Developing multi-channel convergence is a long-term but essential journey for operators, Simon Beacham, the Head of E-Gaming at Rank, told attendees at the International Casino Conference (ICC). Speaking at the Hippodrome Casino in London today (Monday), Beacham acknowledged that the convergence process had been “a journey of discovery” for Rank, which has a long-established retail division through the Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos brands in the UK.
However, he underlined the rewards of an effective strategy, with research indicating that the average revenue uplift per multi-channel customer is 38 per cent. “We’re on the journey, but this is a process that takes time,” Beacham said. “We are developing, and ultimately leading to a single wallet. However, Rank has been around over 70 years, so the legacy systems online and in retail when we started this journey were not compatible.” Beacham outlined how Rank’s Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos retail income currently dwarf the brands’ online counterparts.
However, he noted that of 1.8 million casino-ready retail customers, some 75 per cent have a smartphone and between 15 per cent and 20 per cent already play online – although not necessarily with Rank. Operators rarely identify cost or a lack of funds as a challenge of multi-channel convergence, though, with incompatible technologies highlighted as the top problem. According to Beacham, a history of “not talking”, an inadequate network capacity, a lack of skills and systems to handle big data and the wariness of retail casino management of online are also important obstacles. “The dot-com marketplace is still crowded, and differentiating from the masses is difficult,” he added.
“Retaining customers is also tough as they have an average lifespan of less than 90 days. Customers – particularly online –can be disloyal and susceptible to better marketing offers. Any perceived barriers to play are also a big turn-off, so you have to get things like registration processes right.” Beacham underlined the idea that convergence cannot happen overnight. “My view is that multi-channel will come to all markets in the fullness of time,” he added. “But it may take years and there are protectionist issues in some jurisdictions to overcome. “Convergence is crucial, with generation X and Y customers expecting to consume gaming without barriers.
“In the beginning we made sure our wifi in retail establishments was robust, and we soon found out that an integrated loyalty proposition between retail and online was a must. “A joined-up approach between different business units is crucial, and a single view of the customer is the end game and the goal.” Beacham acknowledged that the journey to the “end game” though was still ongoing for Rank.
“Hand on heart, we’re not there yet,” he said. “However, the process does bring you brand loyalty, and branding the online ‘live casino’ offer has increased customer engagement dramatically. “Established retail operators are less agile than purely web-based gaming providers, but the long-term impact of the Point of Consumption tax might level the playing field.”