The art of giving the right bonus at the right time, to the right player

In this series of articles, we set to explore how iGaming bonuses evolved and how operators can now craft complex player journeys by leveraging a wealth of rewards. Our aim is to provide you with the knowledge we accumulated as software suppliers to several tier-one operators from multiple regulated markets.

In the current competitive and regulated environment, using bonuses successfully is a huge challenge, and as iGaming operators are moving forward, growing and adapting, it can become overwhelming. While we don’t bring to the table ready-made, secret formulas and strategies, reading our articles will equip you with valuable guiding principles for a lucrative handling of gambling bonuses.

The mantra to begin with: attract, retain, reactivate

A mantra is given to help you focus. As such, one pivotal bonus focus you should adopt is centred on your customer’s life cycle. Synchronizing your rewards with the different life-cycle stages at which your players find themselves is also essential for your online casino or sports business, and it should never be overlooked or set aside.

There are many criteria used to categorise casino or sports bonus types, and each may serve a certain purpose, but one learning is standing above all: different player segments call for different rewards.

It is crucial to divide customers into segments according to their behaviour and target each with a specific mix of rewards. Giving a high-rolling VIP a bunch of free spins each worth €0.20 will probably do more harm than good. It is not the reward that type of player is looking for and it will be more of a nuisance than anything else.

Devising such a strategy is not necessarily a one-time action, but rather a recurring effort – you should constantly analyse the performance of your mix-and-match of casino or sportsbook bonuses, and act as needed. You can adjust your approach, fine-tune it, and permanently test new ways to optimise its results.

To get started, you may want to adopt a basic categorization. After you lay a solid foundation, you can refine it and go as granular as needed. Initially, you can work around three basic actions that are synchronised to the player’s life cycle:

  • Attract: Build awareness to reach your potential customers, and boost player acquisition with a competitive bonus strategy.
  • Retain: Use multi-level rewards and gamification to engage your newly acquired players to stay with your online casino.
  • Reactivate: Get back those players that are bound to lapse and show them how good you are, using time-tested and well-tailored re-engagement tools.

Three purposes of gaming bonuses: to attract, retain and reactivate players

Even applying this most basic categorisation, it will be much easier to know which customer segments you should target and when. The next step is to organise your iGaming bonuses into categories that can fall under one or several of the three main above actions.  After getting the basics right and establishing what each casino or sports bonus type can achieve, you can start refining the combinations, testing new strategies and so on.

This is an approach that can be tested by casino or sportsbook operators from all levels. You can apply it all the same if you are new to the business, if you are an experienced operator that launches a new brand, or if you want to further increase the profitability of your established online brand.

Leverage and test with multiple ways to reward your players

There is a wide range of different ways to reward your players, each with its own appeal and strengths. Rewards can be granted based on eligibility filters in combination with triggers on specific actions, such as betting a certain amount on certain games or sports, or simply logging in, or making a deposit. In a nutshell, if a player with certain characteristics or from a certain segment does some specific actions, grant to that player a matching reward.

We will return to both eligibility and triggers in a later article, but for now, let’s focus on the most common types of casino and sports betting bonuses.

Free Spins (Casino)

Free spins work as predefined bets for predefined casino game(s), and they are a great way to promote a new game by letting players take it for a spin without risking their own money, while still winning for real. One solid advantage of free spins is that they are very attractive to genuine players that seek the entertainment value, and, at the same time less, attractive to bonus hunters that are purely interested in their monetary gain.

It’s a versatile type of bonus for casinos, for all stages of a player’s life cycle. To enhance their experience, you can let players choose between different and mutually exclusive free spins offers, such as higher value vs more free spins, or free spins for different games, across the same or different content providers.

Feature Trigger (Casino)

A feature trigger is a type of casino reward that grants players direct entry into the bonus features without having to trigger them in the base game (typically by hitting three or more scatters). The players that play games with bonus features tend to chase the thrills and big wins that a particular bonus feature offers. If a player gets such a reward, they simply launch the game and get right into the most entertaining and action-packed state of the game, with an almost guaranteed good experience.

This type of casino bonus is an excellent way to introduce a new game or reactivate a lapsed player by providing them with a feature trigger for one of their favourite games.

Free Bet (Sports)

This type of gambling bonus is a predefined bet for a preset selection of sports/leagues/events/markets, as it can be as specific or as generic as the operator configures it to be. As a sports bet that is completely free of charge, it brings a key difference from a real-money or bonus-money bet: the stake is not returned as part of winnings, simply because there was no stake. And this makes it a great and cost-efficient promotional tool for your sportsbook.

As the sportsbook equivalent of the casino’s free spin, the free bet also allows you to fully control what to promote and it suits every stage of a bettor’s journey, whether offered as a welcome bonus or to reactivate a lapsed player, as well as anything in between.

Stake Back (Sports)

As a consolation prize based on the outcome of a lost sports bet, a stake back can be granted, for example, to a player that lost a multiple bet, yet got 9 out of 10 sub-bets right.

It’s great retention tool, and a player might decide to place large, multiple bets based on it. Even if they lose one or several selections, they are offered the chance to get a part of their stake back.

Odds Boost (Sports)

As its name says, this is a type of bonus that boost the odds or the potential win associated with a player’s sports bet. Besides being an attractive reward, it allows operators to encourage certain bets to be placed, as an odds boost can come with conditions such as odds requirement, a minimum number of selections in a multiple bet, a certain event or sports, etc.

Tournaments (Casino & Sports)

In the iGaming industry, tournaments introduce the multi-player dimension and competitiveness to the casino or sports experience. Players get the extra challenge to win against each other any type of prizes, such as bonuses and merchandise. Mixed product tournaments can also be a good way to cross-sell.

Tournaments are a great way to engage players over a time interval while scoring criteria can be used to equalise and level the playing field between big bettors and players with smaller budgets.

Cash Back (Casino & Sports)

Also granted as a consolation prize based on a player’s losses, traditionally, the Cash Back bonus returns to the player a share of what they lost, in the form of money or bonus money. Still, this classic retention tool can also be configured to grant any type of bonus to players, such as free bet and free spins.

Cash (Casino & Sports)

A list of casino or sports bonuses cannot be complete without mentioning cash, or bonus money. For obvious reasons, it’s the most versatile reward in the eyes of the players. In order to harness its benefits and avoid its pitfalls, an operator needs to grant bonus money with a steady hand, as it is by far the type of bonusing that attracts the most unwanted attention from bonus hunters and players that actively seek out ways to omit wagering requirements.

Thankfully, there are many ways that can be used to discourage undesired behaviours and betting patterns, and still take full advantage of the attractiveness of bonus money for the right players.

Get the right tool in place

While EveryMatrix’s PAM clients are leveraging BonusEngine with CasinoEngine or OddsMatrix Sportsbook, the bonus system is now available as a cross-product integration.

We created our bonus system with a clear purpose: remove the technological challenges operators are facing. Our vision for BonusEngine is to be the single point for managing player acquisition, retention, and engagement, across all your brands and verticals.

Built on a flexible framework, BonusEngine provides:

  • Bonus stacking for an unlimited number of active bonuses
  • Seamless cross-wallet betting experience for uninterrupted gameplay
  • Bonusing across brands and products
  • Superb gamification with Wagering Levels and Tournaments
  • Attractive cross-bonus Cash-Back levels

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), and create a seamless and localised experience for your players (e.g Multi-currency, Multi-language).

To summarise

If you are just starting, you are already on the right track with creating a well-adapted, ever-evolving bonusing strategy. Start with the basics and match the bonus types with the customer types, making sure you have the right kind of bonuses for each stage of your player’s journey. After you have mastered this basic mantra (attract, retain and reactivate), you can always go further and tailor your offer at a more granular level.

If you are experienced and already managing complex bonus campaigns, stay tuned for more, as we will soon explore detailed data on the effectiveness of bonuses, multiple ways to create elaborate player journeys with exciting engagement cycles, and how you can protect and reward players without losing their involvement in the game.

Read all the articles in our series on iGaming bonuses here.

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