Offering free things, be it toppings or a pizza that’s delivered to your house or free sample of conditioner when you buy a giant bottle of shampoo, have been a part of business for decades. Wall Drug, in Wall, SD, has been giving customers free ice water since the turn of the century.
These perks draw customers in and give them an opportunity to try a new product from your catalog and possibly buy it in the future, get a good deal on a product to create loyalty to your brand in the future, or even just get a customer in the front door for the possibility of a sale.
And as social networking and social media become a greater part of our daily lives, it creates a new avenue for retailers to present their goods, and manage their brands. Let’s take a look at one of the big icons of ‘free,’ Las Vegas.
The city of sin is known for free rooms, free buffets, free show tickets, free drinks, and other goodies to keep customers in the hotels and spending money. Free drinks on the gambling floor (with cocktail waitresses often walking the floor where the ‘high rollers’ are more often than the lower-betting clients) is a staple of the gambling scene. Those high rollers who spend thousands in a night? They’re often comped with free rooms or room upgrades. Rumors of people who lose everything often come with a free plane ticket home attached.
Free things are as iconic of Las Vegas as betting it all and losing it all. Enter the loyalty programs. Every major casino has some sort of loyalty program; the idea is that the more you gamble and the more you spend, the more points you get, and the more comps you can redeem. Some chains of hotels share a loyalty program (Caesars Entertainment has Total Rewards, and MGM Resorts has M life), whereas individual hotels, like LVH and the Cosmopolitan, have specialty programs (LVH Player’s Club and Identity, respectively).
These loyalty programs were quick to adopt the Internet as a way for users to monitor and redeem their points through web sites and online catalogs for whatever ‘free’ goodies they choose, be it discount room rates or that cheesy ‘Viva Las Vegas’ keychain. However, integration with Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites fell behind.
So, what’s a multi-million dollar chain of hotels to do? Build a new type of loyalty program, obviously! Enter Topguest, the check-in orientated loyalty system. Topguest takes a customer’s usual actions: checking in on Facebook, FourSquare, and the like, and applying a certain number of free points to your associated loyalty rewards programs.Checking in to your hotel while on Facebook? Here’s some points. Relaxing by the pool and tweeting? Have some points. Logging in to FourSquare while checking bags at your favorite airline? Have some points.
Topguest runs as a simple application built in to the basic web sites, and simply forwards the data of who you are, who you’re with, and where you are to the companies using their program. After all, the chain probably wants to know why you’re staying in their rooms, but spending all your gambling money down the street at a different hotel.
Topguest isn’t the only social networking based program for loyalty out there; Caesar’s Entertainment utilizes their own social loyalty program through California company Social Rewards. (Social Rewards is also the company behind Screen Rewards, a location-based movie rewards program.) MGM Resorts features their ever-popular myVEGAS.
Social Rewards uses a combination of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to increase public appearance for the end consumer. By awarding points for sharing Facebok updates, retweeting tweets on Twitter, or watching videos on YouTube, Social Rewards allows certain information to be presented front and center to the end client. Beyond that, Social Rewards creates a dialogue between big brands and the consumers by awarding points for answering certain questions in their Q&A program.
myVEGAS, MGM Mirage’s program, takes a much different approach. By creating a virtual slots program through Facebook, the customer starts spinning slots on Facebook (and hopefully breaking some habits to start betting higher while on their properties). Red ‘cash coins’ are bet, earned, and spent playing slots and table games, with the reward being yellow ‘loyalty coins’ while you play. These loyalty coins can then be redeemed for various rewards, be it show tickets, free rooms, free food, drinks, or even upgrades and perks like VIP entry or bottle service to night clubs.
How do these big brands and programs stop abuse? Topguest is considered ‘members only,’ and Social Rewards requires a certain Klout score before they allow Twitter to be merged with their program. myVEGAS has limitations on how many rewards can be redeemed in a certain time period. These three approaches help to minimize abuse, and therefore minimize overhead and costs, while maximizing the ROI from the programs while their customers and clients begin a conscious effort of thinking about the brand.
Can’t wait to get started?
Click here to sign up for Topguest. As of June 2014, Topguest has been discontinued and is now a part of SwitchFly
Already using Topguest, Social Rewards, or MyVegas? Know of another social networking loyalty program? Share your experiences below!
A special thank you goes out to Tina Potila Terhark for her feedback to get the correct formatting for the M life and myVEGAS names.