I do a lot of focus groups with a lot of gamers from different clubs of varying sizes. And despite the findings and a lot of talk about “fixing problems”, the same issues are still coming up, and in some cases even being amplified.
A lot of your existing players just aren’t “feeling the love” and a lot are even talking about walking away. They aren’t having fun anymore. So we thought we’d revisit this article from last year and highlight some of the main issues and things you can do to address them.
The formula for gaming marketing hasn’t changed too much over the past few years – find the right game titles with the right denomination, hold percentage and hit frequency for your market and put them in the right places in the venue.
Then offer the right amount of player rewards and promotions that give the players a sense of value; create a fun environment of (usually disjointed) lights and sounds; and provide reasonably quick service through technology, procedures and just simply “paying attention.”
This formula can’t be all bad as on the whole players continue to report being reasonably happy with their experience, and pokies continue to be the main “cash cow” of the club and pub business.
But there are some warning signs that should give gaming and marketing managers something to think about, namely:
- Patrons in the under 45 year old age group are, on the whole, simply not engaged with the poker machine experience.
- The gamer is increasingly being touched by technology (card readers, touch screens, kiosks, credit meters, bill validators, coin redemption devices, apps etc.) and less by human beings.
- According to focus group findings, the volume of regular gamers who comment about their club or pub having “tightened the machines” has gotten louder.
- Gaming floor service more often than not, ranks in the bottom half of comprehensive service evaluations.
- As branded game titles diminish, there appears to be a “creeping sameness” in the products of different manufacturers.
In short, the age of “put some good games on the floor and count the money” is long over and savvy operators realise they have to become more focused and more creative. They need to look more closely and more opportunistically at all gaming marketing and business activities that touch the playing experience.
But wherever there are problems, there are also opportunities:
- People: TITO has allowed venues to reduce staff and hence human contact. A lot of gaming floors seem to be set and forget. These days even a major floor event (a jackpot) can go pretty much unnoticed. Venues need to be looking at how they can bring human contact and human relationships back as a more meaningful part of the gaming experience.
- Sampling And Selling: Part of the fun of the retail shopping experience is trying on new items, browsing, discovering what’s new in the store. We need this on our gaming floors too, whether through new game trial areas or events, playing lessons (yes, pokie playing lessons, have you ever watched a senior citizen approach any of the new machines?) and more training of gaming floor staff on product and play features (and more consumer marketing materials from gaming manufacturers).
- The Playing Experience: Gaming chairs should be the most comfortable seats known to mankind. Hitting buttons should never create ergonomic strain. Lights and sounds shouldn’t assault our senses, or tire us prematurely. Playing areas shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, too drafty or too smoky, too cramped or too isolated. There are huge opportunities in these long undervalued areas to make them more pleasant, more comfortable and far more inviting.
- What Happens To Losers: Whilst most venues now do SOMETHING to recognise winners (celebrations, photos, champagne etc.), the future will belong to those with a comprehensive strategy for their LOSERS. Think about some random draws, bonusing, special amenities or even just really nice, sympathetic employees. And you might laugh, but I would start thinking of how I could give one, or 10, or 100 key people (depending on the size of your venue) some value & incentive back every day.
- Player Input : While some venues do some research, there isn’t nearly enough “gauging the temperature” of players, especially our better ones. What do they think of the new machines? Of TITO? Of the Player Rewards Program? Or what about taking some your better customers to the A.G.E. this year to get their opinion and help shop for new games?
- Special Amenities: Why is serving food at machines still the exception instead of the norm (it has to increase “time on device”). Or what about taking it to another level with 5 minute masseuses to ease sore and tired “gaming” muscles? Or a vibrating, massaging gaming chair? Or headphones with soothing music (or audio coverage of Friday night’s football game)?
It is an undisputed fact we all know – the longer a player spends on a machine the better return for the venue, so shouldn’t we be wanting to create the greatest customer experience in the world for them? And one they want to come back for again and again.
When you think about it “pretty good” just isn’t good enough.
Inspired and adapted from an article from by Dennis Conrad, Raving Consulting Co.