Rymax’s Senior Vice President of Sales Paul Gordon speaks to Gambling Insider about the importance of loyalty programs and why it is imperative that marketing services create an organic and adjustable model to suit the player’s constantly evolving needs
How has 2017 been treating Rymax in terms of business activity so far?
Our business and client portfolio has grown significantly. Spending on bulk products is way up, as casinos want to build foot traffic and play and also see the value of branded product promotions. Shopping sprees are also up and occurring throughout the year as opposed to primarily in the fourth quarter. Also, the desire to communicate on smart devices and have a year round incentive is very big.
How do you keep ahead of the curve in terms of knowing what works for your customers?
We have a team of departments comprised of Vendor Acquisition, Merchandising and Buyers. They are plugged into every major trade show, monitor social trends and as a direct factory rep, have access to the manufacturers product roadmaps. This is an intense focus on brands and products. We also have a very eclectic group of clients ranging from Automotive, Airlines, Pharma, Financial, Consumer Products, Manufacturing in addition to Casinos and our programs range from employee recognition to consumer loyalty. This enables us to analyze programs by virtually every demographic and geographic participant and gives us great insight into brands and trends. Our strength is that we created a new dynamic in loyalty and rewards because of our nimble approach to the awards.
Why do you choose to not use third party vendors? Do you think this factor gives Rymax a strong USP? If not, what does?
The program is only as good as the fulfillment and customer experience. You can offer the hottest product and if it is not warehoused, shipped — and if need be — handled by your own customer service reps, you lose control. We are consistently given annual awards by OUR CUSTOMERS because of our attention and control of all details. Anyone can put up a website and show stock images of warehouses and people and brands and pitch for business. When we submit RFP’s, I stress that the client do on site visits so that they see what a well-run machine we are and that this is what separates us from everyone else.
What are Rymax’s non-financial targets for the upcoming year?
New brand acquisition is in the 50-60 range each year and we are trending towards that number. In- home connectivity is in huge demand as well as new fashion lines and we want to offer what participants want in Q4. We also want to increase the employee recognition efforts in casinos. With the growth in this industry and the increased competition in markets, it is imperative that casinos offer a very strong employee recognition program to reward good employees and recruit the best of what is out there.
Back in 2009 you created a gaming division focused solely on casino loyalty programs, what were the reasons behind creating this specific branch?
In 2009 we saw the aftershocks of the 2008 economic collapse and wanted to focus on key growth areas. Casinos were one of them. The explosion of casinos over the past decade to drive revenue in states was an economic strategy and the player loyalty component highly focused on by the operators. We were already in Vegas and Atlantic City when I came on board and I saw where the industry was going and put the resources behind it. And it has been very successful for Rymax.
Are casinos focusing on player retention rather than acquisition at the moment? If so, why?
That really depends on the market, the saturation of the market and the complexity of the market. So let me break it down somewhat. The strategy in a new market is all about acquisition of players via initiation of trial. The strategy of a casino in a mature market is to gain market share. The strategy of a local market casino is very different from destination casinos. So the key is to create marketing programs that are uniquely different and that are targeted against very clear objectives. Anyone can deliver a product in a promotion, but the consultative approach to create a model that works, that is organic and adjustable is critical.
What do you think are some of the common key mistakes casinos make when attempting to increase player engagement?
· Some don’t talk to or listen to the players. Input is critical.
· Some form opinions of what will work internally without looking at trends.
· Some lack a certain curiosity regarding motivators.
· Some plan for the year and can’t adjust to trends because their marketing dollars are committed.
The vast majority of our clients do not fall into these traps. We work closely with them on the brands and the logic behind them.
Is it important to reflect a player loyalty/rewards offer in your employee benefits system?
I stated a few reasons earlier but now let’s also talk about driving revenue. An employee recognition program drives ancillary spending which is critical to the casinos. With the ancillary spending being more than gaming at casinos, you need employees that can articulate the various attractions and close the sale. You need the employees to upsell at check in and throughout the stay. For the younger employees, you need a peer to peer program and a spot recognition program. And most importantly………..give them what they want when they win!
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in casino marketing over the years?
The Player Hosts are paramount for success. Casinos such as MGM Detroit, Sands PA, Borgata and Hard Rock to name a few have excellent hosts that know when the promotions are running, personal shop for their players and are engaged all year long. We help create messages from the hosts for smart devices on behalf of some of the casinos. Players should not stumble upon the marketing initiatives.
What methods do you think are essential when expanding your marketing services distribution audience?
Everything needs to be viewed and used on “smart” devices. [Print will never go away]
Everything must have a social media-like look and feel and utility.
Player rewards must be aspirational.
Do the types of loyalty and recognition programs change depending on the size and scope of the company or is there a one-size-fits-all system?
“One-size-fits-all” generally is ill fitting for all. I have spent my entire career stressing “segmentation and concentration”. Don’t try to do programs with a broad stroke. Break down your audience and concentrate on each segment’s needs. That strategy is effective and easy to execute and the most successful.
Are there any lessons iGaming operators could learn from land-based loyalty programs?
Yes…take the land based programs and incorporate them into iGaming! Loyalty and rewards is a multi-billion dollar business and attached to most goods and services. Initiate trial, drive increased play and reward frequent play. It works every time.
This article originally appeared in Gambling Insider and can be viewed here (login required).