Some of the leading suppliers to the sports betting industry offered their insights into the future for sportsbook personalisation based on automated customer segmentation, advanced behavioural analysis and predictive AI-driven models.
The fifth round table participant was BetConstruct, represented by its Group Director of Sportsbook Product, Stuart Baker.
SBC: What role does pricing and risk play in the differentiation of a sportsbook offering?
Stuart Baker (BetConstruct): There is a misconception that a managed sportsbook solution leaves little room for differentiation; economies of scale do not necessarily mean similarity in product.
BetConstruct powers over 300 operators worldwide, across many jurisdictions and with differing compliance standards.
On top of that, every single operator wants to stand out from the crowd. Basically, they all want the flexibility to differentiate on the odds that they offer and the bets that they will lay.
Everyone understands the importance of new features such as Cash Out, Bet Builder and Price Boost, and such innovations are readily adopted throughout the industry. Such differentiations never last long.
It is true that the UX and UI of a sportsbook are extremely important and BetConstruct’s award winning SpringBuilder tool was designed to allow our partners to easily manage their various player UIs.
However, the underlying DNA of a sportsbook is the events, the odds and how much you can bet. An operator with the freedom to control these has a key with which to further differentiate themselves from their competitors.
It is only through the capabilities of our Spring platform, that we have been able to provide the tools that has allowed every single one of our 300+ partners to feel that they have a bespoke offering.
It was five years ago that we looked at our long-term plans and realised that our then platform would not allow us to provide such differentiation in an increasingly crowded market. The bold decision back then to re-design (and build from the ground up) a next generation platform is testament to our understanding, both then and now, of the importance of differentiation.
Be it through our in-house driven tailored trading strategies, through our partners own trading teams or more increasingly a mixture of the two, I’m often finding myself asking “is that also one of ours?”
Differentiation in marketing gimmicks is a race to the bottom. Differentiation in the offering is a race to the top. We know where we want our partners to be.
SBC: How can operators build on their customer analytics to both enhance player experience and drive higher margins?
SB: Sports betting is data rich and it’s just getting richer. In simplistic terms it comes down to three key questions.
- Do you have the knowledge that I need? i.e. have you captured the relevant data in a timely manner?
- Can you answer my question? i.e. is the data stored in a way that allows flexible BI?
- Can I do what I need to do? i.e. do I have the necessary tools to allow automation based on the data?
Without the ability to answer positively to the first two, an operator will struggle to effectively enhance the player experience and/or drive higher margins. If the answer is yes to both, the fun can begin.
One of the strongest drivers of BetConstruct’s data analytics is our in-house CRM product. Our CRM database, fed in real-time by the betting platform, is designed for questions, not actions. The enhanced, data driven, player experiences and custom reporting functions, enabled by the CRM solution, are both possible due to the technical focus on getting the basics correct.
Elsewhere, player risk management is no longer a reactive process. Data is now being used in a proactive way, negating the risk before it can happen and driving higher margins. BetConstruct’s Umbrella solution is an AI based automated Risk Management tool whose aim is to predict potential risk.
We are only able to answer yes to the third question because we have passed the first two. That is key.
SBC: How can AI and analytics be used to personalise and tailor the sports betting experience?
SB: Personalisation has been a buzz word for a long time. However, it is easier to get wrong than right.
A good starting point is to understand the difference between intention and behaviour. A player might have wanted to bet on a match but didn’t for some reason. Analytics needs to go further than using data that is routinely captured, like the bet. Understanding the players intentions as they navigate the site can often be more important than the end behaviour.
A good personalisation engine is always capturing data, always learning. The personalisation that a player experiences on one visit could well be different on their next visit. It needs to be subtle and intuitive. The player should not realise that their experience is being personalised.
Far too often, across many industries, personalisation becomes overwhelming and creepy. Sports betting specifically needs to be careful; it is a pastime that can be private and personal. Overtly showing that big brother is watching and analysing a player can be obtrusive and result in the polar opposite of the intended goal.
Care needs to be taken to prevent personalisation getting in the way. AI driven personalisation is a guess which often will be wrong. Just because I often bet on this league should not mean that it is now harder to find the actual league that I plan to bet on.
Whilst AI driven personalisation is an ever important and growing area, the old mantra of ‘do it well or don’t do it at all’ is always worth remembering. Trying to be too clever when you don’t have all the facts may not be the wisest of moves.
Lastly, we are talking about data science. The skill is in extracting knowledge and insights from the data. This is a science, so leave this part to the scientists. BetConstruct’s Machine Learning department has specifically been recruited from outside the industry to remove any preconceived ideas of who a bettor is and how they might behave.
So, to answer the question … how can AI and analytics be used to personalise and tailor the sports betting experience? Carefully, very carefully.
SBC: A lot has been said recently about gamification; what can it do for sportsbook?
SB: Gamification is another buzz word that has been around for a long time. It is also something that is often not fully understood in our industry.
Just because gamification and gaming have the same origin does not necessarily mean that expanding elements from the gaming verticals is the be all and end all. Incentivising players with the one-time chance of rewards, be it a boost, prize or a jackpot, are very basic examples. BetConstruct has a cross product Jackpot, waiting to be won at any time, be it by a player on the sportsbook, casino or one of the many other verticals. Gamification is much more than that.
I would guess that the majority of readers have a LinkedIn profile. Now, there is gamification. How many connections, endorsements, views and search appearances are all scores.
Gamification is about taking normal behaviour patterns and turning them into a competition. Likewise, number of friends or re-tweets are all examples of turning something into a score. These scores in turn manifest them in the minds of the user as a game. People by nature have a competitive streak and like to measure themselves against others.
In sportsbook it can come down to two key principles.
Firstly, try and get players to compete against each other. Who can show the most profit? Who has the highest strike rate? Whose winning multiple has the highest odds?
Secondly, make it easy for players to follow and copy the bets of other players. There are worse options than following winning players.
BetBull is powered by the BetConstruct sportsbook and they have built their offering on gamification. Whilst the players benefit from BetConstruct’s full sportsbook offering, the experience is somewhat different.
A key part of their offering is around the concept of tipsters. Every player can be a tipster. You can see how you rank against other tipsters. You can follow tipsters and be subscribed to receive notifications when their next tip is live. You can easily follow the tip and place the same bet.
Having a think back to the likes, connections, re-tweets, views etc. These are all examples of gamification from within social media. The key there is the social aspect. Gamification is a game between players.
If you want to make true gamification work in your sportsbook you need to introduce the social element.