Gary Loveman, chairman, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment Group, spoke to more than 180 Wharton students as an executive-in-residence guest of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) in partnership with the Wharton Leadership Lecture Series.  The wide-ranging interest in analytics among students in Loveman’s presentation, titled “Analytic Rigor and Glitz: Two Paths to Success in the Gaming Industry,” is a testament to the explosion and growth of customer-level analytics and its application in business.

Loveman joined Caesars in 1998 and was dubbed by the press as “the professor” who’d come to save Harrah’s. He went on to develop the gaming industry’s most successful loyalty and analytics program—Total Rewards—which  boasts more than 40 million members. Loveman’s success exemplifies what customer analytics is all about and its potential to disrupt or transform entire industries.

Posing the question, “Why not observe what customers teach you they care about?” Loveman told Wharton students his story of growing the famous casino brand. With profit margins in the millions of dollars, he helped Caesars grow into the eighth largest entertainment company in the world, grossing $9 billion a year—all by elevating customer-level analytics to a central strategy for growth.

Throughout the talk, Loveman drew parallels to other industries, helping students understand how the same analytics challenges in gaming translate to all industry sectors and to companies of all sizes. When Loveman began working with Harrah’s, the company could not invest in new real estate,  the biggest names in celebrity entertainment, or even new casino room floors.

With this backdrop, Gary surveyed students on possible next steps—ultimately noting that no matter the industry, if you can’t always compete on the “glitz” of your products, you must compete at the customer level. Offering customers an increasingly tailored experience, based on data you already collected—and what data customers were willing to share for future rewards—you can leverage analytics to secure a competitive advantage. And as new revenues flow in, Loveman noted, business leaders can again turn to customer analytics to help determine which new products and services to develop.

As the Total Rewards program succeeded, Caesars began integrating analytics in all strategic decision-making, and the rest was history. Loveman instructed students to look beyond the disconnected or overwhelming sources of market information, and instead see the huge opportunity that comes with new technology: the ability to run experiments, listen to what people actually want, determine their customer lifetime value (CLV), and then deliver products and services that meet these demands. For Loveman, working with one customer at a time quickly moves from small experiments to companywide changes.

Loveman’s lecture gave students a great sense of practical applications within the analytics space, and exemplifies the importance of WCAI’s mantra that companies should focus on “people doing things over time.

Coincidentally, Joshua Kanter was in Philadelphia the same day, and Loveman introduced him as both a colleague and Wharton student. Kanter, enrolled in the Wharton MBA for Executives Program on the San Francisco campus, was recently interviewed for Wharton’s Executive MBA Blog. He works with Loveman at Caesars as senior vice president of revenue acceleration and Total Rewards. Besides being in charge of Ceasars’ Total Rewards Program, Kanter runs marketing operations, marketing technology, interactive customer relationship management (CRM), big data, marketing capabilities, payments and consumer insights.

Marc Rowan, W’84, WG’85, a managing partner at Apollo Ventures, owners of Ceasars Entertainment, helped make Loveman’s Feb. 26 event possible through generous financial donations toward WCAI’s student programming.