Older people and the age-old pastime of bingo have been intrinsically linked for some time. Whilst some would spend time at the ballroom having a dance and others down the bookies, the bingo club is widely recognized as the grand daddy of all the pastimes that time was supposed to forget. This being the case is perhaps why bingo has been the one side of the gaming industry that has been most resistant to embrace change.
Mecca Bingo is one firm that has a rich history in the land-based game thanks to their parent company Rank. Bingo halls account for 1 million of the brand’s punters and Angus Nisbet, brand director for Meccabingo.com, explained to CalvinAyre.com the main challenge in fact doesn’t involve the customers at all – it’s all about getting the clubs themselves on board.
“It might sound cheesy but we need to take them on the journey with us,” Nisbet admitted.
Nisbet explained there are three ways that Mecca goes about this with the most effective involving them giving clubs money.
“It works similar to an affiliate program in that for anyone that joins online, the individual club gets a 30 percent revenues share. This means it doesn’t go into a central marketing pot and is more attractive to the club,” Nisbet said.
Other alternatives to this include converting workers into customers themselves and lastly letting the club know that “15 to 20 percent are playing online anyway” so promoting it won’t be taking away their business.
Mecca has become one of Rank Interactive’s best performing brands with sustained growth of 22.4 percent from 2009 to the end of 2011. The company’s annual report identifies the “cross-selling to Mecca Bingo club customers” as one of the main reasons for this success – a sign that the strategy is indeed working.
Advertising and promotion are given as another two factors that have contributed to the continued successful performance and this, according to Nisbet, is a big change to how things used to be.
“We are looking to be on TV all the time, which is a seismic shift as two years ago we weren’t even on TV at all,” said Nisbet.
The resistance to change isn’t only evident amongst the club workers and bingo hustlers though. Mobile as a platform is currently revolutionizing the gambling industry with sports books regularly posting treble digit percentage increases in the amount of money they garner from it. Bingo has been slow to adapt to this and as such Mecca’s app store offering is one of the only ones around right now. Over recent months the number transacting via a mobile device has mushroomed to “20 percent” and left Mecca as a leader.
“The sector as a whole has been slow to pick up on it as a result not that many firms have a decent mobile product,” Nisbet added.
It’s obvious that once others jump on board it will improve but being the first one is always an enviable position to be in. This is of course as long as the product is a good one and as Nisbet puts it “you get your brand into as many places as possible” and it’s more than likely that success will follow.
If Mecca continues take what it calls a “unified approach” to their customers and “treat them as one” there’s no reason their success in the bingo won’t continue. With the large pool of land-based punters and a good online strategy, including mobile, this could remain the mecca for bingo customers for some time.