Turning Big Data into Actionable Data

Why Gaming Properties Should Bet on Analytics

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | October 05, 2014

In a Gartner survey on CIO technology priorities conducted last year, 55 percent of CIOs cited big data and analytics as the technologies they thought were most likely to be disruptive.(1) This trend has continued into 2014 and many businesses, including gaming companies, are looking to information as the next frontier for competitive differentiation. Data has been critical to building market advantage for a long time, but until recently, most gaming companies focused almost exclusively on player value databases to guide differentiation strategies. Organizations no longer have this luxury. Many markets face new competition as more neighboring jurisdictions allow gambling, and the emerging generation of patrons has shown a strong preference for a more diverse experience that includes much less time on the casino floor and more time in upgraded accommodations, spas, show theaters, full service restaurants, poolside, and other attractions. These aspects of the experience can still drive high margins, some arguably even higher than gaming; but achieving this result requires harnessing data sources from many more departments, several of which often live in disparate systems and do not necessarily capture a guest's every transaction. In attempting to leverage all of this data, today's gaming businesses are in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information without a defined plan for how and where to utilize it.

The gaming industry is looking for new solutions to simplify information and enable accessibility for everyone, which are the first steps in transitioning from simply data to actionable data. An IBM study found that key executives spend 70 percent of their time finding data and only 30 percent analyzing it.(2) Organizations turned to technology to collect this information in the first place, so they must look to technology again to spend less time searching and more time deriving exploitable insights for their enterprise.

In today's gaming industry, collecting and analyzing real-time data can help properties to improve operations and customer service. However, many companies experience technology-related challenges that prevent them from fully utilizing the data that is aggregated. For example, at most properties the IT department controls business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools out of necessity because the tools are too complex for the average employee to use effectively. This means reporting and analysis is limited and often conducted only at the recommendation of c-level decision-makers. Another frequent roadblock is the lack of integration. With disparate systems, it is difficult to obtain a unified view across the business, meaning that data analysis is often segmented and lacking in visibility. Employees make decisions in isolation without consideration for how the actions of other departments might impact their results, simply because they do not have access to a single version of the truth.

With these challenges in mind, technology vendors are developing new, innovative BI applications designed to help gaming companies maximize the full potential of their data. BI and analytics tools are becoming less complex and increasingly user friendly, with critical information displayed in easily consumable charts, graphs and dashboards. This enables gaming properties to provide more users with access to these applications, eliminating the restriction of reporting and analysis capabilities to just the IT department. Equipping employees across multiple business units with a user-friendly BI application changes its role from a resource for the few to a resource for the masses. Additionally, technology providers who offer a flexible, lightweight middle-ware component give gaming companies the opportunity to integrate existing business applications with a BI platform. Creating a unified solution allows organizations to compile data from multiple sources, enabling more in-depth analysis that is based on property-wide visibility.

When effective analytics initiatives are implemented using a BI application that is both user friendly and integrated across business systems, gaming properties can realize a multitude of benefits. By delivering information to employees when and where it is needed, properties can increase productivity by reducing the amount of time users spend looking for data. This helps to prevent errors and allows employees to spend time on more value-add tasks. Access to critical information also enables faster response times across many departments. Further, analysis of this information can help organizations to pinpoint issues or take a proactive approach by foreseeing challenges before they arise.

Most importantly, BI and analytics initiatives can help casinos to achieve a superior level of customer service by enhancing marketing, sales and support efforts for not just gaming, but for all new revenue opportunities they must now embrace with increased vigor. By collecting and organizing information on each guest, casino properties can create a single record of patrons detailing their history with the organization and frequency of visits, as well as likes and dislikes. Using a predictive analytics tool, properties can then drill down into information to identify behavior patterns, giving marketers the visibility to foresee which promotional offers would be most successful with a particular group of customers. Delivering personalized offers that take individual guest preferences into account are more likely to elicit a positive response, thus increasing revenue and maximizing the potential of each interaction. To ensure these personalized offers are aligned with the goals of the rest of the business, they should be presented during need periods that were scientifically forecast and priced by a revenue management system that is also taking a holistic view of all revenue sources.

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