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All I Want After Christmas: Going Places with December’s Traffic

The last month of the year always looks good on your books, but what about getting some long-term uplift from it? Optimove’s research shows how big of a mistake it is to have a structured acquisition plan with no retention backup

Christmas – not only a time to spend with your family and loved ones, sharing the warmth by the tree and the overall feeling of hope and new beginnings. It’s also the time for festivities, clearly and repeatedly demonstrated by the sports and gaming industries.

Football leagues around the world enjoy the craziness of four rounds of fixtures in 10 days, drawing many bettors. Gaming and casino websites re-brand themselves and launch special games and promotions to match the holiday spirit and attract players. A lot of money is spent in this industry to attract new players – and it usually brings the results needed. But – one must ask – do gaming and betting operators know how to preserve all that goodness? Can it be done? What is the cost? Optimove’s researchers conducted an analysis on 10 various multi-product operators in the gaming industry to try and answer these questions.

December the Great

It’s obvious that December leads and that it is an important month for any company. The three graphs below showcase that fact well. We looked at number of deposits per player, deposit amounts per player, and number of activity days, all compared to the yearly average (Data is for 2017).

In December you can see a 10%, 14% and 7% increase, respectively, compared to the yearly average. Not only that, in all three cases December was also the best performing month.

Have a look at the first graph: The number of deposits per player was highest in December during 2017 – 10% above the year average.

In the second graph, December was the month with the highest deposit amounts per depositor: 14% more than the yearly average.

In the third graph, the number of activity days varies between seven to 13, depending on the brand, but the average showed an increase of almost 8% in December compared to the year’s average.

Retention on the Ropes

From the graphs above we can clearly see a spike in player activity during December, but can we deduce these players are more valuable? When analyzing the monthly retention rate for 2017, we can see that with no correlation to the high deposit amounts, number of deposits and frequency, the retention rate stays the same – Around the yearly average. In the following graphs, you’ll see the percentage of active players who stayed active in the following month, for example – only 69% of active players in December 2017 stayed active in January 2018.

So, how is this possible, how can we see a decrease in retention rate from November to December? Why don’t more customers with stronger monetary value stay with these brands during January?

The Problem with OTDs

The reason is simple. During Christmas festivities, a lot of one-time depositors drop by, and many of them tend not to keep on betting when the holidays are over. The graph below shows the average retention rate by the number of deposits each month.

When breaking the retention rate by the number of deposit bins and comparing the retention rates to the last six months, we can see almost no drop for customers with more than 10 deposits, a drop of 1% for customers with five-10 deposits and a 4% drop for the one-timers.

We went deeper with this analysis and split the players into two groups – players who made a deposit in the previous month and players who didn’t. The same story unveiled.

Although the differences seem minor, for operators with massive client bases, changes percentages can have a significant effect. From the trend above we can see that customers who had activity on a certain month but had no deposit on the month before, will have a lower retention rate in comparison to customers who have deposited a month earlier. Among these players, we can find the new depositors (~20% of the group) and the reactivated players who weren’t active in a while (~80%). In our case, this group is players who were active during December and didn’t deposit in November and had only 51% retention rate.

Stay Close to Their Hearts

Having all this traffic in December is good for your December books, but what about the long-term uplift? It’s easy to understand that customers that were active during December but weren’t before, will have a negative impact on your January’s retention charts. These players are way more vulnerable and will most likely churn right after Christmas. Investing heavily in acquiring them, but not in retaining them, is a wrong marketing strategy altogether.

Don’t be discouraged, there’s plenty you can do:

  1. Gamified campaigns: Create a CRM strategy for December’s one-timers. Try to encourage players to increase their engagement through gamified campaigns and attractive ‘post-Christmas’ offers.
  2. Segment and conquer: Target players differently, based on their previous activities – New players should be welcomed with enhanced offers compared to active players.
  3. Prevent churn: Based on the simple methods described here, find players in risk of churn and try to prevent it. For example, sports players who didn’t visit your site one week after Boxing Day should raise a flag. Send them an offer ASAP.
  4. Show players you’re in it for the long term: Keep communicating with them after the holiday season using the same ‘voice’. You can keep the offers’ templates and extend the holiday spirit. New Year’s cycle can be a nice idea for that kind of marketing series. Be creative.
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Omer Liss

Omer Liss is Optimove's Director of Strategic Services, helping CRM executives of top online entertainment and e-commerce businesses optimize their customer retention strategy. Omer has vast experience consulting clients, analyzing their customer data and revealing actionable, data-driven marketing insights. Omer holds a BSc in Industrial Engineering and Management, specializing in Information Systems.