Casino occupies a curious position within the online gambling universe. While all the evidence shows that the category of gaming is by far the largest vertical in revenue terms, it remains a product which to a degree exists in the shadows.
It poses marketers of casino a problem; how do you encourage loyalty in a product which is so highly commoditised and where the user is well aware of the preponderance of offers and bonuses that exist to entice them to switch sites as much as it is to retain their loyalty?
The answer with sports-betting, poker and bingo is relatively simple: content marketing. But that poses two key questions for gaming: how do you translate to the casino sector? And how do you convince the audience of the worth of the content?
“It’s the number one moneymaker, but it’s also difficult,” admits Stewart Dunlop, the chief operating officer at 180Vita which runs the popular poker affiliates sites Pokervip and Pokertube, but has also made tentative steps into the casino realm with HighRoller.com which includes news and strategy guides. “There’s not really any content around casino because the focus of affiliation in casino has always been bonusing,” he says.
One of the leading names in online casino affiliate marketing is recently Stockholm-listed Catena Media. The company runs the Scandinavian-focused JohnsCasino affiliate and after a recent acquisition spree also now owns the AskGamblers and RightCasino properties.
Robert Anderson, chief executive at the Malta-based company, points out that his company’s strategy is about industrialising the existing casino affiliate marketing space. “In the casino sector, the underlying product is pretty much the same,” he says. “User behaviour is about liking and finding new casinos. That’s why you have a high degree of churn; plus the underlying products are so similar.”
Nonetheless, there are signs of change. The focus for much of the online gambling world is on fostering community. Grab hold of your audience, keep them engaged, keep them playing, and your site will be rewarded by greater loyalty. Such is the theory, but as Bernard Fisher, the marketing manager at 888casino points out, “community doesn’t come by accident”.
“You have to help build it, provide the structure and encourage repeat visitation,” he adds. “When it comes to casino, we know that the audience is less loyal than in the case with other segments of the online sector, and we think that in part that is caused by the lack of content that frames the games on most sites.”
Hence 888casino is on a mission to provide more content. The new blog site includes features from a long list of well-known top casino writers such as Henry Tamburin, Jean Scott and Frank Scoblete along with guides on how to play blackjack and other casino games.
Fisher says it’s an educational effort. “We think it will encourage users to play longer with us, that’s the aim at the end of the day. If we provide a better experience for all levels of player, it will mean they will be more satisfied with the offer and will spend more time with us.”
The benefits of encouraging players to spend more time on a site are explained by Steve Wells, casino manager at Hero Gaming, which runs the CasinoHeroes offering, a Scandinavian-focused site which explicitly aims at encouraging the gamification of the casino experience, sending players on a quest where they can take on an avatar and complete tasks within a gamified environment. He says that the site enjoys a 25%-plus increase in player days on the site because of the content experience.
Importantly, the move towards content and gamification marks a shift away from traditional bonus-led marketing initiatives. Operators are seeing diminishing returns from a strategy which effectively only targets a small segment of the potential addressable market whereas a content-rich offering attempts to connect with a broader demographic.
The operators are positioning their content as being an area where evolution will be a vitally important component of what they do in the future – agile is the watchword – and developments with regard to gamification and other tools of customer engagement are at the forefront of this effort.
As with the world of the land-based casinos, It’s all about creating an experience. “Why is it that people keep returning to certain casinos?” asks Fisher from 888casino. “It’s not just about convenience, or whether they were lucky on certain slot machines or tables in any given site. It’s about the total offer – the sights, the sounds, the atmosphere, the service. In the online world, it’s about trying to create a similar context.”