Drastically reduced travel budgets. A widespread reluctance to fly. No trade shows to fly to, even if you could.
For casinos looking to keep their slot floors up to date in a pandemic-constrained world, the challenges are many.
Help is on the way, in the form of the IGT Road Show. Its premise is simple: Since operators can’t get to the games, why not bring the games to them?
The slots and systems giant has hit the road with a colorful 40-foot trailer customized to display a diverse range of 13 or so of its newest games and technologies. Call it a mini-trade show on wheels. In recent weeks, the trailer has made the rounds of commercial and tribal casinos all over the Midwest, and will be swinging into the East and Northeast later this year. If it hasn’t come through your neighborhood yet, it will one day soon.
To date, IGT has visited 150 properties and logged around 10,000 miles. It’s all part of a mission to engage face to face with customers at a turbulent, critically important time.
“Our thinking was: ‘How best to reach our customers? And how best to use our marketing budget?” says Ken Bossingham, IGT’s senior vice president of sales for North America, Mexico and the Caribbean. “We see it as an extension of all our trade show activities, and an opportunity to leverage even a higher level of exposure to our customers.”
Bossingham comes from the GTECH side of the company, and was there when GTECH pioneered the traveling showroom concept nearly a decade ago, to build greater awareness of the games in its Spielo and Atronic portfolios. This was a few years before the company’s 2015 merger with IGT.
“Of course, we had a little less product to sell than we do now,” he recalls, “but we felt we had a good lineup of product and we wanted to get exposure to a much a larger audience.
“What we noticed, even back in 2012, was that a lot of our customers weren’t able to travel to their regional trade shows, and we were trying to figure out how to reach that range of customers.”
GTECH outfitted a trailer similar to IGT’s for an initial journey through the tribal markets of Southern California. It was a revelation.
“We saw we would get a much larger audience,” Bossingham says. “We could get much deeper into an organization than we could at a trade show, where you would talk to the slot director and that was about it.”
The IGT Road Show is building on this deeper level of contact.
“We’re meeting with floor attendants, operational slot people, the folks who didn’t go to the trade shows and didn’t get to touch and feel the product,” Bossingham says. “We’re getting their comments, which are invaluable, and we’ve been able to use that feedback in many ways. It’s an opportunity to really reach a much larger group of people.”
Travis Gulick of Ameristar Casino & Hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa, couldn’t agree more. “This hands-on experience is more beneficial to decision-making then screen shots and marketing slicks,” he says. As casino operations performance manager for the property, Gulick appreciates getting the “real feel of the game play on the real machine.” It “generates a confidence in our purchase or leasing decisions,” he says.
For IGT, choosing what to take on the road and what to leave home was determined through extensive market research and input from sales team, both at the Las Vegas office and on the ground in the regions, at places like Council Bluffs. From there, a long-term schedule was developed, and the logistical challenges were identified and worked through.
“We want to make sure we spend the right amount of time at each property, and most importantly, that we reach the highest number of accounts in the region we’re focused on at that point in time,” says Bossingham. He calls it “a very well-planned-out, pretty complicated effort.”
It’s one that’s paying dividends. “The Road Show allows us to get feedback on the themes and the cabinets from our slot employees,” says Gulick. “They know our business well, and enjoy inputting their opinions.”
The Road Show has “continued to evolve, and it’s become very accepted,” says Bossingham. “Our customers are very supportive. They’re pleased that we’re taking the time to visit them, and that we care about what they think.