In Gambling, Games Analytics

Do relationships, predicated on a lie, endure? The 10 year-old photo on Tinder might get you a date, but you’ll not get much further. So, how do you think players react when they’re encouraged to start playing by a sign-up bonus offering £200 or more, only to find they have to wager several £’000 in a very limited timeframe to claim it?

There’s undoubtedly been a sign-up bonus arms race going on, but it’s clear we have now reached the stage where, because of the complex terms imposed on claiming them, the limiting factor on the headline figure is the bounds of credibility.

The holy grail of acquisition is finding casual VIPs who don’t use spreadsheets to calculate each wager; while avoiding Exploiters who hunt down the loopholes in sign-up bonus Ts & Cs. I think we need to ask ourselves, if sign-up bonuses don’t reward casual players because of complex and difficult to achieve terms, are we concentrating too much on frustrating the Exploiters, and if so, to what benefit?

The prospects for big and brash headline-grabbing sign-up bonuses is bleak. On the one hand, recent reports show that, in the UK at least, the Gambling Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are now gunning for them; while on the other, some operators are starting to act smarter, just as consumers start to see-through and tire of them.

There’s more than one way to stand out from the crowd, and if it’s not the size of your sign-up bonus, it’s more likely to come from ease of accessibility for players. Enduring relationships after all are not about grand opening gestures, but are instead about getting to know each other and showing relevant generosity.

I think that too much has been expected of sign-up bonuses. These big offers are created to get players to sign-up to an account, pay-up, go through on-boarding and regularly return. That’s a lot to ask, and in effect, from a consumer decision-making perspective, it turns the whole thing into a high involvement purchase. The outcome is that it forces players to evaluate the market, which continually feeds the sign-up bonus arms race. It is a consequence of operators hoping to do too much with these bonuses and not achieving it, but instead expending all their energy in fighting sharks.

If you want to attract profitable casual players, you should break the process into stages and unlock bonuses for appropriate behaviour. All you need the sign-up bonus to achieve is get players to create an account, and try out your game with a minimal commitment. From there, you can assess game play styles and provide personalised offers.

One of the advantages of limiting the objective associated with your sign-up bonuses is that you also limit the extent of your financial exposure. Because you aren’t talking about large sums, your incentives become less attractive to Exploiters, while the reduced commitment is more attractive to casual players.

Operators should take a player relationship management approach based on gamification techniques. Once a player has started playing, you can assess their gameplay behaviours and provide targeted incentives, through real-time in-game notifications, push notifications to the device, dynamic signposting of criteria and micro-targeted emails. These should build and manage player engagement, enabling and encouraging them to explore the games you have on offer, constantly evaluating each player’s approach, so you can react to VIP players earlier in the cycle and ensure you remain the right side of the profit line while identifying and limiting the experiences of potential Exploiters and Fraudsters.

By implementing smarter sign-up incentives, operators have more opportunities to get it right for every player, through constant evaluation each incentive’s mechanics. Taking an iterative approach with each aspect of the process will be much more efficient and effective at generating profitable players with enhanced longevity.

The need for big sign-up incentives has been symptomatic of an industry where game data has not been freely available to manage player experience, but in recent months, we have seen a real determination in the industry to unlock the potential that big data and real-time marketing can provide.

If you liked this article, you should read ‘Mind the data gap: Making real-time CRM a reality in gambling’.

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