Charlie Rowe, NMPi: Prolonged uncertainty during lockdown has demanded flexibility

As governments around the world begin to lift lockdown measures and social distancing becomes the new normal, companies around the world have had to adapt to the new measures in place.

Speaking to Charlie Rowe, Head of Industry – iGaming at NMPi by Incubeta, he told SBC that he predicts more land-based companies will shift their operations online and that firms should invest in people, product and marketing to ‘hit the ground running’ in the post-COVID period.

SBC: What do you think has been the biggest challenge for the industry as a whole in terms of adapting to working in a socially distanced environment?

Charlie Rowe: Living in a digital age, brands who operate purely online haven’t been impacted too severely by having to close offices from an operational standpoint. However, like many other industries, there are some unique challenges that our new environments pose. Some people may be struggling with loneliness and their mental health, while others face distractions now they are working from home.

The lack of sports is obviously a massive challenge for operators to tackle. With marketing departments essentially having to rip up their Q1 and Q2 roadmaps in order to consider how to achieve the best ROI from the products they use to attract new customers.

In some countries, such as Spain, there have been total bans on gambling advertising while the crisis plays out. In other countries like Sweden, we’ve seen caps on how much an individual can deposit. So, marketers are not only having to adapt to internal business changes, but also external factors unique to each territory.

The close of brick-and-mortar betting shops obviously presents a number of financial implications too; from rest costs to furloughing staff. Hopefully the peak has passed, and we’ll see casinos and betting shops opening up in the not-too-distant future.

SBC: How have you adapted to the current climate?

CR: I was impressed with how we as a business adapted to Covid-19. Our leadership and Central Support teams, and particularly our Operations Director, led a fast and seamless transition from office-based to home-based working. Specialising in digital marketing, we’ve been able to continue to fully support our clients virtually.

Our iGaming team is no stranger to remote working; events and meetings with clients and partners often require a lot of travel across both the US and Europe. Working from hotels and airports is fairly common for us. While not being able to physically visit our clients is difficult, we’re hugely appreciative of companies such as SBC, who are hosting virtual events to keep the communication alive. We’re still able to speak to our industry peers and maintain a level of consistency with new partners.

Lastly, we’ve been working on new ways to use our expertise to support businesses throughout this period. Our biggest project here has been our Virtual Learning Series, which sees our staff delivering training on specific channels and important topics to help others succeed.

SBC: Do you think the global pandemic will make companies rethink how they operate? Or do you think it will be business as usual once lockdown ends?

CR: This period of prolonged uncertainty has demanded flexibility from the world of business, and I think this will continue after lockdown restrictions are lifted. We have been forced to operate in a much more fluid environment: working from home, virtual communications, and flexible working hours. Now we have seen how well this can work, I think many senior leadership teams will support this flexible model in the future. Day-to-day office operations will probably look very different, even as we try to return to normality.

Looking specifically at the world of gambling, we’ve seen the closure of all physical casinos, which has put a large strain on the finances of businesses who are still paying rent, bills, and facing the furloughing of staff. Those with an online proposition, however, are seeing increases in performance as they pick up new customers who would ordinarily be gambling in person. This shift in consumer behaviour is likely to increase, and so we may see companies with physical casinos shifting investments more into online.

SBC: What would be your biggest bit of advice for betting and gaming businesses trying to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?

CR: Prioritise the areas which are going to provide results, and don’t waste time and money trialling new areas. Operators with casino products, for example, can still focus on this at home. It will also be key to focus on the fundamentals of marketing, so that when sports betting activity starts up again, your foundations are well-built and maintained. If tracking and measurement hasn’t previously been a strong area, now is the time to focus on getting this right.

This time can also be used to help with your team’s learning and development, and to fill gaps in experience by focusing on areas the team aren’t as specialised in. You can speak to the likes of Google for tips on how to up-skill your workforce.

Ensure you invest in your people, product and marketing to get your business ready to hit the ground running post Covid-19. Lastly, consider ways that you could innovate. Ask yourself, are you being dynamic in the ways you reach your customers? Are you utilising your feeds to better support the campaigns you are running? Are you automating campaigns more effectively? An internal audit is a good way to explore if you are making full use of your marketing spend.

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