Play and Stay: Increasing retention through bonusing

Alongside finding successful ways to attract players continuously, another question that keeps casino and sportsbook operators alike on their toes is how to increase retention rates. Especially when today’s market presents customers with myriads of choices, and just as many businesses fight to win them over. This turns player retention into a strategy game that needs to be played on multiple fronts, also considering factors such as stricter regulations, and always testing and perfecting tactics to drive engagement rates higher.

That’s why an operator’s retention toolkit should include a variety of options: an ongoing stream of fresh casino content, various notifications to keep players updated with new games or promotions, and, last but not least, crafting a great bonus program to bring player’s loyalty several notches higher.

Read along about reward-based retention tactics worth your while, from basic gamification to detailed engagement strategies. Let’s discover how these can serve your business needs, as well as how modern tech can work in your favour to convince your customers to play and stay.

Retention through gamification

In recent years, gamification has been a buzz word, and it was used across a variety of industries and institutions alike, continuously thrust forward by innovation. From book-reading challenges to virtual rewards for travel-forum experts, it’s all meant to satisfy the basic needs of our brains for a good challenge, paired with a much-anticipated reward which feeds our instant gratification needs.

For the iGaming industry, gamification is not a new thing, but it is ever-evolving, driven by innovation and technological advances. To the thrill of winning bets, we can add the excitement of a challenge or tournament, or the satisfaction of unlocking a reward or a level. All these have the potential to build player loyalty.

Building motivation beyond the actual games is particularly interesting in heavy-regulated markets, where strict bet restrictions, cool-offs and mandatory breaks rule the land. The excitement could be channelled through gamification, as the value needs to come through recurrence instead of one-time big bets. The importance of retention increases as well, as each player’s potential revenue decreases, so keeping them longer becomes even more important.

First impressions do count in the long term, so gamification can start from your players’ onboarding on your website and with meaningful interactions. Give them a mission from day one, being that a tournament to win or an achievement to unlock. The idea is to bring the challenge to them, as well as the possibility of a double win: from the classical monetary gambling reward to the non-monetary win that comes from gamification.

The onboarding process itself can be a gamified journey where the player receives gratification, whether a badge or a website currency, only by ticking the first few boxes: complete registration, subscribe to newsletters, accept notifications, make the first deposit, play a game, and so on. A practice very commonly found in mobile game apps: gamify and reward desired actions.

You can also play around with the timing: for All Saints’ Day, go ahead and create a one-week tournament for those playing spooky-themed video-slots, or even localise it around the American Halloween or the Mexican Día de los Muertos.

With the right cross-product bonusing system, you can bring the gamification experience across verticals, making it possible to engage sports punters that also like a slot challenge. The idea is to create dynamic, personalized experiences by leveraging user data as you deep dive into the possibilities automation and real-time marketing bring our way.

Remarkable in-play incentivization and personalized player journeys

The starting point for crafting a personalized player experience is segmentation, and to understand its importance, we should consider how our routines shape who we are in a certain setting. In this case, your players’ persona is the sum of their actions.

Science comes to back this up: a study in the Journal of Business research states that the habit is more likely to shape retention than customer satisfaction, so that’s why it is fundamental to analyze past behaviour data. In other words, to shape the future journeys of your players, it is essential that you first track their past actions, then group them according to the criteria that make sense for you. That’s segmentation in a nutshell.

Then comes the fun part. Here is where you can tailor and test the most engaging customer journeys and create reward paths for your established player segments, employing gamification tools:

  • Create a set of milestones for players to reach, with rewards and unlocks
  • Introduce a brand currency (such as frequent player points) and allow players to spend them on perks, like free spins or a tournament ticket.
  • Create choice-driven paths. For instance, once players perform challenge A, they get to choose between challenge B and C.

Considering what happens behind the scenes, a central bonus system that supports dependencies between bonus programs can be a very useful tool for such a strategy. Creating pathways and crossroads with mutually exclusive options can make for very rich and fully automated player journeys.

Also, a significant amount of data needs to be analyzed and continuously reassessed to see what works and what needs readjustment. CRM tools such as Optimove and FastTrack contribute significantly to making the operators’ job easier in this respect, as well as PAM platforms that have the capacities of assigning roles and tags to players.

Going further, you can tailor bonusing programs around player eligibility attributes, such as roles or tags (segment), country, referral IDs etc., which will then automatically grant the right reward to the right player.

Strategic rewards to increase turnover in a natural way

When crafting the player journeys, keep in mind that, as an operator, you need your own milestones. You need a detailed strategy for this, drilling it down from the big picture to the smallest actions.

Circling back to gamification, your final goal is also to obtain the highest scores in the categories of players’ lifetime value and turnover. Let’s see some of the behind-the-scenes actions that help you create a mutually beneficial experience and two great strategies to extend player sessions in a natural way.

  • Rewards triggered by wagering targets appearing to the player as progress bars or similar, such as when an operator creates a wagering program with recurring or individual levels that trigger free spins, free bets and other rewards. Such features can also be set up behind the scenes so that the player is rewarded with (seemingly) random bonus drops every now and then.
  • Tournaments scheduled with the purpose to create specific times and intervals when players benefit from logging in to play, as opposed to randomly accessing casino games. To give an example, you can set up a weekly tournament open to players that logged in during the previous week, played at least one casino round or placed at least a sports bet and so on.

Such actions have the clear benefit of increasing the predictability of your gambling business by shaping more organized players’ interactions with your website while offering to your players systematic and frequent actions that will further boost their loyalty.

This can also be a way to encourage desired behaviours on the one hand and to fend off unwanted behaviours on the other hand. It especially makes sense when you think about how a small number of high rollers may generate the biggest ratio of your revenue, so you need a way to give them special rewards to obtain their loyalty.

A bonus tool matching your retention needs

Now available as a cross-product integration alongside our casino and sports solutions, BonusEngine empowers operators to craft rewarding programs and manage player acquisition, retention and engagement across all your brands and verticals.
BonusEngine provides:

  • Superb gamification with wagering-based challenges that can hold any number of levels, all mapped to the same type of bonuses or different ones.
  • Tournaments across verticals with different win conditions and automatic rewarding of prizes.
  • Campaign association, which allows you to create dependencies between various bonus programs.
  • Player eligibility filters that enable you to target the desired segments.

In addition, our bonusing product includes a series of features that reduce your operational load (e.g., Bonus Recurrence), decrease the risks for your online casino (e.g., Bet Conditioning, Player Eligibility, Max Released Bonus and Max Campaign Cost), and create a seamless and localized experience for your players (e.g., Multi-currency, Multi-language).

To summarize

Reward-based retention is an excellent way of bringing challenging and fun experiences into the picture to increase the players’ lifetime value. Accelerated by today’s (and tomorrow’s) technologies, the future of gaming bonuses looks even brighter when its interwoven with the possibilities of data-based, real-time marketing and automation.

Such a way to boost retention brings the premise of a win-win situation: valuable players get increasingly engaging experiences, and operators get access to ever-evolving systems that efficiently support their business needs.

Keeping in mind that the industry also sees increasing regulations meant to protect players and that correctly matching and timing rewards brings solid benefits, bonuses crafted in accordance with gamification principles and exciting customer journeys are invaluable tools to support business growth in a compliant manner.

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