Better New Customer Offers

Last time I discussed some of the irresponsible and ineffective new customer promotions commonly offered by the gambling industry. I also promised my review of better alternatives would be shorter and more interesting. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but here goes!

Enhanced Odds: A sportsbook favourite is to offer juicy one-off prices for new bettors. Due to the gambliness of my browser cookies I see a lot of these promotions, and I’m frequently tempted. It’s a nice clean format with an obvious value proposition which, importantly, requires the customer to put their own money at risk. Feel free to visit the last blog to learn why that’s important.

If I’m being picky, the level of uncertainty and reward does throw the customer in at the dopamine deep end, which is potentially addictive. It also sets unrealistic expectations of the prices an inexperienced customer will be able to get after the special offer. Overall though it ticks the important responsibility boxes and has my reluctant seal of approval.

Deposit Match: This is the simplest and most flexible of new customer carrots – I deposit $20, you give me $20 more to play with. When we first implemented this offer at PokerStars it was exactly that.

The size and shape of the reward can be customised and the eligibility requirements can be tweaked depending on your budget/generosity. In the decade since we trialled it, that’s exactly what all the big poker operators have done. Sadly, while they still present it with simplicity, beneath the surface lies a grotty reality.

It is now common practice to drip feed the matched reward in daily morsels over the first week of play. Almost invariably, those rewards force the customer into the most addictive games offered where the skill level is negligible, the game speed is fast and the prizes/variance are high.

Here are some Unsurprising Responsible Gambling Rules for Dummies:

  1. Don’t ask your customers to play every day.
  2. Don’t force your customers to play your most evil products.
  3. Don’t act like you’re offering one thing, then provide something much worse.

And now, at last, my infamous…

Money Back Guarantee: Make a first deposit of up to $50 and if you’re not happy for any reason (within 30 days), send an email and get your money back. You could cash it out or play with the funds with no restrictions.

I took 30,000 accounts and randomly assigned them into three equal groups: Money Back Guarantee, the regular $600 first deposit bonus and no offer at all. I ran the test for around ten days.

Surprisingly, the latter two groups performed identically, with around fifty deposits from each. I appreciate the sample size is small, but that result suggests big rebate-style bonuses do not work. Or perhaps it demonstrates the diminishing returns of hammering a customer repeatedly with the same offer.

The first group yielded 150 conversions, so it was three times more effective. Conversion rates in gambling are stubbornly unresponsive, so a needle-mover like this should have been cause for great celebration. Instead there was panic, recriminations and the whole thing was buried. Pourqoui?

Well, I knew that if I pitched the MBG to my line management they would kneejerk naysay without hearing the concept in full. So, I just designed and launched it in secret. The cat only escaped the bag when I informed Customer Support to refer the refund cases directly to me for tracking purposes.

So it was my fault this never went any further, but I’m going to blame Isai. Learning to ask forgiveness and not permission is another lesson I learned from him. Although to be fair he played the forgiveness game at much higher stakes.

I should say at this point that I took precautions. The MBG was offered only to existing accounts that were still active at least two weeks after sign-up. That tends to rule out the fraudsters that just create accounts and leave them fallow for later mischief. I also limited this just to the UK, because cynically I knew the majority would be too polite to say they were unsatisfied and claim the refund*.

I like this offer because it shows money-where-your-mouth-is faith in the quality of your product, and that’s very re-assuring to customers that are wavering over a deposit. It’s not flashy, risky, complicated or mis-leading. Lovely.

That said, if I did it again I’d re-frame it to be more user friendly. I’d call it The Mulligan (a golf term for when you get another shot without facing a penalty) and just let people claim a second go when they go bust. Structurally it’s the same offer, but crucially it does not require the customer to cast aspersions, real or imagined, to get their cash back.

The 10×10 Program: The deposit match offer I would like to see trialled is very much a long run play. It requires the operator to match the deposit in 10% increments every 10 days. The only proviso is that the customer log in and play at least once per ten-day period.

The benefits for the consumer are obvious, but this format also has three selling points for the operator. Firstly, the extended duration of the offer means wastage is inevitable – a minority will claim the full reward over 100 days. Secondly there is a big window to identify and punish malicious actors, meaning you can offer higher rewards without fear of fraud.

Thirdly, the spacing of the reward means there is ample opportunity for strategic reminder messaging. If good CRM systems are in place, you have 100 days to build customer relations.

I think you could offer this up to $250 (with $25 reward chunks) and get enormous take-up. Your costs would be high, but you would also have an army of happy loyal long-term customers telling all their friends. It’s worth a try on a small scale.

*Only 3 of 150 people claimed their money back for a total cost of $120. That’s a good ROI.

Bobby’s Bets

I had a couple of quid each on Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy to win the snooker. Both gave me good entertainment value so it was well spent money lost. I’m now back in the UK and quarantining at my folks’ house, so probably limited gambling. I’ll try to use the time constructively and write more instead.

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