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Former Starbucks exec to guide MGM Resorts digital strategy

Updated September 7, 2017 - 6:10 pm

MGM Resorts International has snagged a former Starbucks executive to guide its digital strategy and leverage the technology in gaming, social media and communication.

Kelly Smith, 48, has been hired as a senior vice president and chief digital officer in a move designed to help the company capitalize on the mountains of data it collects on customer behavior.

“What we are trying to do is respond to changes in the landscape that face traditional marketers and people who work in traditional IT,” said Smith, who admits that what he will do for the company is continuing to be defined.

Smith said he hopes to leverage digital media to better the customer experience, improve operational improvements and change the company’s business model.

When at Starbucks, Smith led the consumer technology team that worked in customer relations management. Instead of producing an email blast with product offers possibly relevant to half the recipients, the team used data mining to build 50 different messages and target them to audience members.

Smith said he hopes to build on the successes he helped develop for the coffee company’s My Starbucks Rewards program and replicate it for MGM’s M life loyalty card program.

Smith said he expects to evaluate the data MGM collects from its customers and develop relevant marketing that will increase customer contact. Collected data can be sliced and diced to determine whether customers come at various times for casino play, dining, entertainment or nightclub experiences to determine a relevant incentive to those different customers, he said.

Smith, who worked in Starbucks’ China initiatives, sees opportunities to communicate with customers in their native languages via familiar webpages, such as WeChat, and social media.

“WeChat, in simple terms, is really the internet of China,” Smith said. “How you market, message and connect on those networks is extremely different. Many young digital users in China don’t even use email anymore. WeChat is the way that you order, WeChat is the way that you pay, and WeChat is the way that lunch shows up at your desk.”

Smith hopes to use his digital marketing skills to help produce more digital content on the casino floor.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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