Building best-in-class personalisation: Tabcorp's bold bet

Marketing, customer and product leader details the personalisation technology investments that are helping the brand not just engage in better odds with customers, but to also go bigger than the bet

Example of optimisation of Tabcorp marketing campaigns
Example of optimisation of Tabcorp marketing campaigns

More than $160 million in incremental turnover and a seamless connection between physical and digital customer engagement are just some of the big wins for Tabcorp since kicking off its best-in-class personalisation program.

Tabcorp executive general manager of marketing, customer and product, Luke Waldren, told CMO the group’s personalisation program has been in been in play for about 18 months.

“In simple terms, the ambition was to create a capability that would allow us to create brilliant omnichannel CX,” he said.  

Building capability to offer tailored experiences, including promotions and products, in real time and based on customers preferences and activity, is a common objective for retail-oriented organisations in today’s day and age. Yet Tabcorp faced several unique challenges.

The biggest is very different operating environments depending on channel. The wagering business operates more than 4400 locations nationally including cash-based racecourses through to pubs, clubs and standalone agencies. In addition, it operates a modern mobile app and Web experience. All this means customers can be engaging digitally, physically and very often, doing both simultaneously.  

Tying physical, in-venue and digital together was therefore a fundamental part of the program of work. The first step was connecting the data pipes and creating a single customer view.

“That would give us the opportunity to see the customer whether they were in venue, at a venue on the phone, or digitally, seeing and monitoring behaviour across channels,” Waldren said.  

The second step was investing in Adobe’s martech platforms. Tabcorp has all-in with the vendor, rolling out Adobe Campaign, Adobe Experience Manager as its CMS, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Target and Adobe Mobile Services. This year, Tabcorp became one the first Asia-Pacific customers to rollout Adobe Experience Platform (AEP), the vendor’s customer data platform offering launched in January 2021.

“That’s [AEP] the spine that allows us to orchestrate our experiences,” Waldren said. An example could be providing a personalised experience in app by way of product features and offers.

“We can also tie that to what you see in Instagram, plus the messaging you get in-app when you appear at a racetrack or venue. It manages the data in one central location but allows us to also orchestrate messaging in that way as well.”  

First use cases: Push messaging in-venue

An early use case for Tabcorp was using Adobe Campaign to run push-based campaigns and personalised offers off platform, via SMS and in-app messaging. This sees the brand pushing a message to a customer arriving physically in a venue.

“We would know if you arrived in a venue and could send you a message saying welcome to the location and that we’d match your next bet with a bonus offer,” Waldren explained. The app switches to ‘Venue mode’ when a customer walks into a venue, opening up access to better offers, pricing and more.

By bringing on AEP, Tabcorp has stepped up orchestration sophistication and can talk to customers in a seamless way in-app, via social and in or outside a venue.

“The wagering market is quite mature. Simultaneously through things like the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering, the ability for bookies to target new customers with acquisition offers is very heavily controlled. That audience in-venue, especially digitally connected, is a very good acquisition opportunity for us,” Waldren said. “We have driven strong growth with digital in-venue turnover as a result.

“Personalised experiences through ‘in-venue mode’ in our app when you can also have competitors in that retail environment is key.”  

Such capabilities also tie into Waldren’s bigger brand mission for Tabcorp to deliver unique experiences that are bigger than the bet. This was crystallised a couple of years ago through Tabcorp's brand repositioning program of work under one overarching idea: ‘TAB. Long May We Play’.

“Because of the sociability factor of TAB and our legacy, tenure and physical presence, we feel we’re better positioned than anyone to be bigger than the bet and be part of the experience of sport and racing,” Waldren said. “We think we are the first wagering company globally to continue to connect digital and physical environments like this.”

Given the significant capital expenditure going into technology, Waldren also stressed the importance of early use cases that could prove out capability quickly and demonstrate to the executive leadership team that Tabcorp was immediately reaping benefits from its investment.

“It was important not have a waterfall scenario and prove this capability very quickly. Putting in these initial campaign tools allowed us to deliver on that,” he said.  

Since then, Tabcorp has launched ‘differential pricing in venue’, giving in-venue punters better odds. It’s now planning to launch app-based food offers in conjunction with several venue partners.

“There is a tipping point with venue mode we are on the cusp of,” Waldren commented. “The original manifestation was about offer-based engagement. For example, we’d say if you have a bet on the next race, we’ll give you a bonus on the second, third or fifth race.

“We then moved into differential pricing, and we’re about to move into food-based offers. All of a sudden, the word-of-mouth opportunity comes into play. If you have a group of customers in a pub, and two order a chicken parmigiana for half price, that’s a good example of Tab not only delivering a broader experience than the bet, but one that will trigger word-of-mouth. And there is more to come.”

People and culture risk factor

Alongside the technology deployment was all-important people and capability development.

Luke WaldrenCredit: Tabcorp
Luke Waldren


“There is lots to get excited about with this capability. But it’s the people part that has driven the most transformative aspects to our business across customer marketing, product and technology,” Waldren said.  

One obvious change is giving data analysts and scientists, product and technology people the latest and best tools. “More and more, platforms like Adobe require deep specialisation. Being able to use the latest of those capabilities is a good attraction point for subject matter experts,” Waldren pointed out.  

More broadly, tech transformation has led Tabcorp to transform its workforce from functional to agile ways of working. This saw creation of ‘home teams and away teams’. Home teams are about more functional org design, such as data analysts or CRM staff operating in a traditional functional group they come back to.

“Then we have Away teams, which are the cross-functional, agile squads. We put into those all the necessary capabilities required to deliver to a customer-driven initiative,” Waldren said.

Each squad typically includes a squad owner, part of a delivery lead from technology, a business analyst, data science and analysts, CRM executives across campaign and production, a digital operations and media person, optimisation lead and program analyst.

While these teams are led by Waldren’s division, cross-functional partnership is a frequent occurrence, and it’s clear customer marketing and product teams often have connection points into tech delivery and business analysts outside their function.

“We now have four squads, and it’s been interesting how squad owners have come to life,” Waldren continued. “We have a data analyst leading one squad, and a CRM expert leading another. It’s taken these leaders and squads out of their functional, at times repetitious environments and created a scenario where they have end-to-end accountability and responsibility. They’re working on something different and new all the time, underpinned by world-class tech and capability. It’s been incredible to see that evolve.”  

It was people and capability that cropped up as one of the main risks around such a sizeable technology investment for Tabcorp.

“The analogy or cliché is buying the Ferrari with the risk that no one can drive it,” Waldren added. “Equally, when dealing with partners like Adobe, which are great at what they wrap around you for success management, there is a risk once the build is complete that the IP walks out the door.

“Making sure we planned for that by having a good combination of our own staff plus expertise from partners, and transferring IP was an important part of this process. And that is what led to the change in our way of working.”  

Orchestration stations

It was when AEP rolled out that Tabcorp really started to put the pedal to the metal on next-generation personalised conversations with customers.

“It’s allowing us to provide a much more connected experience and surface up not just offers but features in our product that we know they love, plus talk to them about information, services and features,” Waldren said.  

For example, when a customer opens the app, the top carousel surfaces racing and sport codes in an order based on their behaviour. An automated AI-driven data capability is triggering next-best offers and messages in real-time based on a combination of behaviour and segments based on the four key parts of the customer lifecycle.

Another new and important personalisation addition is around Tabcorp’s Tote offering. The company is the exclusive licence holder of the Tote, a pool that punters put their bets into in order to bet against each other. Thanks to a rebuild of the promotions engine, personalised experiences and alternative odds-based offers are available for the first time.  

“That had been in decline as fixed odds took over, but we’re seeing transference back into Tote,” Waldren said.  “Our ability now to drive interest in our pari mutuel Tote product is a big one. It’s not only important for our business, but also the main source of funding for the industry. Being vibrant and performing more strongly is critical to the whole racing industry.”

Milestones

Since going live, Tabcorp has driven about $130 million worth of incremental turnover - a substantial incremental result for the team. For Waldren, the cherry on top was the team being awarded Adobe’s Experience Maker Award for APAC for its personalisation program.

A few unexpected benefits have popped up, too. One is improving customer conversion and incremental revenue across Tabcorp’s live racing vision offering within the app through trigger-based in-app messaging and offers. Waldren said it’s also helping better shine a light on valuable customers for further engagement and promotion.

Another important element of work for Tabcorp is around responsible gambling. Waldren noted the capabilities make it easier to observe significant changes in behaviour and respond accordingly.

“That is definitely a space that requires continuous improvement, and in monitoring and having those red flags,” he said.  

Over the next 12 months, Waldren expected to have the entire digital experience personalised, ensuring TAB apps look different to each customer. “Part of that will be user or behaviour driven, and part data driven,” he said.  

And as the team continues to gain sophistication, it’s embracing the learnings and continuing to optimise.

“There were 3-4 use cases to kick off and the one we thought would be the most popular was the least popular. It was the first time where everyone went this isn’t going to be as easy as we thought,” Waldren said. “You have to focus on the data, get the messaging and right and learn from it each time.”  

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