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Harrah's runs mobile loyalty pilot for Rio property

Harrah's Entertainment Inc. is using mobile marketing to target personalized promotions to opted-in guests at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The company tapped interactive and database marketing firm Acxiom Corp. and its Acuity Mobile technology partner to provide real-time offers, property information and Total Rewards Club loyalty points balance to Rio guests on their mobile phones.

"From a customer's perspective, it's really enhancing their experience -- how can we make their experience better every time they come to the Rio or any Harrah's property," said Neal Narayani, senior manager of mobile marketing at Harrah's, Las Vegas.

Harrah's is the world's largest casino operator worldwide, with brands such as Caesars, Horseshoe, London Clubs International and its eponymous casino chain. The company also owns the World Series of Poker.

The foray into mobile is key for a casino giant such as Harrah's that banks on its loyalty rewards program members for repeat business. Adding mobile extends the reach of the Total Rewards program.

Mobile gets seat at table
As the pilot program at Rio shows, mobile also helps fill seats.

"We have a certain amount of perishable inventory, things like show tickets and restaurant reservations, that drive more value if fully utilized," Mr. Narayani said.

"If show tickets go unused, there's no value to either us or our customers," he said.

"The challenge is really how to identify when that inventory is available and how do you connect to the customer -- and mobile is perfect for that."

Acxiom, Little Rock, AR, has put together multilayer mobile programs for SMS texted offers using its Impact-X Mobile platform that is powered by Acuity Mobile's technology.

For example, Rio guests can text RIO to the 227466 (CASINO) short code to opt in for offers. A return text will confirm that the opted-in guest will receive four offers for the next four days.

A typical Rio's guests stays four days at the property, hence the four-day limit for offers.

In addition to those steps, guests can also opt-in to download the Rio Text-Offers mobile application. The first text dynamically generates links to download the application or WAP.

Essentially, users can pull information as well as receive offers from property restaurants, shows and entertainment through their stay. They can also check their Total Rewards points balance and status on the mobile site.

"The objective here was to get folks to opt-in and register with the program in order to get access to the offers and benefits, so we did not orient it to be a standalone mobile Web offering," said Alan R. Sultan, president of Acuity Mobile.

"The offering can be easily converted, if needed," he said.

Harrah's claims it is following all privacy safeguards and consumer best practice recommended by the Mobile Marketing Association.

"This mobile marketing program can serve as both an on-ramp for new customers to become highly brand-engaged, loyal customers as well as provide valuable loyalty offers to keep Harrah's rewards members happy," said Josh Herman, digital marketing innovation leader at Acxiom.

Totaling rewards
Guests and players are informed about the mobile program at the Total Rewards desk, via promotional cards with their check-in information and through Rio staff informing customers if they are waiting to check into the hotel.

On-property signage and signage around other Harrah's Las Vegas hotel casinos such as Flamingo, Bally's and Paris will add to the awareness of the mobile program.

"We really want to attract the ones who are physically located on the property," Mr. Narayani said.

The Rio mobile program went live two weeks ago. Mr. Narayani is not sure about the duration of the program.

"It really depends on the results," Mr. Narayani said. "We have a 120-day time-line, but that's completely subjective to results. It's really early, but the results look really promising."

Mr. Narayani would not disclose any numbers.

The Rio project comes more than seven months after Harrah's Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel in Iowa began a pilot program using mobile marketing to last year's Stir Concert series (see story).

Harrah's picked Catchwind LLC's mobile marketing platform to reach concertgoers with information and reminders on new shows, as well as register them for discounts and promotions via text messaging. It could also send and track mobile coupons, host contests and enable voting through text messaging.

The effort with the Rio property almost mirrors the Council Bluffs initiative.

As Acxiom's Mr. Herman sees it, the Rio pilot is meant to provide a great customer experience -- so critical in the hospitality and entertainment industries.

"They're doing this by capitalizing on the strengths of database-driven mobile marketing to get the most relevant and timely offer to the customer most likely to find value from it," Mr. Herman said.

"This will continue to grow and fortify Harrah's loyal customer base and do it by extending the ROI of their investment in their database marketing and loyalty infrastructure with one of the most cost-efficient communication channels available," he said.