To say that retail betting has faced an uphill battle would be an understatement. The sector has faced legislative and regulatory challenges on a global scale, now combined with the lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is, therefore, now more important than ever that operators adapt to the high-street environment – however it might look post COVID-19 – and engage with players on a new level.
George Fotopoulos, COO of Vermantia, spoke to SBC News about how tackling the challenges facing the retail sector and harnessing the power of automation through its CONNECT one-stop-shop platform, as well as the prospects of staffless or cashless shops, and why personalisation is key to player engagement in 2020 and beyond.
SBC: In an era where omni-channel is such a go to industry buzzword, what are the incentives for an operator to invest in, or even just maintain, a high-street presence?
GP: Someone could say that the retail betting industry’s prospects look bleaker than ever. Someone else could say that it is cheaper for operators to remain online than to adapt for the high street.
But once the current conditions will come to an end, for many the future of retail couldn’t be brighter. There are a number of factors in play, especially in an era where it is all about omnichannel and personalised services.
Social interaction and a trusted service along with complete digital-first tools all motivate customers and create a strong brand loyalty. Also, we should consider that there are a generation of customers who prefer to place bets in their local shops. For a big portion of customers betting shops are part of their social lives and a gathering place.
When it comes to digital connected customers, digitisation as well as personalisation have a key role to play here. In today’s digital world, there are plenty of tools available to revitalise retail channels and attract buyers with marketing and promotional outreach as well as tech advances to display latest odds and action-packed content.
Our mission is to focus on bringing the best of digital into the retail space while catering to a diverse spectrum of customer preferences.
Utilising the latest in technology we design and offer to our operator partners a future-proofed betting environment, tailored to their individual locality and culture, ensuring they attract the latest generation of tech savvy customers as well as retain their existing customer base.
SBC: How are Vermantia services customised for different countries and regulatory climates?
GP: Without a doubt, the betting needs to be omni-channel and it is essential to deliver a bespoke service to suit each betting environment. You need to have around the clock service and that service must be customised to the local audience.
What we are seeing at Vermantia, and looking to provide for our operator partners, is variety and flexibility with which to deal with those different market changes.
This is the reason our services like our bespoke betting channels give greater scope for choice than other options in the market, powered in a fully flexible manner by CONNECT, our one-stop-shop content management and publishing platform.
With bet markets, scheduling and their entire layout adapted to their own customers in any format required, we’ve got every base covered thanks to CONNECT.
SBC: And why are customised services so important for an operator’s success?
GP: There is no one size fits all and it is imperative to be flexible and offer customised services. What may work in one region, may not work in another. A fully localised approach to regional challenges is essential, giving access to the best of both content and technology.
Let’s take two examples. What excites a customer in a betting shop in Dominican Republic may not be what thrills another in Italy in terms of content. When it comes to the technology, an operator in Romania is going to have different requirements and infrastructure to a brand servicing the UK.
This is the reason that we offer a wide portfolio of content, ranging from live action-packed content to virtual games and next gen games as well as the latest in content delivery, offering either satellite broadcasting or ultra-low latency streaming to deliver our top quality content to all audiences, online, mobile and retail.
The principal reason that we give operators the choice is that we appreciate there are local requirements in every territory, and we make sure operators can access a specific content mix that suits their needs and market challenges.
SBC: Is a totally staffless betting shop achievable, or even desirable?
GP: There has been increasing talk of staff less betting shops being the future of retail gaming. When it comes to shopping, it is all about automated payments with technology to replace cashiers. If Amazon and Ali-express get their way and invest in the modern retail market, there’s no reason our industry won’t follow suit.
With a targeted presence, a staffless environment could provide a safe, convenient and enjoyable betting experience. Mobile apps, along with centralised management systems, will have a key part to play here. The automation can also be adopted in the world of betting and gaming and we’ve seen this with a wide range of our solutions.
The power of automation lies in the fact that it eliminates errors, provides faster operations and an improved customer experience and our CONNECT platform is designed with this in mind. Apart from powering our betting channels, it also manages all content delivery to the shops’ screens, the players’ mobile betting apps as well as the self-service betting terminals (SSBTs).
Not only does it allow our partners to keep their players updated with the very latest betting information, but it also ensures they are constantly engaged with top-quality, action packed content and all that bespoke to fit their market’s preferences and demands.
SBC: And a similar question around cash; is it more about preparing to be cash-lite than striving to be cashless?
GP: To put a spotlight on the importance of an effective retail journey in terms of payment, the first step is the cash-lite world, where cash is increasingly relegated to the edge of the electronic grid. The logical transition toward a cash-lite world started with people transporting less cash, then storing less cash and finally using less or no cash in daily payment and transactions.
Today’s modern consumers consider betting to be time-critical. The payments experience needs to be in line with this, and third-party payment providers, such as digital wallets, will have a key part to play in this increasing need for fast delivery. Digital wallets have a key role to play here reducing the extra steps in the betting process. Access to electronic payments, or digital money, can be a driver for retail innovation and revitalisation.
Our FLAVOR suite of SSBTs are specifically targeting that need, utilising the latest in cashless and mobile payment solutions while also providing premium data and picture content to our partners, all customised to the need of the local audiences in a digitised and self-serviced environment.
SBC: And finally, what will be the single biggest trend for player engagement in 2020?
GP: The real buzzword when it comes to player engagement is the personalisation with the supplier to make players’ lives simpler, convenient and increasingly tailored to their customers.
Players want a seamless user experience that is personalised to them and it’s the industry’s job to deliver and become more customer oriented and on-demand with betting products and services shaping up to offer new opportunities. Hand in hand with that is the need for a fast and frictionless transactional experience.
This has been happening online for a while now, but we are seeing expansion in the retail era as well. Thanks to advances in technology we are well-prepared to give operators a complete solution required for building the retail environment of the future.
Everything from our betting channels and our powerful content management system (CMS) to our next-gen self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) are all designed to offer a personalised and digitised experience that presents the latest content, odds, data and betting promotions, powered by our CONNECT platform.