Pinnacle

Paris Smith, Pinnacle: Working both sides of the betting business

We know better than to stand still in the betting industry,” said Pinnacle CEO Paris Smith, as she reflected on a year of big changes for the company on both the B2B and B2C side.

As 2019 draws to a close, we spoke to her about Pinnacle’s B2B market entry and the key benefits of this new ‘Pinnacle Solution’ – particularly for esports operators.

Smith (pictured, centre) also addressed a “big period of change” for the company’s B2C arm, which continues to target the full spectrum of esports players, before assessing the part that SBC Events has to play in Pinnacle reaching its B2B and B2C goals for 2020.

SBC: What have you learned from your first 18 months as a B2B supplier?

PS: Before we moved into the B2B space, we believed that we had identified a gap in the market in terms of a strong esports product offering. The last 18 months has essentially proved what we thought before launching and that’s why we’ve seen such instant success.

Whilst our esports product has proved very popular, it’s our level of risk management expertise across the board that has set us apart from a lot of competitors.

The wider B2B market was previously dominated by one or two names, but now operators are looking for more – they want more sports and they want esports, which leads to greater potential for new providers. While it’s important to acknowledge what operators want, we also research into what our competitors can offer.

We have the benefit of being on the supplier side, which combined with our findings from our competitor research has enabled us to stay ahead of the game.

We were fully aware of the need to adapt to different markets as a B2B supplier and the past 18 months have helped us learn more in that regard, especially for the Asia market. There seems to be an increased focus on customer experience, such as the emphasis on seamless wallet integration, and it’s our ability to identify and work to meet these needs that has helped us differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

SBC: Esports is a central component of the new B2B Pinnacle Solution; what are the key benefits for an esports operator?

PS: The benefits of partnering with Pinnacle Solution from an esports operator perspective is that you’re partnering with the best in the business. This has been proven by the countless awards we’ve won, most recently the Esports Supplier of the Year at the SBC Awards.

More broadly, the recent growth – and potential for further growth – is what makes esports betting appeal so much to operators. The cost of esports sponsorships and player acquisition is relatively low compared to traditional sports (although the gap has shrunk during the past three years), and the bettors themselves are less concerned with marketing-led bonuses and more about the product. 

This obviously suits those who focus on offering more markets and better odds, but also reduces the likelihood of bonus abuse and bonus costs when they are used.

SBC: With such an influx of new customers, has product maintenance become a key target for the year ahead? Or can we expect to see the rollout of new features?

PS: We know better than to stand still in the betting industry; 20 years’ worth of experience as an operator has taught us how important it is to not only maintain the quality of your product but also work on developing it. This is why we have launched a number of new features and UI changes throughout 2019. We now allow customers to construct their “hot events” to build marketing banners and landing pages that help optimise conversion, as well as providing them with the option of flexible betting limits.

We have also utilised much of the insight gained from the research phase of Pinnacle’s new Future View website experience and implemented it across our B2B offering. We have a more robust mobile view for esports customers and will be rolling out a brand new European mobile view and enhanced esports view early next year.

SBC: Has focusing on the supply side shone a new light on your B2C operation?

PS: We’ve found that B2C and B2B complement each other very well at Pinnacle, despite the fact that they are two separately-run verticals for the business. We have learnt a lot of valuable lessons on the supplier side, but the core of the product is built on the success of Pinnacle and our risk management expertise.

That said, working with such a wide range of partners from around the world has certainly informed our approach with regard to Pinnacle’s B2C efforts. We’ve learnt so much about what’s missing in the industry, what bookmakers want to offer and what their customers want to see improved. Of course, when you’re exposed to such information, you’re going to ensure that you take it on board and you aren’t an operator failing to provide what bettors want. 

SBC: How are you utilising your partnerships with North and FACEIT to expand your presence in the esports sector?

PS: Although partnering with a team and event organiser isn’t anything new to the betting industry, the activation of these partnerships has been very different to what many others have done or are trying to do. This unique approach has had a big impact on both Pinnacle’s brand presence in the industry and the betting volume we’ve seen for CS:GO.

We’re not about getting our logo in the faces of esports fans and hoping they become interested in who we are. With so many esports fans working at Pinnacle, we know there’s a lot more to it than that and our strategy has been built on connecting with the community to get value out of these partnerships.

Product promotion through stream integration on ECS and our shirt presence with North has obviously helped us raise awareness of the Pinnacle brand. However, the collaborative content with these partners has been key to helping us stand out in the crowded marketplace. 

Access to elite teams and top players means we have an endless supply of quality content that esports fans love to get involved with, and once they are engaged and begin to learn more about what makes Pinnacle unique, betting with us is a natural progression.

SBC: Pinnacle Sports is renowned for its pricing appeal to serious bettors; how sensitive are your esports players to these tight margins?

PS: There’s a spectrum of players within esports, just like there is with any other sport. The main advantage Pinnacle has over our competitors is that we can offer something to everyone within that spectrum. We do have a large segment of price sensitive players and the fact that we offer the lowest margins in esports (and have done for almost a decade) is why these customers continue to bet with us.

However, there is also a portion of customers who are betting purely for fun and entertainment; we’ve seen plenty of growth amongst this group of players throughout 2019.

SBC: How can you bring in more players from the recreational segment to the new Pinnacle Esports sub brand?

PS: The key to Pinnacle’s success in appealing to recreational players across traditional sports has been our content. While the esports audience is very different, when content is tailored to their needs it has the same impact, as we’ve already seen through our partnerships with North and FACEIT. Whether it’s betting previews, educational betting-related articles, feature pieces, interesting videos or podcasts, we possess and produce a breadth of quality content that’s made by esports fans for esports fans.

In addition, we will produce content to develop our esports-specific section of the sportsbook to ensure we offer as many markets as possible, with whichever titles and events people want to bet on. The esports trading department at Pinnacle is one of the biggest in the company (second only to soccer) and between the traders, we have a die-hard fan for any esports title you can think of. This means we can use our customer base to understand what more serious bettors want to bet on and use our employees to help gauge what esports fans want to bet on.

Finally, we are working hard to optimise the esports experience at Pinnacle for all types of bettors. We know that esports isn’t just another menu item in the sportsbook, it’s a unique entity. This is why we’ve had a dedicated esports hub for over two years. Over the next year we’ll be developing it to ensure it caters to everyone, from someone who has just heard of esports to those who bet on it professionally.

SBC: What role do prop markets have to play in attracting these players?

PS: People often make the assumption that prop markets are only there to serve recreational players but this isn’t the case. Recreational players do enjoy betting on props as they can be fun and it’s an easy way to add another layer of excitement to watching a stream and following your favourite team or player. 

However, props are also a viable betting opportunity for serious bettors. The issue is that bettors who can make a profit from these markets will normally find themselves limited or banned by bookmakers. At Pinnacle, bettors are never banned or restricted, so we have plenty of bettors interested in them and that’s why we’ll continue to lead the way with these unique prop markets.

SBC: What are your major goals for 2020, both from a B2B and B2C perspective?

PS: Our focus for B2B will always be to continue supporting our existing partners and find new ones who can benefit from our product offering. In order to do that, we also need to continue to learn and develop from work with existing partners and the ongoing research we are conducting across the industry. 

The Pinnacle Solution product really is second to none when it comes to risk management and while that can always be refined, we want to prioritise addressing the other needs of operators and ensuring Pinnacle Solution can meet their requirements.

The B2C arm of Pinnacle is going through a big period of change at the moment and the new Future View website experience is only just the start. Our primary aim for next year is to continue with our commitment of offering the best possible betting experience for everyone, everywhere. 

This includes launching a fully-featured native sportsbook app for iOS and Android, a brand new Live Betting Centre, the aforementioned enhanced esports betting portal, a new and improved casino experience and display options within the sportsbook to suit all customers.

SBC: Why is partnering with SBC key to you reaching these goals?

PS: Monitoring any recent developments within the industry and networking across the online gaming space is obviously crucial to Pinnacle achieving its goals for 2020. SBC is such an integral part of being able to do that.

Whether it’s exhibiting at the excellent SBC Events that are attended by all the big names within the industry, gaining insight into latest ongoings with SBC’s media publications or networking with other professionals through the SBCConnect app, there are so many ways that a strategic partnership with SBC can help Pinnacle and Pinnacle Solution enjoy continued success in 2020.

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