Rank Group’s Moffett Has An Ace Up His Sleeve—The Data Science Team

The customer operations and marketing director of the British gambling and gaming company has focused on data architecture and infrastructure. As a result, he says, he can now predict the future.

Rank Group’s Moffett Has An Ace Up His Sleeve—The Data Science Team

by Angela Rumsey

Posted on 07-21-2017

Rank Group’s bid to become the U.K.’s leading multi-channel gambling and gaming company seems to be paying off. In 2016, it posted revenues of £708.5 million, accumulated through its brands, which include Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos.

Darren Moffett was recruited to Rank Group two years ago. Drawing on his experience in the retail, financial services, and airlines sectors, as well as agency-side, his job is to transform the marketing of Rank’s digital channels, its customer experiences across touch points, and its data infrastructure. In conversation with CMO.com recently, I began by asking him to describe the state of the Group’s digital ecosystem when he joined.

Darren Moffett: We had a strong digital business with our fast-climbing casino business, but we didn’t have any marketing technology, data infrastructure, or measurement in place to really make a step change from there.

When I joined, we’d just migrated our platform to Bede Gaming, a mid-sized, dynamic vendor we chose so that we could drive a real partnership with them. All that work was being done, so I spent the first few months looking at the ecosystem from a digital perspective to understand where the gaps were. Based on my previous experience working in financial services and retail, it was clear we didn’t yet have the right level of analytics to understand customer behaviours and then link that to customer transactions.

The intensity of data that you get from gambling data is significantly higher than in most other industries. Customer interactions are really intense. You know whether they are playing for either five minutes or five hours, and whether they’re doing so responsibly.

Step one was around data architecture and infrastructure, to get those analytical platforms up and running so we could pull all those shoe boxes of data together into one place. I created a data science team, which is fairly new within the gambling industry, and implemented analytics across all of our digital channels.

Key to building that team was being flexible in bringing people in from outside gambling. We are fortunate in already having amazing people who understand the industry, so we wanted to bring in people who were good at understanding how behaviour data works through multiple devices, regardless of which industries they’ve worked in.

If you want to get digital right, the team needs to be commercially focused—that’s key. There’s always a place for brand digital marketers, but, in an environment of high-intensity data and where you’re trying to be market leader, you need people who understand the commercial climate, want to build a beautiful customer journey, and also think about the customer friction points and whether that’s going to affect revenue or customer satisfaction.

From other sectors, I know companies quite often spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror. It was the same at Rank. We hadn’t harnessed our data in the right way. By creating the data science function, we’re able to really predict the future, which was both a confirmation for our business and a culture shift for us—getting away from the days of Excel sheets and dashboards. We can now predict a VIP with 82% accuracy after their first interaction on our site.

Also, on the other side of the coin, we can identify with 85% accuracy if someone is playing in a certain way that will need a responsible gambling conversation. We’re building models not only to grow revenue, but also to help protect the customer and, ultimately, protect our business.

CMO.com: What steps have you taken since getting the team in place?

Moffett: We then started looking at data management systems to bench-press from a marketing technology perspective. We’re now in the final stage of implementing that. One of the things I’m really passionate about during this project is the unknown data and getting ourselves a view of what I call “window shoppers” through to core customers.

Again, because of the intensity of data that you get within gambling, window shoppers are really important to us because they’re our future, so we need to understand how to convert them. We did a whole bunch of UX work, looking at user journeys and platforms to all feed back into the central database to give us a holistic view.

Because we now have all this great data, we then started to integrate this with our media partners, looking at things like automated bidding, custom audiences, and so on, and making sure the data can be a source of revenue generation for us.

I think the final icing on the cake in bringing all the data together is we’re moving to an enterprise CMS over the next few months, which allows us to work with our partner Bede and stretch our ability to personalise content. We’ve just been dabbling so far. We migrated to a digital personalisation solution, and it has shown signs of revenue lift. The processes are now in place, and we’re now going to see a significant step change.

CMO.com: What’s the aim for you in terms of content distribution and customer experience?

Moffett: From a content distribution perspective, my aspiration in 12 months’ time would be always-on personalisation, where the customer feels it’s natural but where it’s unique to them.

Our industry is simple. You register. You put a bank card against your account, and you start enjoying whatever games you like to play. If we can remove any friction points, that’s a massive win. But people don’t know what they don’t know. Every game is subtly different—you have what the industry calls “volatility,” where in some games you win a little and often, versus games where you don’t win often, but when you do, it’s a high amount.

So customers might come and interact with a certain type of game and think it’s OK, and another might give them massive dissatisfaction, and a recommended game could work better for them. Getting customers to the right game so they’re enjoying it more is, therefore, our aim.

On top of that, we operate in a competitive industry. People might come to us for bingo, but go elsewhere for a sports book. So the aim is to understand that from the data and behavioural circuits, and work out how to recommend or cross-sell them in such a way that it seems natural.

The challenge is to really understand the customer and the behaviours, and make a recommendation that will truly increase the customers’ enjoyment of playing versus any negative impact on their entertainment, resulting in them potentially not coming back.

How we do that one-to-one personalisation is really sensitive—you don’t just run it and hope for the best. That’s why I talk about “always-on.” The data is constantly learning. It’s similar to the financial services industry. Credit cards, for example, are very unemotional, not entertaining, and very unhuman, but if you get the right type of content and messaging with the right guidance, you can drive massive results on the back of that.

CMO.com: What lessons have you learnt throughout the process?

Moffett: Fortunately, for me, this is not my first time building an ecosystem, so I’ve learnt from previous times. Boardroom buy-in is a really big thing, especially with an organisation that has grown with retail. We’re quite fortunate to have a CEO with a digital background who encouraged us to go faster, rather than taking it slowly.

You have to bring others with you too. Our technology team has spent a lot of time around servers and infrastructures, and supporting retail, but now we’re outsourcing some technology and insourcing some too. That will mean a very light touch from that team, but you also need their buy-in because there’s a risk around security and data flying everywhere.

So you need stakeholder and management buy-in, but you also need to do this at pace. It’s about keeping the balance and always making sure it’s clear this is about better customer experiences and driving more revenue for the bottom line.

The only other challenge is because technology is changing so fast—a real cliché, I know—and every big vendor is out there saying they can do everything. Well, it’s not my first rodeo, and they can’t. Technologically, they can, but they can’t, really. My aim is to get the right cocktail of partners to work together seamlessly—with a little bit of effort—but not being completely tied up for five years because we need to keep an eye on technology and trends, and the future may look different.

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