Team SBC begins this week by speaking to Chris Duncan Chief Development Officer of social sports engagement start-up Oddslife on valuing and gauging innovation impacts on the sports betting industry in 2015.
A Founding team member of European sports betting exchange Betsson, Duncan is an expert in creating sports betting liquidity. Duncan shares his thoughts on the current state of industry innovation and how to recognise, react and develop effectively early stage innovation on sports betting channels
SBC: Hi Chris, great to catch up, coming back from the industry’s conference season (ICE + LAC), how do you feel innovation is progressing in the sports betting industry?
Chris: It is amazing to see all the changes in the industry. My favourite areas are the innovation in the social side of gaming and the live betting. On the social side, you have the ability to interact in so many different ways with like-minded sports fans, allowing you to compete, chat, analyse and compare. There is also the wealth of information available about teams, players, results and you can even interact with you favourite personalities. On the live betting side, there is a multitude of markets and events to bet on, but my favourite innovation has been the ability to view the events on which you are betting. You can watch football games from South America or basketball games from Greece all in real time.
SBC: As an industry veteran you have joined social sports start-up Oddslife, What drove you to join this start-up and where do you feel Oddslife can make its biggest impact in sports betting?
Chris: Yes I have been in the industry for a long time, so thanks for reminding me! I truly believe that the social side of gaming is very important and will continue to be an increasing part of the industry.
People love to chat about their favourite players, compare their fantasy teams, brag about their team’s latest victories and interact in many different ways about sports. Oddslife is at the forefront of this industry and I felt that it was an ideal time to join them and help develop a product that could fulfil all the ambitions of sports lovers.
SBC: You have been part of one sports betting innovation paradigm (Betsson- betting exchange), from your experience how should operators gauge and value real impacting innovation on their product lines and consumer habits.
Chris: This is a very hard question to answer. The industry has seen some really interesting responses to innovation over the years. For example, in the early 2000’s we were all told that mobile betting would take over the World in the next 5 years, this didn’t really materialise, but the push of mobile technology has meant that this is an ever improving and developing innovation which has continued to be embraced by customers.
By contrast, exchange betting really developed fast as an innovation in the 2000’s, especially in the UK, but has struggled to continue to grow at the pace it enjoyed during the early years. This shows that it is very important to constantly evaluate the impact of innovation through careful analysis of your customers behaviours, analytics, key indicators and patterns.
When I worked at Betsson, we invested a lot of time and effort on understanding our customers behaviour through the analysis of CLTV (Customer Life Time Value) with regard to different products, geographical locations, innovations, platforms, marketing and other variables.
SBC: Much focus has been driven towards mobile products and in-play odds, however sports betting has failed to produce engaging social products. Why do you feel this is, and what does this tell us about innovation in sports betting?
Chris: I agree sports betting has been very slow to create engaging social products. However I feel that there are a number of reasons for this, however the main reason is the profitability of social products.
Companies prefer to develop products that produce quick profits, bringing out a new slot machine game that they know will make them a specific amount of profit, rather than investing in untested products which have unknown horizons. There are other knock-on effects such as key people, investment and resources going into recognised profitable areas of the betting industry.
However, In the long run I believe that it is the companies who are able to concentrate on their customers demands and meet their customers expectations will prevail. This will mean that customers will move towards companies who are able to provide them with an engaging social product. As we have seen, this will be a slow, but continual process.
SBC: Sports betting operates within a convoluted and outsourced operational value chain, from your experience how should operators and providers looks to spread innovation mechanics throughout their operations effectively? What key factors should management focus on in order to ensure efficiency?
Chris: Yes… I agree it is a very complicated and convoluted operational value chain. It can be very difficult for companies to place values on variables such as customer loyalty and satisfaction and to be able to work out how to spread their resources on innovation throughout their operation.
The problem is that some innovations work really well, some take longer than expected and some don’t work as well as you hoped. So as an organisation you need to be able to react at every stage to the development of the innovations. Quite simply this can be a very difficult task for most organisations. For some companies, the best way to tackle this may be to outsource the development to companies who are working closely in the innovation of that product. This way you can decide which innovations work for you and which innovations you want to spend your resources on developing.
SBC: Finally looking to the future, what consumer and products demands will sports betting operators have to deal with in order to create optimal intelligent engagement, what should the industry be preparing for?
Chris: Good question, looking into my crystal ball I would say that customers are going to be more demanding in the future. They are going to want instant access to view the events on which they are betting, all the news and information as it happens, the ability to interact in a social environment with other sports fans and they will want their sports betting to be based around them and not the company. Instant interaction with the information that they want, when they want it.
A true mobile, social, live, interactive solution. The companies that are best able to satisfy the hungry desires of our sports loving consumers are the companies that we stay ahead of the game.
Chris Duncan – Chief Development Officer – Oddslife Ltd