Startups and player retention

May 22, 2018 Artyom Ustinov

If you think about it, player retention should not be the main topic for discussion for a newly launched casino. The argument would go that a new casino should focus on player acquisition, and player retention should come much later: when the casino has built confidence in attracting new players, has tested its processes, its payment systems, its support and so on. Once the player base is in tens of thousands, retention processes and strategies can be employed for player activation and retention.

Player acquisition vs. player retention

However, in our practice as platform developers the subject of player retention comes up as one of the most important subjects. Actually, operators who are inexperienced in the field are mostly worried about player retention instead of player acquisition. The reason might be that the acquisition for an upstart feels so daunting that it seems a gigantic waste to just let those players play.

It takes us a lot of effort to convince such upstarts that they should concentrate on offering a good deal to the new players and build their operations before moving further down the stream and think about activating their client base and improving retention and engagement figures.

Behavioral data

Another thing that every upstart seems to talk about is behavioral data. Current technologies make it very simple to collect and analyse even the most minute data. If five years ago most marketing specialists were happy with 10-15 parameters they would use in their work, like geography, mobile/desktop and so on, now everyone wants to get full behavior data on each of their players – where they click, what pages they use and for how long, when they click a back button or go to another site.

Our last year’s platform upgrade included real-time behavior data out of the box just because it was the most requested feature. However, looking at the usage of this data and how successful the upstarts are with employing this data it’s easy to see that the technology is not that useful in making upstarts more successful, growing more actively and in leading to higher profitability.

Reason behind focusing on player retention

I think the reason why upstarts prioritise player retention is because all the big guys are doing it. If you have millions of monthly active users, as some of our clients do, even a 1-2% difference becomes a huge differentiating factor, and it would be a shame to ignore it. If you take a liberal approach to statistics you can even say that up to 70% of profits comes via player retention work. The problem of this argument is that analysis is made on the big guys, who have been massively successful in attracting players.

So, when we talk player retention with the new casinos we ask them to think of an attractive proposition and ensure that the experience is both smoother and much more fun for the hundreds of new players that they attract. Analysis should concentrate on the basics: the ability of players to deposit funds, games they play, picking up bonuses and other offers. Being able to engage new players is the most important thing that you can do, and it’s the most difficult skill to master, because you can’t just copy successful strategies that are currently 2-3 years old. In order to be truly successful you need to be on the edge, understand your players’ needs and ensure that once they try your product, they are no longer interested in going back to a more pedestrian experience. Once you solve this, you need to ensure that you show your offer to the market, and this sometimes means tedious or expensive work on promoting your casino.

And finally, after 6 months of implementing retention strategies for loyal players, from whom the initial fun of your product wears off, should be employed. Again, this should not be formulaic, and at least the basics should be there before moving to more complex stuff. We saw too many upstarts trying to use regression analysis and dynamic segments before getting their basic player experience right.

Basic recommendations for online casino operators

So, what are the basics that most casinos can fix? First thing I would look at is the availability of basic player data. Geography, bets, wins, games they play, number and amount of deposits, etc. This should be automatically available to the marketing guys without the need to bother someone in IT to get you a new report. Actually, you should focus on removing the IT department from the process, after building the tools required by the marketing. Setting up targets and the ability to easily monitor success are a must.

Basic data, automatisation, personal touch and multilinguality

In my experience, it is also a must to keep marketing requests in check and really, ensuring that their requirements are practical and will be used successfully. I’ve seen many examples in many different industries when a report or a tool that is a must-have and cannot be changed even slightly is already forgotten once it’s developed, and actually should not have been developed in the first place before many other more simple things are taken care of.

Once you have the basic data, there’s a lot you can do. For an upstart you should ensure that your platform allows automatic campaigns to be launched. This means that once you select a player base you think you can offer something, you should engage them automatically daily, without the need to create manual queries, manual campaigns and so on. Big competitors can afford manually running campaigns because they can hire a team of retention specialists to do the work. For an upstart there should be as much automation as possible, as most probably your retention team is one guy, and most probably it’s not even his full time job.

Adding a personal touch, something that big names often cannot afford, is also a successful strategy. Our activity reel shows in real-time most important events, like failed deposits, failed logins, etc. for the operators to pick up. Ability to proactively solve those issues by launching a live chat session or sometimes (if a client indicated that he likes that) even calling your players, can make wonders for your clients loyalty.

One more thing about which many casinos forget is multi-language support. Yes, English will get you quite far, but there are many players who have difficulty conversing in anything but their native language. It’s costly, as you need to make sure your support staff is both good at their job and can freely use the languages of your players.

There you go, once you fix the basics, you can move to the areas about which most marketing guys are excited, with custom-built or purchased tools for data analysis, player segmentation, A/B testing and so on. But before you do, ensure that the product is good and experience is top-notch.

Artyom Ustinov

Artyom is Head of White Label & Turnkey Solutions and has been working in complex B2B/B2C sales, as well as business development and management consulting in iGaming for more than 10 years.

Together with the Key Account Management Team, he has helped over 100 start-ups and experienced gaming companies to launch their projects with SoftGamings.

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