuously at scale. For casinos, this translates into substantial returns and gives them the ability to predict (and achieve) greater player satisfaction/retention, higher player spend & LTV and vast increases in revenues over time.