Listening to the mobile experts

What mobile operators can tell the gambling sector about mobile engagement

Written by Adam MaxtedJuly 12th 2017

This article first appeared on EGR Marketing.

EGR logo

Smartphones, tablets and social messaging have fundamentally changed the way consumers respond to advertising and marketing offers. The IAB / PwC Digital adspend study 2016 showed that mobile advertising in the UK now eats up a £3.866 billion budget – a year-on-year increase of 50.8%.

Yet, despite the evolution of marketing cloud suites, many gambling operators still don’t have the tools they need to interact with and engage customers in real-time, across multiple channels.

At the recent EGR Power 50 Summit 2017, attended by many of the Top 50 ranked operators, we spoke to several CMOs and Heads of CRM. They explained that one of their biggest challenges is creating marketing ‘moments’ – one-to-one communications which catch the customer with the right message, at the right time, and which would enable them to fulfil that offer there and then.

Some of these senior marketers told us that many of the marketing solutions they use are only able to blast out batch-based campaigns that target consumers by segments. This approach makes it difficult to follow up with automated real-time retargeting and, more crucially, doesn’t allow them to close the loop in the customer journey. Often this is because the response data is sluggish, being stored in a data warehouse elsewhere.

These traditional marketing automation suites are often used for just two channels, email and SMS, and some operators struggle to then add in newer over-the-top (OTT) communications, such as web push or in-play messaging and Facebook Messenger.

Yet OTT channels, along with SMS, are seeing higher cut-through rates than email, and in addition there is a fast-growing appetite among consumers to use more types of messaging for personalised communications. A recent report from data intelligence specialists GBG revealed that 34% of online gamblers agree that highly personalised promotions encourage them to remain loyal to a gambling brand.

In addition, as we move into the GDPR era, the relevance and appeal of your marketing communications are going to be critical to maintaining a healthy opt-in base.

So it’s no wonder that gambling companies feel their hands are tied by technology and that they are unable to deliver the communications their customers want on their channel of preference.  Yet there are simple solutions out there.

The mobile industry has long led the way in people-based marketing, with mobile operators tapping into technology which provides timely, personalised, and geo-based offers and communications in context – delivered to mobile devices, which can be fulfilled in the same communications cycle.

So what can gambling operators learn from the telcos to help them deliver a people-based communications strategy and increase campaign ROI?

Personalised customer journeys and real-time campaigns

One way to turn routine customer communications into revenue opportunities is to embed contextual calls-to-action in your communications.

The key to effectively automating retargeting journeys is the ability to consume events that occur within your existing business systems via APIs (e.g. mobile credit getting low). By applying a set of rules to those events, you can trigger an automatic 1-2-1 customer communication, then handle the customer’s response to fulfil the request automatically.

Customers not only receive a targeted message, they are also presented with a frictionless opportunity to act on that information. For example, if your data is able to show that your customer was betting at yesterday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, and he or she had a win, you can send them another compelling offer on today’s race card.

Or, if a customer is playing casino in a late-night session on their desktop, and your billing platform detects they are down to a €10 balance, you can send a personalised web push message offering them a top-up incentive if they make a deposit in the next hour. This can be totally automated, even down to the confirmation of deposit and “Thank you!” message.

Meanwhile, for high-spend customers, personalised video message campaigns can drive extraordinary engagement rates by creating a more immediate emotional connection with a brand.

With an embedded trackable link in the message, companies can review the success of their campaign and test and learn for future campaigns. It will also allow gambling companies to build player profiles by sending targeted messages about a player’s favourite sports event, or suggesting new ones to bet on. At the same time, you can glean more information about that customer, recognising the device being used and the OS they are using, and even then direct them to the relevant native app.

This can help boost re-engagement, increase your net promoter score and build positive sentiments on social media.

Building intelligent comms across every channel

One of the biggest challenges gambling companies face is the fast pace of technological change and the need to keep ahead of the curve. Marketing platforms are not small investments, and it is not always easy to predict which channels will be the most popular with future gambling customers, even 12 months ahead.

Businesses not only have to embrace these new channels quickly, they also have to future-proof their marketing tools to allow them to incorporate new channels when they emerge (such as RCS, the new interactive text messaging format which is set to be rolled out on Android handsets), without boxing themselves in to an unwieldy number of vendor solutions or additional data silos.

How the cloud connects new channels to old systems, according to mobile operators

Some of the big names in the mobile sector have adapted to this change by using real-time customer engagement and campaign orchestration technology that links up all their legacy systems (e.g. CRMs, CMSs, data warehouses) with communication channels via a cloud-based approach. The best of these systems make it easy to add new channels – Facebook Messenger, for example, is a must – and then build out and automate new customer journeys.

For example, with a mobile operator, when a customer’s contract is about to end, the technology can generate a short code mechanism allowing customers to text if they’d like to speak to a customer services assistant about renewing it. If the customer confirms, the platform then triggers a real-time message giving the customer a choice of date and times. Once the customer replies, the system will deliver either a confirmation or failure message.

The system can then capture these responses and send these back to the mobile operator to action – ideally helping to complete the communications cycle by offering an immediate upgrade opportunity.

Campaigns like this can be run daily, hourly or on-demand, and can scale effectively, reaching up to several million customers over the campaign’s lifespan.

There are several prerequisites to running multichannel campaigns like this.

  • Businesses must first secure the customer’s opt-in (and watch for opt-outs on any channel).
  • They must manage each customer’s contact preferences (such as no comms after 9pm).
  • Data has to be accessible in real time to deliver the necessary automation, with personalisation, driven by set rules.

Engagement platforms like this can also provide access to a marketing dashboard which shows at a glance what campaigns are performing well (even tracking on a brand basis, by P&L) and on what channels, as well as providing a unified view of an individual customer’s interaction history.

How the rise of AI can streamline customer service too

When it comes to customer service, gambling operators face the same issues as many other industry sectors – they have to handle increasing volumes of inbound enquiries, across voice, web chat and email, often querying the small print of offers and transactions. At the same time, operators are also acutely aware that the Gambling Commission is urging them to look at how they can smooth out the “fractured” approach to multichannel inbound customer services and provide a better standard of customer service.

This is where the shift to messaging channels can really prove powerful.

A new breed of AI-powered chatbots, which use natural language processing (NLP), can improve the resolution time of customer queries. They can even plug in to apps like Facebook Messenger to streamline the on-boarding of new customers and support KYC (Know Your Customer) checks, improving compliance in the process.

They could also help gambling operators to automatically fulfil customer enquiries and facilitate quicker betting. For example, a customer may receive an app push about a timely new betting offer and they can then interact with a chatbot every step of the way through to the point of fulfilment, completing a personalised betting slip. This can help drive up your campaign ROI.

Taking advantage of the lessons learned by the mobile operators  

Despite the challenges thrown down by a fast-moving marketing environment, increasing competition, and the importance of meeting regulatory demands, gambling companies are in a good position. They can take advantage of the trail blazed by mobile companies and make the most of cloud and AI technology to create those personalised marketing moments for their customers on the channels they want to use.

Adam is VP Sales at IMImobile and has 15 years’ experience in delivering mobile and multichannel product and platform solutions, specialising in developing business in the Gambling & Enterprise sectors.

Additional content you might find interesting