CMO interview: Betting big on Crown’s customer loyalty proposition

Chief marketing officer of Crown Resorts, Christopher Coyne, shares how the hotel and gaming group is tackling customer engagement in a modern, data-driven data

Christopher Coyne
Christopher Coyne

For Crown Resorts CMO, Christopher Coyne, data-driven customer engagement and loyalty are key to long-term growth.

In fact, at the heart of his vision for the hotels and gaming group is an ambitious plan to launch a world-class customer loyalty program in 2016. The program, he said, will focus on customer experiences and interacting with members using its wealth of assets in a highly personalised, omni-channel way.

“I think about loyalty as a product – our loyalty efforts are going to be the lifeblood of Crown as we move forward and go from a $9 billion market cap to something much bigger,” Coyne told CMO, agreeing that modern marketing is increasingly becoming about product development.

“How do we think about a true transformational expansion of our revenues and profits, not on a new property add basis, but a like-for-like basis? It’s going to be rooted fundamentally in product.

“Product could be thinking about a digital customer away from the property, and how we drive you to the property for experiences in a number of ways. Or as a physical customer, it could be how we drive you to digital products and try and increase your value.”

Achieving customer insight

Achieving this kind of value exchange requires significant customer knowledge. To get there, Coyne and his team have spent the past 18 months building a segmentation strategy via a significant insights program. This has included qualitative and quantitative research with 10,000 or more loyalty cardholders and non-cardholder customers, to come up with discrete segments of customers.

“We have done thousands and thousands of customer interviews and built out of that a fantastic knowledge base of what matters,” Coyne said. The group has also done a deep analysis of best-in-class loyalty programs globally, as well as engaged in significant internal stakeholder research and engagement, to understand what key priorities need to be under the new customer scheme.

To further propel its plans, Crown brought on former Qantas executive and loyalty program insider, Simon Hickey, as a partner on its customer program of work.

“Let’s not be bashful, Crown has acquired 3 million names on a scheme that’s not been dynamic, exciting or elegant,” Coyne admitted. “We’ve done ok to build so many names of those who’ve ever been active with us.

“Off the back of that, we’re building a new digitally led scheme, then thoughtful, targeted 30-day solutions to get customers from ‘sign up’ to ‘busy’, then 31 days forward, and from ‘dormant’ back to ‘life’. All of these are about value.”

The centralised Crown loyalty program is due to launch in mid-2016. Coyne added the mobile app will be a core platform, showing customers their points balance as well as rewards, offers and more.

“By the end of FY16, we’ll have the best hotels app and in the region bar none,” he claimed. “In FY17, July through December, we’ll move quickly to the best or challenger loyalty app anywhere that’s genuinely world-class.”

Long-term, Crown will also look to bring partners into its loyalty environment too.

“Why can’t we be the Qantas of the future? Why can’t we have a shop, or things we sell outside of Crown that you get loyalty programs for?” he asked. “We’re thinking down the lines of doing loyalty better, brighter and bolder than companies have done it before us.”

Background check

As a marketer, Coyne’s background couldn’t be more different from his current position. He started training as a medical doctor in the UK, but was forced to rethink his career after suffering a severe brain haemorrhage in a car accident in his early 20s. Facing five years away from that field, he took his father’s advice and “changed tack”, focusing on banking.

“My dad suggested I pick a company that’s widely dispersed around the world, and push myself in the most direct way I can,” he said.

Coyne picked GE and joined the company’s Melbourne office in 1999, where he enjoyed a successful 18 months in Australia and throughout Asia. He returned to the UK and worked for GE in mainland Europe and the US before switching into the digital field at John Lewis as the retailer established its highly successful online portal.

From there, Coyne joined BT as head of marketing, then online betting site, Paddy Power, where he was firstly head of gaming and then promoted to head of, including its online and mobile sportsbook.

In January 2014, Coyne joined Crown back in Australia as its first CMO, spearheading the marketing effort globally. It was the first time a group marketing role had been created with an executive seat at the table.

Coyne’s marketing remit includes looking after Perth, Melbourne and Sydney properties, as well as fledgling property opportunities globally, and he’s also on the executive board for the online and mobile betting site, CrownBet, as well as Crown’s social casino plans globally.

“Appointing a CMO was recognition that Crown is a $9bn brand and we have to make this thing huge in terms of what we do next,” Coyne said. “We’re expanding our presence in Macau, a new property in the Philippines, our Las Vegas project is announced and then there’s the Crown Aspinalls in London.”

Yet until Coyne’s appointment, it didn’t have a centralised approach to marketing or customers.

“We are a company that has succeeded phenomenally in the absence of a marketing strategy,” he commented. “The brand stands for luxury and quality and I hear that everywhere, but what does that mean? It’s upon us to put definition to that, and bring is back to value and express value, loyalty and modernity and put Crown on the map in a way it’s never been before.”

Prioritising marketing tasks

The job at hand is significant. Before Coyne joined Crown, the group had no mobile app, some poorly performing websites and no progressive social presence.

“The main thing for me in the first 100 days was to establish the scope of the challenge. There were lots of things,” he said. “For instance, we had no one in our marketing team working on social. There was no mobile app, the websites weren’t brand accurate, and we had a scenario on loyalty where we were not connecting with where the market is and what our competition would do. We have customers turning up in droves to our properties presenting a Qantas card to get points. We just weren’t competing.

“The key was to establish what our vision should be. That’s about core foundations, segmentation, building out customer insights and thinking about what they want and what we can offer. We needed think about multiple properties together, which we hadn’t exactly done, then with all of that information, we needed to build clusters within segments that we can target not through direct mail, or solely TV advertising, but a balanced and multi-channel approach.”

Read more: CMO50 #26-50: Christopher Coyne, Crown Resorts

Coyne said he looked at developing a model around acquiring and then keeping customers.

“To do this, we need a brand What we then needed to think about is acquisition channels, TV versus digital advertising, and social versus the physical assets we have, which are visited by hundreds of thousands of people a week on our floors. How do we think about converting them?” he said.

“The key next thing is what’s going to keep them?”

That’s where the customer strategy and loyalty play comes in, and Coyne has looked to hire the best talent globally for the job. This includes former Coca-Cola, KPMG and insurance consultant, Adam Simms, who’s working on the complete redesign of how Crown approaches the customer lifecycle, from sign up to early engagement, through to identifying the right customer, right time and right communication channel, then the ongoing value proposition through loyalty.

“What we have also done is think about how we generally promote and critically, how we get that right customer at the right time and moment with the right offer,” Coyne explained. “That’s a play between social, on a weekly basis, and digital, and mobile. It’s about how we build our segmentation into those platforms.”

Leading modern marketing

Coyne’s customer research efforts are a prime illustration of how data and insight lie at the heart of his strategy. He noted the group has built a research function across Australia including 5000 individuals that replenishes every month and provides valuable state by state insight into products and offerings. These are reported weekly and fed back into Crown’s propositions and next month’s work, he said.

“We have significant cardholder panels that are in-language,” he continued. “We run month-long promotions today, four times a year, and we use the data we glean from social, digital and mobile, to edit and profile the promotions on a day-to-day basis.

“You need to start with data and insight and move on from there.”

But it’s not just data that makes the CMO. “You have to be a halfway house between creativity and magic, and data and technology,” he said.

“And you have to think less of channels, because channels ultimately play through the same kind of ideas broadly whether they’re traditional or digital; communication starts with a good idea, framed in the right way for the right person. How you get there becomes the cherry on the cake - you have to have that foundation first.”

To be a world-class marketing leader, Coyne also believed it’s vital to have to have real-world experience. Having a competitive streak helps too, as does leading with vision.

“Great leaders in my opinion absorb pressure and transmit clarity,” he said. “My position is that with lots of types of people, I need to absorb their pressures and transmit clarity and that’s what I try to do every day.”

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