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Connecting the Dots

28/05/2024
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The internet is allowing FECs to transform the relationship between themselves and their customers.

The proliferation of the internet means that we are all better connected than ever before, with our friends, our families, our work, where we shop and importantly for FECs, where we go for entertainment.

For arcades, bowling centers and other FECs, the internet offers the opportunity to transform the relationship between them and their customers, whether through online marketing, social media, loyalty schemes, good use of data or other techniques.

Rohan Mathur, marketing and customer support manager at Metaagrow, explained how social media is a good example of how this can be done. He said: “I have first-hand experience of witnessing how a bowling center operator can just make an announcement on social media about a new location opening and what incentive they are offering, then for a customer to walk in having seen this and then have a great time with their friends and family. All the operator has to do here is to share some nice high-quality pictures and a 30-second video that shows a lot about the experience a bowling center can offer and they get results almost immediately.” Building a brand, along with followers, is a goal of most FECs and other operators today and Andrew Parow, sales partner at Semnox, emphasized how effective use of data collection can be a very useful low-cost marketing tool.

Online connectivity allows for collection and management of a wide variety of customer information. Operators can then leverage this data to be used in targeted marketing campaigns. These campaigns can be very widespread and sent to large numbers of customers, or they can be very targeted, to appeal more strongly to a focused group based on the type of data that has been collected. By having a defined target audience, an operator can easily launch a campaign to promote their centers.

“Once the customer is in, then it comes down to one of the most important things – customer experience,” said Mathur of Metaagrow. “A lot of bowling centers take their customers’ feedback and then put it out there on their websites, social media channels and so on.
This way you can really connect well with your customers. I have recently seen a post by Dave & Buster’s on their Instagram page.
Whenever there is a big sports event, their content is all about that event with the help of memes and quirky videos that really engage very well with their audience.”

Social media platforms can really help you not only connect with your customers, but also help you understand how to engage with them, and which campaign is working and which is not. And lastly, good feedback from a customer takes you a long way in building a strong connection with them.

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Gijs Hendrix, head of product at attraction management platform Convious, agreed that utilizing online connectivity for social media engagement can help in creating a community, encouraging word-of-mouth and customer-generated content, which is invaluable for marketing. “This can all be shared to increase brand awareness and grow your reputation as a business,” he said. “We recently partnered with Immersium, Austria’s first immersive family museum and experience which opened in 2023. Using our all-in-one cloud-based platform, Immersium has been able to streamline their operations from the get go, giving visitors the opportunity to purchase and manage their booking and preferences from an online dashboard, allowing more autonomy over the booking process.”
He continued: “We partnered with indoor ski company SnowWorld to help optimize its customer experience journey. Since introducing data driven marketing and tools using our online platform it has seen their online conversion rate increase by a whopping 57 per cent. Using an online platform has given them insights into their visitor behavior and distribution across their locations, enabling them to tailor the customer journey to suit the preferences of the needs of their visitors. Online platforms also give opportunities to promote F&B and upselling. SnowWorld has seen an eight per cent increase in its average order value across its sites since migrating over to an online ticketing platform. It’s also helped to increase its overall revenue by 63 per cent.”

They also have more control over their pricing, helping to increase ticket sales and revenue with our dynamic pricing feature. This enables businesses to offer different prices to different groups of customers, based on current market conditions. For example, the ticket prices could drop on quieter days, helping to spread the influx of customers throughout the week. This has made a drastic difference in the consistency of crowd flow throughout the season, enabling SnowWorld to enhance its visitor experience by reducing the time they have to wait.

Most operators now use some form of cashless system which opens up the opportunity for data collection, allowing an operator to know more easily what their customers are looking for, what experience it should offer to them and how to make that experience better and more enjoyable for them, thus leading them to improve customer loyalty.

Cloud-based payment solutions like Embed’s Mobile Wallet has data capture capabilities, which can store consented user data that FEC operators can use to create marketing strategies, customer loyalty programs, and promotions that are tailor-fit to their guests’ wants, needs, and consumer behavior.

Online systems can capture customer contact information and share it with back-office systems such as CRM. The data can be used to offer loyalty programs and special deals direct to the customer.

Scott Sherrod, CEO of Intercard, gave an example of how going online made it possible for an FEC in Indiana, US, to offer flexible pricing and special deals for different times, days or events like birthday parties. They were also able to offer coupon and rewards promotions via email to a 20,000 plus customer from their database. Revenues quickly climbed by more than 20 per cent, due in large part to these and other programs.

Loyalty programs can be a key factor in retention of customers as Parow at Semnox explained. “These programs can offer incentives, discounts or rewards to the customer base for a future visit. All of these efforts can also be tracked, which gives the operator insight into customer behaviors. With this data the marketing and loyalty efforts can be refined to optimize marketing and loyalty programs.” For Sophie Ballinger, project coordinator at business management system company FuseMetrix, using an online system to manage marketing efforts is a “no-brainer.” Software products like FuseMetrix’s Marketing Hub empower operators to conduct all marketing activities within one centralized system.
Ballinger said: “By automating marketing processes, through products like FuseMetrixs Marketing Hub, operators can ensure that customers are consistently informed without unnecessary hassle. Operators can leverage customer data and preferences stored in the system to filter their audience, target specific customer groups, and deliver personalized marketing campaigns.”

These systems can also enable operators to send automated email campaigns, bulk emails and SMS, among other things. These user-friendly marketing initiatives help operators stay proactively engaged with their customers, promoting special offers, upselling additional services, and driving customer loyalty. “With automations within systems like the Marketing Hub, operators can nurture customer relationships consistently, minimizing labor costs while maximizing business growth,” he said.

Hendrix at Convious concurred, saying: “Platforms like ours enables personalized marketing for audience type, allowing FECs to send targeted offers or discounts, and event information based on customer preferences and behaviors.”
A bowling center or any other operator can leverage online tools to enhance their marketing strategies and customer loyalty programs effectively. By integrating digital technologies, it can attract more customers, offer personalized experiences and foster a loyal customer base. Brandon Willey, founder and CEO of promotional marketing platform Hownd, explained the how an operator can do this most effectively.

“First and foremost, your website must be user-friendly, mobile-responsive and easy to navigate, with clear calls to action for buying game cards, booking lanes, or signing up for events,” he said. “For example, putting a pop-up on your website homepage with the ability to join a birthday club or purchase a promotion will significantly increase visitor conversion.”

“Next, it is imperative to implement an online booking system for lane reservations, birthday parties and corporate events, making it convenient for customers to plan their visits. Use the online booking system to offer special rates during off-peak hours or bundle deals that include food, drinks, and games. It is also important to collect customer data like email addresses and birthdays for parents and their kids so that you can leverage that data to send personalized promotions, such as birthday offers, buy now packages or gift cards. The key with all online marketing is to maintain consistent engagement, offer value through personalized experiences and leverage data to tailor marketing efforts to customer preferences.”

Operators should also be aware that internet connectivity can also be used to enhance players’ experience of a game and encourage repeat and frequent playing of that game at a particular location. One manufacturer which has pioneered this concept is Stern Pinball, through its Insider Connected system which issues players with a unique QR code that can be used to identify that player at any connected Stern pinball machine, anywhere in the world. When a player logs into the machine, they can track their progress, earn new game specific achievements, engage with other players and participate in promotions and challenge quests. When players complete challenge quests, they receive loyalty rewards. These can be issued by operators to drive play at their locations and build player loyalty.

Zachary Sharpe director of marketing at Stern Pinball described how this helps the location/ customer relationship. “In many cases a quest requires players to play a game on location in order to accomplish the quest objectives. This directly drives players to locations with the associated games. In addition, the system has built in features such as Verified Achievements that must be achieved on location. This drives players to locations since it’s the only place to earn those achievements. Since Quests and Achievements are often specific to a game title, players must seek out those particular game titles for the accomplishments they’re chasing. Locations that have embraced the Insider Connected system have told us that earnings have increased because players are seeking out Insider Connected game features and events, especially official launch parties of our latest titles.”

So, whether it’s for marketing or promoting their venues, or encouraging customer loyalty, operators more than ever before have the opportunity to improve all of these by reaching out and staying connected with their customers.

Credits: InterGame link, Immersium Vienna