New casinos need new players, but the key to longevity is converting new players into loyal ones. How can online casinos and sportsbooks keep their players coming back once the honeymoon phase of free spins and welcome bonuses is over? Here we break down the most effective player retention tools used by online gambling and betting businesses.
Free bets, bonuses, and affiliate recommendations can quickly bring in big crowds of players. But if they get bored and head for the door once the initial shine wears off, the casino’s missing something vital: an effective retention strategy.
It’s a long journey from the first spin to a lifetime of loyalty. Successful gambling businesses use a variety of tools and techniques to give players another reason to stay at every step of the way.
Players have preferences for both game mechanics and game themes. Some games are perennial classics, but the popularity of others ebbs and flows.
Some players prefer a high RTP and a low volatility level for stable gameplay that balances excitement with a high rate of return. Others go all in for high-volatility games that string together long runs of losses only to deliver a massive win.
Offering a range of low, medium, and high volatility slots will make sure there’s an option for every player, whether they’re seasoned players who know exactly what experience they’re looking for or first-time depositors browsing your portfolio and looking for what suits their mood.
Players are attracted to a variety of themes. Norse and Egyptian mythology, classic fruit slots, and TV and film franchises are all very popular, and development studios are always looking for innovative (or even outright quirky) new angles. Offering a mix of themes will help ensure players can always find something to their liking.
Don’t stop at slots. Roulette, blackjack, craps, poker, and live dealer games have just as many devotees, and there’s always a chance you can cross-sell a slot player on a table game. When rounding out your portfolio, keep your market in mind; Teen Patti and Andar Bahar are popular in India, while Sic Bo and Dragon Tiger are big in China and other Asian countries.
As for sportsbooks, football betting is nearly universal. But there are plenty of other sports to bet on. Cricket, rugby, horse racing, baseball, basketball, and other sports have plenty of followers, from Ireland to India to Australia.
Offering a variety of sports not only opens your doors to a wider variety of bettors, it creates opportunities to cross-sell during off-seasons. But even the widest range of games and sports won’t impress if they don’t satisfy some basic expectations.
A fast loading time is an absolute must. Speed, excitement, and the thrill of the bet are all a part of the gambling experience; staring at a loading screen or a stalled progress bar is not. Players should be brought to the game as fast as possible — and there is a world full of other options for them to choose from if a casino leaves them hanging.
Technical glitches that interrupt gameplay are also a problem. Not only will they disrupt the gaming experience, they’ll create customer service issues if the game glitches at the wrong time and leaves the game’s outcome up in the air.
Overall, giving your players a poor gaming experience is like redirecting them to a competitor’s site. Make sure they stick around by cooperating with high-quality game developers and making sure your platform can maintain fast loading speeds — especially on mobile, where more and more players are spending their time.
Staying up to date
While some game preferences are eternal, players also like to try out new trends. This applies not only to types of games, but also new technologies that appear in the industry.
We covered the use of blockchain technology, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and metaverses in iGaming here and ChatGpt in gambling and betting here to give you a basic understanding of these technologies. Cryptocurrency has already become commonplace; it’s no longer just a matter of certain subsets of players hunting for the best crypto casino — average players now expect platforms to accept their preferred coins.
In our earlier article, we covered how online casinos and sportsbooks can use bonuses to encourage players to sign up and make their first deposit. But bonuses can also be used for retention, both by prolonging their lifetime on the site and by reactivating churned players.
Proper player segmentation — best achieved through using a CRM system (more on that below) — can inform your bonus strategy.
A CRM system will track data like your players’ gaming preferences, average bet size, average deposit size, and average gaming session length. Armed with this information, you can offer them the right bonus at the right time to keep them playing.
Massive sporting events cause a massive spike in betting. Even casual fans are more likely to put money down on the outcome of the World Cup or the Grand National. It’s common for online sportsbooks to offer special promotions, like matching player deposits or doubling player bets, to encourage them during peak wagering periods. Tracking player data will clue you in when the time is ripe to offer football bettors a special promotion.
Some platforms also offer a variety of promotions depending on the day of the week. If a casino notices their traffic slumping on Mondays, they might offer free spins or other bonuses to help players handle the start of the workweek.
Our turnkey platform offers every tool you’ll need to manage your online casino and track its performance, including a casino builder module that helps to create a casino frontend quickly and easily, a KYC module assisting with player verification in accordance with regulatory requirements, risk management tools to help you prevent fraud, a BI module to analyze data, and a bonus module where you can create and adjust bonuses based on your marketing strategy and information about players’ preferences to boost your retention rates.
Just as with initial sign-up bonuses, clear, specific terms and conditions are critical to prevent bonus abuse while maintaining a good relationship with players. Make sure rollover requirements and withdrawal limits are straightforward and transparent.
Bonuses can also be used to activate churned players. If a player becomes inactive for a long period of time, sending them a special offer of a deposit bonus might be the nudge they need to come back and bet.
Tournaments bring a more competitive and communal element to the iGaming experience. Over a set time period, players earn points by hitting the slots, and their losses contribute to the jackpot.
Operators can run tournaments and choose which of their games to include in the tournament.
Developers can also run tournaments. These will usually focus on a single game or group of games and reach an international audience.
A key step in running or participating in a tournament — and one that operators frequently neglect — is proper promotion. Don’t just sign up for a developer-run tournament and hope the players follow suit; push it hard, with a banner at the top of your home page.
Email marketing is a tried-and-true method of getting in touch with prospective, current, and lapsed players. Advantages of email marketing include the ability to personalize the message and the fact that players won’t wonder why they’re hearing from you if they voluntarily submitted their contact info on one of your landing pages.
Be careful, though; few things are as universally hated as spam. Stay up to date with lists of words that trigger spam filters and make sure you don’t wind up blocked.
Return to player (RTP) rate is usually fixed, but some developers provide the option for operators to set the RTP as they see fit. Casino players expect an RTP of around 96%-99%. With some research, they can find what the expected RTP of a game should be. If players feel like an operator is drastically adjusting RTP, they’ll warn each other.
Some players believe they can sense RTP, but given that RTP measures the total amount returned to players over thousands of spins (the lifetime of the game) it’s more likely they’re actually sensing the game’s volatility. Nevertheless, players expect a fair gaming experience, so sticking within the industry’s average range is the best way to go.
A customer relationship management (CRM) system stores, tracks, and analyzes data about current and prospective customers. With a CRM system, you can segment players and create personalized offers. You can also unify all your marketing channels: e-mail, push notifications, text messages, and any other means you use to contact players.
Personalization is becoming the standard. CRM systems track player data to create individual player profiles, including their playing habits, game preferences, average bet, average deposit, and more. The profile also records their personal data and keeps copies of their ID documents for ID checks to remain in compliance with KYC and AML requirements.
One great advantage of CRM systems is the ability to offer tailored bonuses and other promotions based on a player’s profile.
VIP and Loyalty programs
VIP and loyalty programs offer rewards for long-term players. The more time and money they spend on the platform, the more valuable the platform becomes for them. Rewards that increase over time are a powerful and effective tool for player retention; promising players a brighter future is a great way to get them to stick around for it.
Commonly, players get points for wagering and can redeem the points for bonuses.
These programs are organized into tiers. At each level of the hierarchy, players receive greater rewards and increasingly personalized service. To begin with, casinos will often have a separate customer service department for their loyalty program; at advanced levels, VIPs will often have their own personal VIP manager.
VIP segmentation goes according to deposit size. As players make bigger monthly deposits, they move up the rungs of the VIP ladder, receiving better rewards and more personalized service.
Responsible gaming for VIPs
Online casinos generally have a standard set of procedures for dealing with problem gambling, so that all players receive equal treatment.
While there are no special protections or regulations for VIPs who exhibit signs of problem gambling, many online casinos employ a special customer support division. VIP account managers, who provide round-the-clock service, are tasked with developing personal relationships with the high rollers they take care of. This allows the platform to better evaluate the player’s condition and keep an eye out for warning signs.
If VIPs do exhibit signs of problem gambling, VIP managers try to steer them towards self-control or even self-exclusion measures. If a VIP continues to exhibit problem gambling behavior despite warnings and advice from the VIP manager, the issue could be escalated through the casino’s responsible gambling team and the player might be given a break or even have their account suspended or canceled.
The same is true for anti-money laundering procedures (AML). Operators usually run the required checks once certain transaction thresholds are reached — like requesting proof of origin of the funds deposited by players — without necessarily going the extra mile when high-value customers are involved.
Many casinos implement this familiar, hands-on approach to problem gambling and AML. However, in the eyes of some regulators, it is not sufficient.
Word of mouth
In every industry, social proof is one of the highest-converting marketing tools you could hope for.
Reviews make a seismic difference in players’ perceptions of an online casino platform. Before playing, they’ll look up a brand on casino portals and player forums and see what their fellow players are saying about it.
Players trust each others’ opinions. A stinging post on a player forum can leave a bad impression in the mind of everyone who reads it — but on the flip side, the same goes for a favorable review, and players are often more than happy to let each other know about a casino that’s always treated them well. By providing players exactly what they want (or by exceeding their expectations) you can even turn them into advocates for your casino.
If a casino is slow on withdrawals — or fails to pay out at all — you can bet that word will spread like wildfire. But players will also tell each other when a casino is fast and reliable with payouts, features the latest games, offers a good VIP program, or has truly exceptional customer service.
How can Slotegrator help?
Player retention is a crucial element of long-term casino success. To learn more about bonuses, tournaments, email marketing, game selection, CRM systems, VIP and loyalty programs, download our free ebook on online casino player acquisition and retention.
Our new online casino turnkey platform offers several helpful modules, including risk management, casino builder, bonus, KYC, and business intelligence modules. The BI tool uses artificial intelligence to allow operators to not only collect and analyze internal information, but also to compare metrics with other platforms — simply choose your region and type of business and get statistics about how you stack up against your competitors.
Read this article to learn more about the platform software, and contact us for a free consultation to ask any questions about our products or how to market your project.
I have over 5 years of experience managing B2B and B2C sales departments in the online gambling industry. I started my career working in customer support for online casinos and grew to become the head of a department offering tailored services to VIP players. I joined Slotegrator with a strong focus on our company’s products and deep knowledge of what players need. My passion for the industry leads me to keep expanding my knowledge every day.