Deposit bonuses just aren’t viable. Those seeking to exploit them are the reason for the endless terms and conditions. However, in doing so they have suffocated the life out of them, making them misleading to the consumer, while providing limited financial advantage for the operator.
When it comes to sign-up bonuses, there are typically two types of player. Firstly, there are those who are savvy enough to know the score when they sign-up, and are more likely to be ‘playing the field’ of operators. These players are unlikely to have been influenced much by the headline offer. The big number may have attracted their attention and encouraged them to explore further, but they will have very low expectations of being able to achieve it. The alternative is that the less-shrewd casual player, who signs-up believing in the headline offer, is left feeling duped when they’ve deposited but can’t cash out to receive their bonus. In either case, your advertising bucks could be better spent as you are prioritising the promiscuous, low-loyalty player over the experience of the casual player who has a greater potential to stay.
Making sign-ups work
One lesson, of which mobile marketing practice continually reminds us, is that incentives are most effective when they are limited in scope, such as trying-out a new game with free plays, or returning to collect a reward. The escalation of sign-up bonuses needs to come back down to reality, so they are trusted and effectively act as a catalyst to begin the process of persuading players to stick around. Therefore, the key to improving sign-up bonuses is to change the way you think about them.
The approach towards acquisition should work sympathetically with the incremental way that people change their behaviour. With so many online gambling options around, you need to convince players that yours is the one they should prefer, and that can’t be achieved with a single offer.
So, expecting a sign-up bonus to instantaneously create a VIP is overambitious. There are lifecycle stages that a player needs to progress through before they become a VIP and it is much more effective to focus incentives, based on the progress a player is making, to build engagement and loyalty with the app.
The first step is to bring players to your website or app. There is certainly a greater emphasis on incentivising risk-free play to attract new players. No deposit offers, where a small amount of credit is offered, with restrictions on cashing-out, are a great way to get players started. Once they have touched your website or app, they are part of your marketing eco-system and can be targeted for offers, through re-marketing online, via social media or through push notifications on their device, and this is before they have even signed-up and provided contact details. Tracking the effectiveness of campaign and acquisition channels, their costs of acquiring new names and their propensity to generate VIPs is essential.
Once a player has been acquired, you need to focus on optimising their first-time user experience. At this stage, optimising onboarding is important, using in-game messaging to welcome players and direct them through tasks and tutorials. The core KPIs to monitor at this stage should be the percentage of deposit conversion and percentage of second session. You should use in-game messaging, push notifications and email to incentivise player to return for their second session, and deposit incentives, protected by cash-in conditions.
It’s now important to start building a cycle or regular sessions and deposits. The core KPIs are day seven and 14 retention and second deposit percentage. Within the game, now is a good time to introduce recommendations, and to signpost reward behaviours, along with some initial game-specific gifting. Email and push notifications should focus on second deposit incentives, return behavior incentives and regular appointment setting to build a regular cycle of engagement.
The KPIs to be aware of at this stage are LTV and longevity, as well as the genres per player, as you now need to broaden the engagement these players have across your games. In-game, the focus should be on cross-promotional messaging, and targeted messaging based on playing style and betting history, to focus content and incentives that will elicit much higher responses. There is an opportunity cost of sending out broad messaging at this stage, as too high a frequency of perceived irrelevant emails or push notifications can elicit a mental switching-off. Subsequent stages in the nurturing are VIP Management, churn prevention and re-activation of lapsed players.
Preventing bonus abuse
Whenever real-money incentives are offered, there will always be players who try to abuse them. Taking a graduated approach to offering incentives gives you more protection, as you are collecting player-engagement data along the way. Using predictive modelling, you can identify patterns of player behaviour that indicate a high potential for committing fraud, and eliminate these players from campaigns. The same modelling approach, based on in-game activity, can be used for predicting players who are likely to churn and players who are likely to go on to become VIPs, providing an extra dimension to player targeting.