Driving long-term retention in an evolving sector

Suren Azatyan, XCaliber head of sales and marketing, examines how an online casino can keep players coming back in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

It would not be overstating things to say that we are in the midst of a genuine period of evolution in the online casino space. Barely a week goes by without the promise of a ‘game-changing’ new innovation, be that a fresh twist on a traditional formula like video slots and live casino, or a new approach to more targeted player messaging.

For online casino operators, keeping pace with a sector that has its collective foot on the accelerator presents a distinct set of challenges. With so many operators vying for that all-important ‘eyeball-time’ of a global player-base spoiled for choice, the need to drive differentiation and set their offering apart from the crowd has never been more acute.

The landing pages of many online casinos frequently greet players with similar layouts and games, and if players are to keep coming back, there needs to be more in store for them than an untargeted selection of games, prizes and customer messaging.

Understanding achievement
Gamification is a term that has had a great deal of air time in the egaming business in recent years, and with a great deal of justification. Many industry conventions have been full of stands, panel discussions and Q&As dedicated to the topic, and the issue of how to deliver an enhanced level of player engagement is a challenging and much-discussed one.

The word ‘gamification’ has something of a throwaway feel to it, eliciting the notion of bells and whistles tacked on to a video slot or casino game with limited consideration of how it drives or impacts the overall gameplay experience. However, a considered and well-delivered strategy can provably enhance the online casino experience that an operator delivers to players, helping to acquire players and see them retained on a long-term basis.

With this in mind, XCaliber recently launched our all-new achievements functionality, offering an enhanced set of features for casino operators aiming to give players more bang for their buck. Enabling the tracking of player activity in a more considered manner than the traditional monetary model, the engine assigns experience points to any event that occurs within the incumbent platform and sets a goal for the accumulation of those points, or in other words, an achievement.

These run the full length and breadth of a player’s every interaction with the casino. Even something as simple as logging into the casino leads to the award of a point. For example, with 10 logins the player earns an achievement, which incentivises that player to continue returning to the casino.

An additional layer of involvement and interactivity is ideal for any online casino operator aiming to enhance their long-term retention efforts. Progression levels are a core example of this, and tying these into in-game rewards or temporary boosts is a great way to retain customers and keep them coming back. By way of example, players can achieve multipliers for playing a particular game a number of times, while multipliers can also be attached to the amount that players deposit. Furthermore, the XCaliber achievements functionality can trigger bonuses when any achievement is unlocked, which opens up all manner of creative possibilities when it comes to bonusing. A player that has logged into a casino 50 times could earn extra free spins, or free spins on a game like Starburst for a player that has won €100 on that game.

In short, a smartly-implemented achievements functionality/system can significantly amplify the experience that players have when playing at an online casino, providing them with a series of smaller goals to work towards rewards and prizes rather than simply betting in the same manner that they always have. Casinos that can guarantee a source of engagement and enjoyment on top of regular wins and jackpots stand a greater chance of long-term success.

Such a framework puts operators in control of a greater degree of their player retention efforts, and the technology powering it is malleable to the needs of different operators and target markets, thereby empowering operators to deliver a truly bespoke and targeted experience.

Pulling in one direction
It is important that the implementation of such a system is complemented and reinforced by the back-end platform powering the casino. Joined-up thinking is essential. For example, the success of a robust achievements system can be boosted by efficiently applied real-time customer messaging, sending players a targeted push notification unique to them about an offer relevant to one of their most-played games.

At XCaliber, we debuted our Responsive Framework (codenamed XCAF) to achieve this very objective. Powered by a modern front-end framework in Angular, and a fully optimised API using GraphQL, the XCAF Responsive Framework allows operators to run custom campaigns across all casino channels tailored to individual customers. Promoting a seamless customer journey is one of our core priorities, and the new technology is highly efficient, using a single lobby with intelligent data to deliver games matched to a customer’s device and preferences, and it enables operators to continuously deliver high quality products from inception to market in less time.

The solution also enables mix and matching promotions with our game lobbies, while we recently enhanced our voucher functionality to enable more creative player reward scenarios.

For any provider, having these systems join up to provide operators with a cohesive whole is vital, and it is key to have this consideration front-of-mind when building a successful online casino.

Streamlined data services within the platform powering an online casino translate into a smoother experience for the player, which in turn serves to make that casino more appealing and competitive in what has become a bustling and crowded marketplace. With an ever-growing number of operators vying for market share, bringing to market the kind of differentiation that can drive margins on the business side and enjoyment on the playing side is crucial, and offering an enhanced, gamified product backed up by robust technology will stand providers and operators in good stead for what the future holds.

Suren Azatyan is head of sales and marketing at XCaliber, and is an experienced egaming and technology executive with a proven track record for delivering innovation and implementing commercial growth strategies. He joined XCaliber in June 2017, having previously held senior positions at EveryMatrix and BetConstruct.