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Maybe the House Never Loses, but Some Houses Win More Than Others

The online gaming space is big enough for both nice and mega brands to coexist. But do you know what makes one operator more successful than another? Well, we do – and it has everything to do with how mature the operator is when it comes to personalization


Gaming operators constantly look for ways to stand out and ensure that they’re ahead of the competition by finding ways to differentiate themselves. However, the foundations of successful gaming operators all boil down to the same components. Working with the leading gaming operators in the industry for over a decade, including Entain, Penn National, and Funstage, Optimove has identified three main strategic initiatives, pictured below, that all operators need to excel at to achieve success.

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The top two layers, Table Steaks, and Positioning are those that operators need to consider before releasing their brand name and product to the market. The bottom layer, the Differentiators, is where Optimove has identified an operator should invest heavily in, once they’ve established their brand, in order to stay ahead of the competition.

The Table Stakes

To become a viable entity in the gaming market, operators need to start by covering the Table Stakes, complying with regulations, offering competitive bonuses and promotions, and facilitating a frictionless gaming experience.

As new regions legalize and standardize online gaming, they apply different regulatory restrictions that operators need to adhere to.

The next two “table stakes” refer to an operator’s efforts to attract players in the first place. First, operators need to create a frictionless gaming experience, making it intuitive to interact with their products. Then, since the gaming industry is heavily saturated, operators tend to offer competitive bonuses and promotions. However, operators need to find the right balance between providing players competitive promotions and not enabling bonus abusers to reduce profit cannibalization.

The Positioning

To define themselves and create their identity, operators need to establish their Positioning – by offering exceptional products and determining where they will be along the scale from niche to mega-brand.

The variety of products an operator has will influence which players they attract and help them identify which products they would like to add to their portfolio in the future.

The type of products an operator offers will often also affect their size. Some operators will be heavily invested in growing their product and player-base, acquiring smaller operators along with their products and players, creating a mega brand. Other operators may focus on providing their own products, creating a unique experience for their players, often resulting in a smaller but more loyal audience, resulting in a niche brand.

The space is ample enough for both ends of the spectrum to succeed.

The Differentiators

The final layer is the Differentiators – Responsible Gaming, Personalized Communications, and VIP Programs.

This is where operators should invest most of their efforts once they’ve established the first two levels. Excelling at their Differentiators will allow operators to maximize their efforts, optimize the player experience and maximize their lifetime value.

Operators will typically divide into three maturity levels for each component that compose the Differentiator level – basic, competitive, and advanced.

The more mature an operator is in each component, the more likely they are to be successful in acquiring and retaining players.

Responsible Gaming

As more regions legalize gaming, authorities apply heavier scrutiny into an operator’s approach towards responsible gaming.

At the same time, operators are putting more emphasis on socially responsible gaming for two reasons – the first being around its morality, while the second is that socially responsible players have a higher retention rate and future value.

Following are the three maturity levels of an operator regarding responsible gaming:

Basic – Providing players the ability to self-exclude at any time. This is typically also the most rudimentary requirement of most regulated regions.

Competitive – Exploring the various attributes that players demonstrate before self-excluding. By creating a segment of customers who self-excluded, operators can identify suspicious attributes to try and mitigate them and reduce the number of players who become at-risk players (which isn’t good for anyone).

Advanced – Implementing a machine learning algorithm that helps operators predict which players are likely to become at-risk ahead of time. An algorithm also allows operators to differentiate between at-risk and VIP players, who often share a few similar attributes.

Personalized Communications

Personalization is a critical element when it comes to providing exceptional experiences. Players expect them, and operators who can facilitate them encourage behaviors that lead to higher lifetime value.

To communicate in a personalized manner, using coarse segmentation will no longer be due. Instead, operators need to become surgical in creating micro-segments and identifying the right incentives to deliver to each player.

Following are the three maturity levels of an operator when they begin implementing personalized communications:

Basic – Segmenting players into lifecycle stages. Lifecycle stages are mutually exclusive segments, allowing operators to determine each player’s stage on the customer journey and set the objective that would be most relevant to each.

Competitive – Adding segmentation layers to the lifecycle stages creating smaller, more homogenous groups to surface valuable insights. These insights influence the marketing strategy and produce strategic engagement opportunities for operators to personalize their communications.

Advanced – Leveraging AI to surface valuable engagement opportunities and flawlessly orchestrate hundreds of campaigns.

A potential challenge is that the more engagement opportunities an operator has, the more likely it will deliver cross-firing campaigns and cause messaging fatigue. But, by incorporating an AI algorithm that identifies the next-best campaign, operators can maximize their player’s lifetime value at scale – avoiding such cross-firing and overloading of messages and campaigns.

VIP Programs

VIP programs are as invaluable to the gaming operators as they are for their players, as the top 5% of players generate 68% of their revenue!

To retain these profits, operators need to provide superior experiences to their VIP players. To maximize players’ lifetime value, operators need to identify their VIPs accurately and find ways to reward them without cannibalizing their profits.

Following are the three maturity levels of an operator in their approach to VIP programs:

Basic – Defining fixed thresholds to identifying VIPs. By dividing players into value- and frequency-based tiers, operators can determine the betting and frequency of their top players – thus identifying the “best” ones.

Competitive – Applying k-means cluster analysis allows operators to remove the reliance on rigid thresholds and empowers them to update VIP tiers continuously.

This method allows operators to detect seasonal changes, industry trends and react to them on the fly.

Advanced – Customizing the player experience from A to Z, as offering high bonuses and promotions is not the only way operators attract and reward their players.

By integrating a website personalization engine to their CRM Marketing Hub, operators can customize marketing campaigns and on-site experience, exposing exclusive products or betting opportunities to VIPs while on-site and avoiding heavy promotion loads.

To wrap it up, as gaming operators look for ways to stand out of the pack, focusing and optimizing the basics will give them the competitive advantage they are looking for.

While the foundational elements may be the same, reaching higher maturity levels on the Differentiator level will propel marketers to maximize their player retention and lifetime value.

Contact us to learn more about how Optimove helps the leading gaming operators optimize their player retention and lifetime value.

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Gabriella Laster

Gabriella Laster is Product Marketing Manager at Optimove, responsible for prospect marketing and product messaging. Gabriella holds a B.A. in International Relations and English Literature and an Executive MBA from Hebrew University.