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Betting On Sports 2017: key takeaways

29 September 2017

Earlier in September, we attended Betting On Sports 2017 - a conference focused on the sports betting and gaming industry, organised by SBC Events. The two-day event hosted a number of talks by leading players in the industry with discussions relating to betting, esports, regulations and innovation. Here are our takeaways from the conference.


Retention in sports betting

Sports betting is still one of the largest and most lucrative areas in gaming (both offline and online), so it’s crucial to continue product development in this sector. Sportsbooks can be very volatile in terms of revenue, with some months bringing in huge profit and some significantly less.

The cost of acquisition continues to frustrate the operator's bottom line as punters chop and change their bookie without thought. The uniformity of sportsbook platforms serves only to validate the customer's idea that ‘bookies are all the same’ and now that automation takes care of pricing, there is even less to differentiate the brands.

So, with punters seeing bookmakers as interchangeable what can be done to reduce the churn and keep people coming back? Well, differentiation is key; we know (first hand) that sportsbooks are hard to change due to the volume data involved, technical debt and constraints of third party and platform choices. However, it is still possible to introduce a fresh aesthetic and innovative UX/UI to offer the punters a unique experience that will keep them coming back.

Gradual updates to the functionality, UX, design and decluttering can all make a significant difference to user experience. It’s an effective way to differentiate and improves the key customer journeys, like onboarding, adding funds, market selection and betting slip. Humans are fickle creatures and it only takes one frustration to prompt them to go elsewhere so the quality of that journey is key in securing repeat and loyal customers.

Reaching out to the esports fans

Another growing area in gaming is esports, having risen from the video game industry and is something completely different to what operators are used to. Esports is projected to surpass $1 billion by 2019 and its fans are very engaged, so it’s no wonder the betting industry is so keen to grow its esports offering. However, because the audience and the activities are so different from the traditional sports, they are struggling to win them over with their usual tactics.

Established sports betting brands find it hard to resonate with the esports fans as they may never cross over or bet on sports. There needs to be a completely new approach to the esports community, reflecting their favourite games and interests. For example, Unikorn is one of the new players, targeting esports fans to offer betting opportunities specifically for them. They’ve even created their own cryptocurrency - Unikoin - to be used on their platform. Unikorn’s website offers live feeds from tournaments, integration with Twitch and a tailored UI that resonates with the esports fans.

Another challenge for the operators is setting the odds. Football and other sports have been around for about 100 years, so there’s a lot of historic data to fall back on. Esports, however, is completely new and changes can happen with any update that alter the rules and the course of any game. So, there’s a higher risk for the operators. This also means that esports platforms need to be very advanced to start collecting and building enough data to set the odds. Operators want more APIs that would provide comprehensive statistics beyond what the players can see to create a more diverse betting experience.

Innovation vs tradition

The betting industry continues to evolve and there’s lots of engagement from the sports fans. Operators need to find the right approach to retaining their current customers, as well as attracting completely different audiences, such as esports. It’s a matter of balancing innovation with tradition and tailoring betting products to these particular segments. Esports doesn’t necessarily cross over with the traditional sports and the fans of the former may not even visit the established operators. However, newcomers that are providing more than just odds for esports are far more appealing and appear to be on the same level with the esports enthusiasts. Operators need to learn from them if they want to own part of that market share.

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