The candy-free checkout lane at the grocery store:  an oasis of safety for anyone who has ever had a young child accompany them on a shopping trip and been subject to the “Pleasssseeee can I have a Snickers bar?” barrage.   Being grilled under cross-examination on the stand is a cake walk compared to the persistence of a seven-year old looking to score some chocolate-covered happiness.

The next time you’re in a grocery store, or any store for that matter, look closely at the items displayed in the checkout area.  You’ll find things like chocolate, batteries, travel-size bottles of aspirin, drinks and tissues.  Retail experts know that the point of sale or checkout is a critical component in their customer’s overall experience.  This is the point where the store has to finish strong and follow through on delivering a positive, rewarding shopping experience – hence the ingenuity of providing a candy-free checkout.

Successful retailers prove, by offering a variety of must-have (or perceived as must-have) items at the checkout, that they understand the customers’ needs and cater to them.  You may consider that pack of batteries an impulse buy, but the smart folks in store management know that’s not really the case.  They’ve done tons of research that tells them that you grabbed those batteries because you want to be prepared should you lose power in a storm and your flashlight needs to be in working condition.  The need for fresh batteries may not have been the primary motivation for your trip to the store, but it did fuel your purchase decision while you were there.

That’s all well and good, but what do candy bars and batteries have to do with casino marketing?   It all boils down to loyalty.  Understand your customers’ needs, cater to those needs and reward them with what they want.  Happy customers become loyal customers.  And loyal customers bring repeat business.

No one realistically expects to win every single time they sit down at a table game or slot machine.  Players understand that on a cognitive level, but the emotional part of them wants a pay back.  They want to be compensated for the time and money they’ve given to the casino, even if they don’t win big or hit the jackpot.

This is where you embrace and respond to your customer’s need for validation.  You need to capture that player’s confidence that she’s going to be rewarded, somehow, with something of value that will make her want to come back again and play at your casino.   Reflect upon the strategies you’re currently using or have used in the past.  Which ones are/were the most successful?  Examining the campaigns that elicit the most response or engagement from your players will allow you to isolate their behavior trigger(s).

Once you know what motivates your customers to return, use the better, stronger, faster treatment (any Six Million Dollar Man fans out there?) to create even more impactful campaigns.  For example, chances are good that your slot players historically react well to free play offers.  If that’s the case, step up the campaign by implementing random free play bonuses.

Properties that have done so have seen time on device and average spend increase by significant margins – well beyond the face value of the free play coupon.  What’s more, for a good percentage of players just the experience of receiving the award right at the game is enough to make them continue playing so they can re-create the thrill of “winning.”  Not only will they play more on that particular occasion, they have such an enjoyable experience that they make a concerted effort to come back and play the slots again at the property.

The property in question demonstrated to their customer that they understood the customer’s need (to win something), met it (free play), and then topped it with a random free play bonus.  Not only have they won the customer’s loyalty, in the process they increased the amount of time that customer spent at the slot machine – more coin-in.

Let’s consider another possibility.  Examination of past promotions reveals that your slot players respond well to promotions in which they can “earn” entry tickets for prize drawings.  The more they play the more tickets they receive and so increase their chance of winning.  Now apply the Six Million Dollar Man theory.  Take the promotion to the next level by giving your players a way to continue their quest for the prize, support a local charity and boost your mid-week visits in the process.  Define the promo guidelines so that on Wednesdays your property will match, dollar for dollar, whatever your players deposit into their machines.  The sum of that match is then donated to the charity of choice.

You’ve addressed your customer’s need (again, to win something), met it (entry tickets), and then topped it by giving the customer a feel good opportunity to donate to a worthy cause.  And, by running the program over the course of several Wednesdays, you’ll experience a nice uptick in activity for what is usually a slow time of the week for play.  By speaking to your customer’s altruistic side you’ve increased the likelihood that customer will return on successive Wednesdays to win something for themselves and, at the same time, support a good cause.

Speaking to your players’ needs and exceeding their expectations is really the key to acquiring loyal players.  Use the information you have from past successful promotions to gain insight into what motivates your players making the decision to game with you.  A firm understanding of their needs and knowing what makes them tick – combined with a healthy dose of creativity – assures you’ll provide experiences that make your players want to come back for more.