Jari Vähänen: Personalisation makes every customer happy

In his latest column for Lottery Daily, Finnish Gambling Consultants' Jari Vähänen takes a look at personalisation and why it's so important for lotteries.

Personalisation is a rising trend in the digital business. The first personalised services were built up already some 20 years ago, and a breakthrough was a matter of time. It took much more time than expected, but finally, personalisation did it. The importance of personalisation is here to stay and it’s increasing rapidly in all businesses for the moment.

As competition between companies gets tougher, personalisation provides an opportunity to stand out from the rest. In most businesses, those companies that stand out somehow from the others succeed. In the gambling and lottery business, personalisation is the perfect tool to do things differently than other companies.

Although the first attempts with personalisation were made a couple of decades ago, those were not successful. The number of contents and services was not at the level where a real personalised customer experience could be offered. There were maybe just a few possible outcomes, and that didn’t fulfil the needs of customers.

During the last 20 years, the amount of content and different possible services has exploded, and a real personalised customer experience can be offered. The critical point to make it happen has been the rapid development of AI solutions.

Using AI makes it possible to find the best-estimated contents and offerings to known customers. AI is an excellent tool because it can learn from its own mistakes and improve the given customer experience step by step.

Many lotteries and gambling companies have written their strategies to offer the best customer experience in the market. If this means that every customer has the same services offered in the same way for all, the result can’t be the best customer experience in the market. The same thing can’t work with different kinds of customers.

To offer the markets’ best customer experience, the lottery has to personalise its services to customers and create a unique feeling for the customers. Personalisation means something that makes the difference between bulk and luxurious customer experiences.

While the lottery’s basic products are very bulk overall, the offering should not be like that at all. There can be a massive difference in how you offer products and what additional features and services are available. You do not have to sell the same product to all customers.

Personalisation is an essential part of excellent customer experience. The lottery must have a 360 degrees view of its customers to serve them as well as possible.

One way to do it is continuous experience throughout the customer journey. A useful 5A model has been developed to describe customer journey in practice: Awareness, Acquisition, Adoption, Assimilation and Advocacy.

In every step, customer experience must be good enough to take the next step. There are no better customers in modern business than those who recommend using the company’s product and services to friends. This kind of customer is reachable only after a successful customer journey.

The first step of the customer journey is Awareness. In this phase, a person is identified as a potential customer for the company. Most people search for as much information as possible about available products and services. That information should be available and present to the prospect in the way the customer wants to get it.

The second step is the Acquisition. The prospective customer has become closer to the company and actively considers starting to buy products or services. The company is responsible for supporting the prospect’s thinking and turning him to make the first buy.

The third step is Adoption. The customer has started to buy products or services and gains immediate success and value. At this stage, there are plenty of opportunities for the company to make the patron’s experience so unique that they will continue their journey to the next level.

The fourth step is Assimilation. The customer starts to buy products and services frequently. They may add several products and services to their repertory and begin to feel that the use of products and services is like his second nature. The consumer doesn’t even think to stop using the company’s products and services anymore.

The last step is Advocacy. In this phase, the customer is so committed to the company that they recommend it to friends and followers on social media.

The best lotteries are already doing personalisation, and the results have been good. personalisation depends pretty much on the data available. Unsurprisingly, in a data-driven business, excellent companies have also made the best use of personalisation and enabled a reasonable customer journey into deeper customer relationships.

However, lotteries can’t focus only on the very business-oriented 5A model described above due to their specific business. Lotteries must take into account the maintenance and promotion of responsible gaming. At its best, responsibility creates a framework within which lotteries can then offer their customers personalised service.

In theory, companies can offer a fully personalised service to each of their customers. However, I’m not entirely convinced that this is worth doing in the lottery business, where the number of patrons is enormous.

Instead, lotteries should initially focus on identifying different customer groups within which the motives for gambling and interests are sufficiently similar. These customer groups can then be offered a differentiated service to increase sales. Clear, measurable targets need to be set for customer groups monitored based on continually accumulating data. Procedures and content must be continuously changed based on available sales and customer data.

It is also important to understand that people move between different customer groups. Policies must therefore be flexible, adaptable, and cost-effective. At its best, personalisation brings joy to both the lottery and its consumers in particular.

Jari Vähänen

Jari has enjoyed a long and successful career in the gambling sector, having cut his teeth in the horse racing and betting business. He has spent the biggest part of that time with Veikkaus, the Finnish national lottery and gambling operator, where he was responsible for horse and sports betting business. While there he started digital sale channels, introduced the first customer-based strategy and took care of international relationships and businesses. Having resigned from the lottery in spring 2020, he established The Finnish Gambling Consultants Ltd and is now helping lotteries and other gambling operators and suppliers to further develop their businesses.