Mike Purcell, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Kentucky Lottery
How will the world be different when we come out of this crisis - and how will the lottery industry, retailing, consumer shopping and recreational behavior be different?
Mike Purcell: What has really changed is how people behave. Players are making fewer trips to store but when they go they are making larger, bulk, purchases. After waiting in line to pay for a shopping cart full of groceries they are much less likely to stand in line at the customer service desk.
Instead of going inside many people choose to use curbside pickup. Even if we are included in the retailer’s app for curbside pickup, the game options will limited, there will be very little impulse play, and none of our in-store messaging will be seen. This includes our c-stores and not just grocery stores.
Bars and restaurants have been especially hard hit during the pandemic. Our products, especially Keno, are a good source of much needed revenue when they open back up. Unfortunately, social distancing guidelines will still be hampering sales.
The industry needs to be looking for additional ways to sell our products. For example, touch vending machines are great at moving customers away from the counter. Unfortunately, you have to touch them and a lot of people are afraid to do that. Can these machines be converted to voice activation?
The pandemic has forced most people to accept and use technology. Those that were hesitant have been converted. Those that didn’t think they could use it have been shown how by others who are excited to help and share. Our sense of “community” has rapidly grown.
We first need to accept that we may never truly be “post-coronavirus”. Our planning needs to include working around the new obstacles that have been created.
Making our products more available, whether through digital, BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store), home delivery, or in-store apps is very important but it is not enough. We cannot keep trying to get more sales from our existing player base. Broadening our player base with new games, new ways to play those games, and new locations play is going to be key.
Because state budgets have been hugely impacted they will be looking at more options than ever before to raise revenue. Now is the time to make your case for new product implementation.
Lottery has performed better than other sectors in past economic recessions. How severely will the economic repercussions of coronavirus impact Lottery?
We are not exempt from the impact of recessions, viruses, etc. When discretionary dollars diminish, so do our sales. Only time will tell just how severe the impact will be but we need to ensure we are doing everything possible to minimize the impact.
When are players have fewer discretionary dollars to play with, we need to make sure that we have good products at lower price points available. Are we offering a low-cost form of entertainment that people want to purchase with their discretionary dollars?
What opportunities will emerge in the post-coronavirus world?
Some people will go back to doing everything the same way they have always done them as soon as they can. Some people never stopped. Others will have changed to the new social distancing norms and will probably never go back.
For those that are not traveling and shopping at brick and mortar we have opportunities to introduce players, existing and new, to products such as cashless, mobile apps, debt and credit, and mobile pay.
It is also a good time to revisit basic product displays such as menu boards, on-counter dispensers, and play center placement. All these things will help the customer make their buying decision long before they reach the checkout and will minimize contact with store employees.
How might we reinforce and build upon the symbiotic relationship that Lottery has always had with its retail partners?
Hopefully, you have been doing that throughout the pandemic. Our sales representatives and key account representatives have been calling each of their accounts every week. They start with three questions: How are you? How is your business? What can the Kentucky Lottery do for you? We address other business concerns after that, but we needed let our retail partners know that we are here for them.
We learned that many retailers were concerned with the size of ticket orders and billing terms. As a result, we make temporary adjustments to both in order to become better partners and help them with their business concerns.
Now is the time to ask what their business plans for the future and see how we need to act in order to a part of that.
Crises can accelerate the rate of innovation and the rate of mass-market adoption of new ideas, new products, new ways of doing things. Do you think that will happen in our industry and if so, how will it happen?
The lottery industry is great at sharing information. This has been especially true during the pandemic. The information has ranged from advertising strategies, claims office procedures, and plans regarding sales representatives in the field. The information and discussions have been extremely helpful in developing, gauging, and reassessing our plans.
Unfortunately, the technology implementation side of the industry is painfully slow. The good news is that an issue like the pandemic alerts everyone of our shortcomings and help reduce the time that will be taken to implement the improve technologies.
What are some of the new challenges and obstacles that we will need to adjust to?
The most important priority will be ensuring our people are safe. The office protocols are easy enough to figure out and observe but it is much more of a challenge for the people working in the field because of all the variables they experience daily. Their job is critical to maximizing revenue and they need to perform their duties in the retail environment, all while keeping safe.
In addition to maintaining a supply of PPE, we have to address issues such as players and vending coming into the building. Tickets need to be picked up at retail but that involves touching a lot of packages and storing them in the sales representative’s vehicles. Cold calling, training, and servicing equipment all require a significant amount of time in the stores, so we need to ensure everyone stays safe during the extended visits.
Gretchen Corbin was right when she said in April “We have to make decisions quickly and react to circumstances with lightning speed. Otherwise, our industry will be left behind, and we will have a difficult time catching up.” That can be real challenge to an industry that is not known for quick response to change.