Will Whitehead, mkodo: Achieving sportsbook and casino differentiation through UX

Achieving product differentiation is arguably more important now than ever as sportsbook and casino operators face the challenge of staying relevant, writes Will Whitehead (pictured), Associate Director – Accounts at mkodo.

This remarkable period triggered by the outbreak of COVID-19 has stressed the importance of having dynamic and agile digital products and has likely rang alarm bells for many over the need to strengthen their digital offering. 

A common, immediate strategy has been to populate products with alternative betting markets, but achieving sportsbook engagement in the long-term requires more than giving greater prominence to esports, virtual events and unconventional betting markets. 

It’s more than just prices and markets.

There is a frequent misconception in the sportsbook world that the battle for product differentiation is fought and won solely by having the most markets and the best offers. Operators often focus on delivering features that are driven by data and can, as a result, overlook the importance of the end-user journey. 

This lack of attention to the user experience (UX) leads to operators offering an almost equal customer interface to their competitors’ products. Prices, markets and offers are, of course, important, but if they are presented through an uninspiring, counterintuitive front-end that doesn’t satisfy the user’s goals, customers will look for an alternative solution. 

Where to start? Registration!

From the initial registration process and deposit flow to find a bet, place a bet and bet review navigation, offering a seamless, engaging UX should be front and centre of product development goals. As customers become more and more educated as to what represents a good user experience (and perhaps more importantly, a poor user experience) operators must give greater attention to the front-end product. This will go a long way to ensuring customer retention and loyalty.

As a first point of contact with the customer, registration should be conversational rather than a series of lengthy forms, allowing for documents and payment cards to be scanned by a device camera if that feature is available. These are the types of UX usage that digital natives in particular expect as a given – a customer segment that is key to growing your market share.

Paying attention to the details in the front-end user journey can also help your digital strategy where your backend platform lags behind on a popular new market feature, such as when the bet builder function first appeared. Using creative features on the front-end can bridge the gap when updates to the backend platform take time. 

Tailor to your audience!

As an industry, betting and gaming has not kept pace with other entertainment and e-commerce sectors in delivering user experiences tailored to a customer’s specific preferences and their past activity.

Currently, the majority of sportsbook products offer the same experience to every customer whether they are, for example, a VIP, a new user or a racing-only punter – a shortcoming often fuelled by limiting factors in the back-end platform. 

Better tracking of customer behaviour will help deliver an automated, bespoke front-end, but operators can also enable bettors to configure their experience manually, allowing them to choose which sports and markets they favour to be displayed (and not displayed) immediately on opening the website or app. 

Differentiated Example: VIP

When targeting the VIP player, a differentiation strategy can go even further. VIPs appreciate receiving a personalised experience that befits their status. They commit to a brand, spending both time and money on their entertainment, and look for a tailored experience in response. To best target this customer segment, operators would do well to match products to their expectations and align more closely with the experience they would receive in the retail environment. 

A dedicated VIP application that includes features such as a digital concierge service, exclusive live dealers and game content, plus the best odds, packaged in different branding and design, would make the customer feel welcomed and valued by the brand.  

Differentiated Example: Esports 

Interest in betting on esports has been increasing in popularity over the past few years and the current crisis-hit climate has accelerated the rising uptake. However, if operators want to realise the growing opportunity beyond cross-selling to existing sports bettors – one that has previously been overlooked – then they would do well to think bigger than promoting content through existing channels: only through a streamlined product will they be able to capture the full potential of the esports market. 

As a typically younger demographic and inexperienced bettors, esports fans are an entirely different audience to your traditional sports bettor. Building an esports product that is hidden as just another sport or category amongst the wider sportsbook offering, and is presented in the same manner, is unlikely to achieve optimal engagement. A dedicated application or website that focuses heavily on the digitised social experience stands a much better chance of attracting a younger crowd. 

Using different vocabulary and content that renders an esports offering less intimidating than a standard sportsbook will be much more appealing and engaging to potential esports customers. Integrating social media information is also important as this provides timely updates of game and team changes which are crucial to the esports market.

Differentiated Example: Live Casino

Take Live Casino as another example where differentiation pays off. When Rank Group’s Grosvenor brand launched dedicated iOS and Android apps for the vertical it created a unique and immersive experience that was recognised at industry awards as the Best Mobile Casino Product in the market.

The Grosvenor Live Casino product augments the customer experience around the gameplay, building in features such as dealer favoriting with associated rich push notifications, portrait/landscape tailored design, plus visual and themed table navigation.  

Generally, a casino site will intermix Live Casino content with other casino products and games in a standard tile layout, without much consideration to the nuances of the live roulette or blackjack customer, creating a less engaging experience.

Pivot and emerge stronger

Standing out in the digital entertainment space is an important challenge which offers great opportunity to operators willing to invest. In a time when the world is, through necessity, pivoting away from dependence on physical social interaction and retail venues, operators that take the opportunity to advance their digital products stand a greater chance of emerging out this crisis in a strong position.

mkodo’s Stuart Godfree is speaking on today’s ‘Being mobile – How lottery can still reach its players’ panel at the SBC Digital Summit. To join the event, register HERE.

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