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No industry is more reliant on marketing than gaming. Casino revenues are driven by consumer spending patterns that have expanded in recent years beyond the traditional slot machines and table games to include nightclubs, restaurants and shopping.
The trick, experts believe, is for casinos to tailor their marketing to meet individual needs.
"Like it or not, technology provides a real marketing opportunity," Aron Ezra, vice president of mobile at Bally Technologies, said in his keynote speech at the start of the two-day conference at Paris Las Vegas.
Ezra said the challenge is to implement a marketing strategy that reaches consumers on their favorite device - their smart phones. He said one idea is to allow the consumer to see different offers at each location they visit, from McCarran International Airport to The Mirage and Caesars Palace.
Ezra said a customer who leaves the Mirage to gamble at Caesars Palace now will receive a message from the Mirage after two hours, offering a discount or free slot play to entice them to return.
He said with the growth of smart phones, consumers can expect more testing of offers.
Worldwide smart phone sales reached 468 million units in 2011, according to Gartner Inc. research. Over 1 million Android devices are activated every day, while more than 400 million Apple products have been activated. A consumer's relationship with their smart phone is so important that an Intel Corp. survey determined that most people would rather lose their wedding ring than their phone.
Ezra said it's crucial to figure out an online strategy as demand for gaming grows.
"There are more dollars being spent, and there are no signs of it slowing down," he said.
In 2011, commercial casino revenues reached $35.6 billion, up from $34.6 billion in 2010.
Ezra said making marketing decisions in a competitive environment can be difficult. He said the industry should avoid several common mistakes when evaluating and using new technology.
"In the casino business, decisions are made on what the competitor is doing," he said. "That's not what we should be doing with technology. It should be what helps us the most."
Ezra said the industry continues to make incorrect assumptions about key demographics. He reminded some 300 marketing and casino executives about the industry's mistake in the 1980s of incorrectly believing people older than 50 didn't want to participate in loyalty programs.
"The same holds true today about mobile apps," Ezra said. "Women over 45 are the fastest (growing) group of people (using) gaming apps."
Other mistakes include waiting for perfect solutions when imperfect solutions power the world, bad planning, trying to please everyone while forgetting the target user and delegating responsibility to the wrong group of people when it comes to new technology.
Ezra said an example of bad planning was one property's decision to spend $1 million on video walls in the casino. The problem was the need to produce three hours of content to show, an investment they weren't willing to make.
"The technology wasn't a failure; how they used it was a failure," he said.
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