Casino hoteliers widely acknowledge the link between appealing to the millennial generation and the ultimate success of their properties. During a panel discussion at this week’s BITAC® Casino Resort event in Palm Springs, CA, a handful of executives reinforced the point while taking note of the group’s spending power and detailing some of the best ways to reach them.
John Stacy, principal, Zemi Global, LLC, framed the panel discussion entitled “How To Hit The Jackpot With Millennials,” by providing some information about the group’s potential.
“In the millennial age group there are about 80 million people, which represents the largest group currently in the work force, with discretionary spending power of about 200 billion dollars. Another interesting fact with millennials is most of them have spent about 9,000 hours in their lifetimes playing video games,” he joked, later adding, “we need to have a different approach to get into that $200 million.”
Raj Singh, Founder/CEO, Go Moment, acknowledged that fact and pointed out the company—which provides an automated guest engagement platform for hotels—has gained considerable knowledge of the group’s preferences from touch points created through digital messaging mediums.
“All of the assumptions that we made as an industry are now up for debate. From a technology standpoint it used to be you put a phone in the room and the guest will figure out which button to push and wait on hold for 10 minutes and then get their towels. Frankly, millennials don’t have the patience for that and they also think that is unnecessary. There are much more efficient ways of communicating,” he stated.
One of the most common ways of communicating for millennials now centers around social media. Beth Bloom, senior designer, HBA, noted that social media has become a primary consideration from a design perspective as well.
“I think millennials are very adept at their social media presence and they want to have these Instagram moments and these moments on Snapchat. So from a design standpoint we need to create these experiential moments…As millennials are seeking out properties to travel to they’re going to their social media and seeing what’s being posted as a way to find the best pictures and the unique spots. That’s where they want to go. It’s less about brand loyalty and more about a unique experience and what can they put on their Instagram or their Snapchat,” she said.
David Begonis, corporate director of restaurants, Boyd Gaming, added that the company is taking advantage of social media with something called user generated content. “In the restaurant world trust and connection are two big components of how we get incremental guest counts and velocity into our spaces,” he said.
According to Begonis, the company incorporates hashtags on its menus giving guests a chance to share what they’re eating with friends and family through a variety of social media channels, such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. “It helps to obviously improve our presence with our brand and it also helps to add that trust component. We’re going hopefully get additional guests into our restaurants,” he said.
Given the importance of social media to millennials, addressing negative experiences quickly and correctly is more critical than ever for properties, according to Singh.
“The latest studies show that TripAdvisor has an 80 percent weightage on your online reputation based on everything that we see out there and the average TripAdvisor review gets seen something like 12,000 times during its lifetime. So as a consequence you essentially have so much opportunity now with automation and with this digital communication to detect service failures and address them in real time,” he said.
Singh continued, “it’s actually been proven in a number of studies that if a customer comes in and they have a bad experience and you address it immediately and you make it right that customer is actually not just the same amount of happy, but they’re happier than they would have been if you never messed up in the first place…I think millennials increasingly have this expectation. They say ‘if I had a bad experience and you know about it why aren’t you doing something about it?’”
Begonis acknowledged the experience is similar on the food & beverage side. “We have service defects every day in my industry. Taking that little extra step, whether it’s a 20 dollar gift certificate or champagne, it can be something so small. But effectively performing that exercise not only changes the guest behavior and improves your relationship with them, it will get you a guest for life,” he said.
Bloom, meanwhile, offered some perspective on the evolution of custom furnishings when it comes to gaming.
“For a lounge we did a custom coffee table with ETG gaming machines. So it’s not just your typical slot machines or a lot of the bars and casinos will have gaming in them. We’re taking the games to the lounge area where guests can be social and they can be relaxing and lounging and having their drinks without really an expectation to gamble. However, the games are there and they can,” she noted.