In July 2017, the Pennsylvania Lottery launched the Pennsylvania Lottery Insiders online research community powered by Alida (formerly Vision Critical). The goal of the community, which started with a group of about 5,000 players, was to create an engaged community of player volunteers who wanted to share their opinions about all things lottery. The strategic aim of starting Insiders was to allow the Pennsylvania Lottery to gather quick, continuous feedback from engaged players about products, marketing and retail experiences in a timely and cost-effective manner.
The advantages of hosting our own online community are numerous. Within hours, we can gather feedback on questions from something as simple as the appeal of marketing to something as complex as new product concept testing. All of the community members are richly profiled so that routine demographic questions like age, gender and play preferences are asked only once. This community also allows us to compare player answers over time and segment players in any way needed for analysis.
One of the projects we began shortly after launch was monthly surveys for the new Scratch-Off and Fast Play games. Since we, like many other lotteries, launch a new group of tickets in both categories every month, the Insiders community provided a logical place to gather instant feedback. Each survey was designed with a similar set of questions and launched about three weeks after the games entered the market. The design of these tracking surveys allowed us to measure changing perceptions and preferences between launches and get a quick read on how unique ticket features are received.
Our Product team receives a report after every survey that highlights significant differences between age, gender and geography. They incorporate feedback about the appeal of the art, game name, and specific features into development of the next set of games, which are then tested to produce a continuous cycle of improvement.
Other projects we have used the Insiders community for over the last three and a half years have included:
Assessing the appeal of various licensed properties. Our Insiders told us that James Bond® is a strong licensed property which led us to create a $10 Scratch-Off ticket with an accompanying second-chance drawing and television commercial along with an iLottery game. Both games were very successful.
Testing new in-state lotto game concepts. Our Insiders told us which of four concepts they prefer for potential changes to our long-running Cash 5 game. This feedback contributed to the design of a new version of Cash 5 that launched on March 23, 2021.
Gauging the effectiveness of messaging. Our Insiders told us how they feel about hearing about Powerball, Mega Millions and Cash4Life winners from other states. This has helped our winner awareness messaging focus on highlighting a local message when possible.
Recruiting participants for in-person and virtual focus groups about niche products. Our Insiders volunteered to participate in focus groups about our newly launched (2018) second monitor game Xpress Football. From these focus groups we decided to launch an additional virtual sports monitor game called Derby Cash Horse Racing, which has proven to be a solid performer even as the pandemic has created capacity limitations at traditional monitor establishments.
With so many different topics for exploration, we now average about four activities being deployed every month to more than 12,000 participants in this community. Our goal is to increase our Insiders community size to about 20,000 in 2021. To achieve this, we will use our social media channels to find under-represented segments like those 18-34-years old. We will also use website banners on palottery.com, plus email and texts to our iLottery player base, to find the new Insiders. The increased community size will help minimize respondent burnout by varying samples and reducing the number of times an individual member is asked to participate in an activity.
The key to maintaining an active and vibrant online insights community is engagement. Information needs to flow in both directions, from players to lottery and from lottery to players. Since we do not incentivize the Insiders monetarily, we make it a point to regularly share back with Pennsylvania Lottery Insiders community members on how their feedback has been used by the Lottery, and give them glimpses into the Lottery that are exclusive to this group. For example, in 2020 we told our Insiders about our Scratch-Off game Plu$ the Money weeks before it publicly launched and informed the group that it featured an additional Scratch game on the back of the ticket, a first for the Pennsylvania Lottery.
In 2018, we hired a full time Research Analyst, Carol Powanda, who focuses more than half of her time on PA Lottery Insiders. She does everything from project design and management to monitoring and responding to Insiders’ questions and comments in a private, interactive portal called the Hub.
As we reflect on how far we have come over the last three and a half years with Pennsylvania Lottery Insiders, we realize the knowledge we have gained has touched on nearly every functional area of the Pennsylvania Lottery. Projects that have been fielded through Insiders have helped our executive office, sales, marketing, products, digital media and business partners. Additionally, other lotteries have benefited from the research results obtained from our Insiders group. As we fully immerse in our 2021 Research plan, we are confident that our online insights community will be a valuable asset for years to come.
Written by Craig Troop, Deputy Director of Research, Pennsylvania Lottery
Originally published in Insights Magazine