Finding the llama within... By Pierrick Leveque, Head of Acquisition at Virgin Games.

REVENUE BASED performance marketing is quite an elegant concept. With trust as a ground principle, its ultimate aim is to balance both parties' expectations and risks towards partnership bliss.

• Operator wants affiliate to send quality traffic
• Affiliate wants operator to keep customers happy

On the premise that both parties are equally honest, qualified and good-willed, even a satisfactory partnership sounds easier than it actually is, as internal challenges and external factors connive on both sides to bring chaos to the equation.

Affiliates are off the hook this month, with this article focusing on operators: how can they commit to keeping their affiliates earning from their players through good customer retention?


The internal challenge for an online gaming company is simple, and fits naturally with the affiliate's core expectation: how to keep a player happy and willing to return?

The answer is simple: stickiness. Give a customer a reason to come back, and the means to achieve this fall into two categories: fresh and engaging content, fresh and engaging promotions.

Content plays a key part in the equation, but let's touch on it lightly as it is beyond the scope of this article. An operator regularly adding new games can help cater for a wider range of players, from the 'oyster' (plays one game only) to the 'butterfly' (more adventurous, plays several games - either at once or in succession, and is hungry for novelty). As an added value, it gives the operator an opportunity to tailor promotions around new games. A bonus attached as an ancillary to a new game will always be better greeted than a 'cold call' for cash.
Now onto the thick of it: fresh and engaging promotions. That's a different beast altogether, one that has the power to make or break a business. Past the initial welcome bonus - the acquisition tool - stickiness is acted upon by retention bonuses, the output of an operator's CRM strategy.

Slice n'dice

Technology aside, what separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to CRM strategists is one's appetite for creative slicing and promotion engineering.

Let's go back to our cake with the initial aim of identifying segments you want to communicate to. There's an endless list of parameters one can use to slice up a customer database, some of the most obvious filters in our industry being:

• Time (date account opened, date last played, days since last played, average time in session, etc..)
• Geo-demographic (country, county, city, postcode, gender, marital status, etc..)
• Game (favourite game, favourite game type, etc..)
• Financial (average drop, total wagers, revenue, deposits, withdrawals, etc..)

Depending on the level of granularity you want to achieve, a wide range of additional filters can be applied. The depth of personal data accumulated by Facebook - for example - allows an advertiser to run a Facebook display advertising campaign targeting, say, single males in the 50 to 6 5-year-old age group who live in the north of Scotland, own a llama, like baroque architecture, mud wrestling, British food and Ricky Martin's music

Why an advertiser would want to target this group is anyone's guess, but what matters here is that you can dig this deep if the dataset is large enough.

Base CRM

Once the segments have been identified (new players, never played, high rollers, lapsed and much more...) the operator must apply the right retention message to the right group.

In our industry, an efficient retention strategy is built on two layers. A recurrent base layer and a custom layer consisting of offers specifically tailored to groups or individuals identified through the segmentation process.
The base layer comprises generic retention bonuses which are generally publicly advertised on the operator's website and supported by communication reminders. They include daily and weekly promotions, monthly prize draws, loyalty and reload bonuses and tournament and community prizes.

They are generic yet necessary: forgetting to entertain and reward customers who show no signs of fatigue will inevitably see them get bored sooner than you wish, and it'll be twice as hard convincing them to come back in.

Tailored CRM

The custom CRM layer addresses group of players based on patterns: players who have never deposited, played only once, haven't played in a week, haven't played in a month, low, medium, high rollers, players whose latest deposit failed, etc..

One such type of customers is of particular concern to revenue-share affiliates: the lapsed player. The guy who's been making the bulk of your commission for the past three months and suddenly disappears from your reports. It's in everyone's interest to see this player identified and contacted early. Whatever the approach - email, snail mail, SMS, on-site messaging, or bonus mechanics such as no deposit bonus, bingo cards, tournament seat - the aim is to get him/her to come back.

The 'lapsed players' group is the most dramatic example, as the effect of a reactivation is the most dearly visible to affiliates. However, and this is important this is not to say that other segments are less crucial. They're all part of a cyclical monitoring system.

Behind every long-life player your affiliate reports display, there should be a set of CRM rules constantly probing and adjusting your player's satisfaction levels. If there isn't, you're just lucky, but we all know, working in the gambling sector, that nothing should be left to luck.

Intertwined happiness

Hailing CRM as the sole saviour of affiliate bliss would be short-sightec factors like seasonality, economic rlimafrp, and technical issues can jeopardise this fragile equilibrium. However, by ensuring that companies they promote have an advanced retention strategy in place, affiliates caught in the cascading revenue stream will reap the rewards spawned from the operators' CRM approach.

And remember: in revenue-share terms, a happy player means a happy affiliate.
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