A while ago we attended a meeting with the customer relations marketing (CRM) team at a gambling company. The team had been working on creating customer segmentations, which within marketing is one well-used idea.
The concept refers to creating groups of people with common behaviors and characteristics that you want to reach with messages or offers. The team we met had done a careful segmentation based on money, game types and combination of games people play and demographics.
The head of this project explained that they had identified one segment of players that they chose to call the “high spenders” and that is obviously where most the high-risk players could be found. They continued telling us how they work on helping that group by unsubscribing them from all promotional marketing campaigns.
From a responsible gambling perspective this is a reasonable and logical course of action. Not to encouraging a player with risky behavior to gamble more. But the team looked at us and asked: is it really fair to stop sending promotions after just one week in the high-risk zone? What if the high-risk behavior is just a coincidence? Maybe some of these players have saved up some money to gamble, lets say, during The World Cup?
The CRM team had raised a very interesting question: When is the appropriate time to intervene?
INTERVENTION AT THE RIGHT TIME
It is true that we find a lot of high-risk players in the high spenders segment. They are a frequently discussed topic at conferences and in research. And the industry is taking great leaps in their work with responsible gambling by offering tools like help and support for these players: self-exclusion, panic-buttons, contact information to help lines and support groups, educated customer support team and so on.
The point is that players do not become high-risk players over night.
It is often a long process of escalating behavior and change in attitude, which includes increased tolerance towards gambling.
We believe that the key is to meet the needs of a player early on, before they turn high risk and it becomes a problem. The goal should be to figure out what we can do for the increased risk players – so that reactive tools like self-exclusion and blocked marketing are not to be needed in the first place.
MOST PLAYERS ARE NORMAL PLAYERS
Chances are that you, much like us, are used to hearing about the big group of normal or low risk players and a small group of high-risk players. Many of the high-risk players are hard to reach with warnings of risky behavior because of the probability that they can’t bring themselves to care about the consequences of that behavior. For these players, offering hands-on actions is more effective and helpful.
However, what comes to mind is that we need to keep the low risk players at low risk. We try to inform them, enlighten them, provide them with tools and educate them all about this thing called gambling problems.
The problem is that most people are not that interested in talking about what could become a problem – in fact; it is really difficult for humans in general to relate to a “potential problem”. We want normal players to take part of this important information about responsible gambling but at the same time we do not want to scare them away from our gambling site. What makes this really difficult and complex is that normal players are there to play and enjoy themselves and setting limits or reading about problem gambling simply is not that entertaining.
So, we have a big group of low risk players that are not truly interested in responsible gambling. And then we have the high risk ones who are already at high risk. What to do? Well, lets look into what happens in-between when the player is at low risk and the moment they turn high risk.
Again: players do not become high risk over night.
There are more than enough chances to intervene.
PREVENTION IS ABOUT GETTING THROUGH BEFORE
Most of the low risk players do have a positive attitude towards responsible gambling tools – they don’t really mind setting a limit for time or money. But as mentioned, they do not necessarily see why they should put their time into it. However, somewhere along the line of a player going from normal to high-risk their level of interest and activity goes up. Some get curious, some get concerned and some just want to know more.
And, in fact, we do see that these players are just as active as the high-risk ones. They click around in the interface, examine every bit of information, complete self tests, setup limits, answer surveys and so on. Here is our chance to meet that curiosity, to face their concerns, to provide answers to their questions.
Also, this is the group that most urgently needs prevention. It is important to keep in mind that the increased risk player is not necessarily a problematic gambler. In many cases these are the customers an Operator wants. They are active, they are engaged and they play a lot. They are good for business – as long as they stay out of high-risk zone.
MEET JOHNNY AND WILMA
One way of understanding the increased risk players is to look into their risk behavior and how it changes over time.
Let us explain by introducing Johnny. He is a young, easy-going person that recently started playing online-poker. And he likes it, he likes it a lot. He is learning the rules quickly and winning more and more games. Increasing his bets. Playing longer hours. Staying up late at night. His risk level goes up in just a few weeks.
Johnny is not familiar with problematic gambling. He has heard stories of people gambling away their homes, kid’s savings accounts, employers money but that wouldn’t happen to him, right? Johnny would most likely say that he doesn’t have any negative feelings about his gambling.
So what does Johnny need? He needs to become aware and convinced about the risk that is associated with his gambling behavior. Exposure of the information is crucial since Johnny is unlikely to search for it himself, he simply does not know what to look for.
She knows that she has spent more money on gambling than she ever intended to. Late nights with bingo, long sessions with lottery ticket after lottery ticket. One day she decided that enough is enough and her risk level decreased.
What does Wilma need? Well, one thing that Wilma probably does not need is to begin receiving promotions, bonuses and commercials from her gaming company once again.
IT IS A COMPLEX ISSUE
The Operator’s marketing team sends out a message that gambling is fun. The selling point being a moment of entertainment, or a dream of the next big jackpot, or the skill of betting on the winning team. But at the same time responsible gambling means taking into consideration that too much of that fun can lead to problems for some players. A marketing message that is appropriate for a low risk player might backfire if the player has an increased risk. The same goes for a promotional banner on the operator’s game site or an appealing headline in a promotional e-mail.
We know a lot about the high-risk player, but now we must challenge ourselves to get to know the increased risk player.
A first step is to take into consideration the player’s risk level in all forms of communication, throughout all communication channels and within all touch points where a player meets the gaming operator. To succeed with that, the increased and high-risk players cannot stay a headache of the CSR-department alone. The risk level must influence the whole chain within the organization, from game design, marketing and user experience to management and business development all the way to customer support.
So, what was our answer to the CRM team that day? Simply this: That in some cases, they should stop sending promotions even before they turn high risk.