ATLANTIC CITY — Caesars customers enrolled in the company’s rewards program will now start getting comps whenever they shop at any of more than 500 major retailers nationwide, casino executives said Friday.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. relaunched its Total Rewards Program – widely considered the benchmark for customer loyalty practices in the casino industry and a leader generally — with multi-city fanfare involving parties and performances by headliners including Mariah Carey, Maroon 5, Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy and Gavin DeGraw on Thursday night, according to a company statement released Friday.
“One of the innovations in the program we introduced yesterday is that now things other than gaming now count,” CEO Gary Loveman said Friday. “Before, you could redeem (credits anywhere), but only earn them through gambling activity. Now they earn credits through non-gambling purchases — in Atlantic City, with things like The Pool (at Harrah’s) or dusk nightclub, or a lot of restaurant offerings.”
Under the expanded program, elite members can also transfer credits to anyone else enrolled — a unique feature customers had been asking for, said Don Marrandino, president of the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos in Atlantic City.
“Total Rewards is the best loyalty card in the gaming industry,” Marrandino said Friday. “We’re taking lessons learned and making an even bigger program out of it.”
Participating retailers include Best Buy, Target, the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, 1-800-FLOWERS and other merchants that program members must access through Caesars’ online marketplace in order to get credit for their purchases.
Members can also buy gift certificates online if they want credit for in-store shopping — a necessity for spending at Starbucks and other dining chains, for example, company spokeswoman Tamar Aprahamian said.
Credits are then redeemed for gambling, dining, spa, nightlife and other activities at Caesar’s properties in Atlantic City — or the 36 others elsewhere in the U.S., according to the statement.
Although the company has long set standards for comps, it remains to be seen how quickly other casino operators will follow suit, given Caesars’ sheer size and presence in multiple markets, said Mike Pollock, managing director of casino consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group.
“In the absence of a good loyalty program, customers are notoriously promiscuous in their spending habits,” Pollock said Friday. “It’s clearly established as something designed to encourage play, make it painful to go somewhere else and get the most out of their customers.”
Apart from that, the changes also acknowledge that existing and future guests want to shop and manage accounts online, he said.
“Clearly, they’re trying to find a way to (increase) the value of the credit of the points currency … in a way that creates more meaning,” said Bryan Pearson, who heads consultancy LoyaltyOne. “If you want them to expand the earning opportunities — whether that’s through the online mall or the resort property — you need to increase the ways it can be spent.”
Pearson said he could also see the program expanding again in the future to include local merchants in and around Atlantic City, Las Vegas and cities in the U.S. that host Caesars resorts.
In the works for about a year, the revamped program could ultimately help boost tourism in the resort because it will not only encourage members to return to Caesars, but provide insight into their interests and spending habits, Pearson said.
The information obtained about the program’s 45 million members should yield better-targeted, more effective marketing strategies and on-property activities, said Pearson, whose agency has previously tapped Caesars executives for speaking engagements about customer loyalty.
“The ability to track and look at buying behavior … would enable them to attract more people to Atlantic City as a destination,” he said Friday. “The more information you have on the customer, the more insight you have on them, the better you can create a meaningful experience for them. … It’s critical to understand that if you’re in the hospitality industry.”
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