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Retention vs. acquisition costs: Analysing player behaviour at stage one

| By Alice Soule | Reading Time: 7 minutes
With player acquisition costs sky-high, esports operators are looking to innovate their retention strategies in order to get a slice of the $9.29bn global annual esports revenue. But with a need to balance the books, how can operators take advantage of this profitable and evolving vertical? For Sergii Mishchenko, chief executive officer at GGBET UK, the key to cost effective retention is communication and proactive personalisation.

With the popularity of esports spreading globally, operators are looking for more innovative and unique ways to engage and retain players whilst driving down acquisition costs and increase profitability.

At present, player retention typically relies on the use of promotional offers such as free bets and matched deposits. However, many operators are now feeling the strain of the competition and are looking for ways of providing a more personalised approach that players are demanding in a cost-effective way.

Is this the death of the promotional offer?

“When it comes to bonuses, market saturation is an extremely abstract concept. Determining when it’s at its peak is practically impossible. Bonuses have become an intrinsic part of the betting market, and competition between different organisers means that offers are becoming ever more attractive.”

Statistically around a third of players suggest that the frequency of promotional offers can become overbearing, meaning operators must think outside of the box when it comes to how they create and target offers.

Mishchenko believes that while the current format of promotional offers may not hold the same level of appeal, there is still life in this retention strategy if executed right. 

“Are we seeing promotions lose their appeal for new and existing customers? Probably not. According to the Gambling Commission, 76% of respondents in a survey where they were offered a bonus went on to use it. Free bets had the highest conversion rate: nearly 6 in 10 respondents went on to use these offers after being shown them.”

Data-driven personalisation: Analysing player behaviour

With promotional offers needing to evolve to deliver on both player and operator needs, Mischenko believes that the key to this healthy balance lies in differentiation. Whilst current promotional offers still hold pace, operators that engage in a more personalised approach are likely to succeed in increasing player engagement, reducing churn and positively impacting their bottom line. 

However, personalisation on a granular level is no mean feat. In order to really personalise the player journey and stand out from the competition, operators must undertake close analysis of player behaviours to direct promotional traffic to the correct audiences.

Mischenko explains, “First and foremost, it’s essential to analyse the target audience closely and identify their preferences. Doing this will allow operators to personalise offers, thereby reducing untargeted traffic. Close monitoring of promotional campaigns also helps when it comes to determining the most effective ways of attracting customers.”

Though personalisation of bonuses and promotional offers provides great opportunity, rising costs to action this is still a big concern for operators. But for Mishchenko, it is this close analysis of player engagement and a well targeted promotional programme that can balance out the cost vs. the revenue that they will get from a more tailored strategy. For GG.BET, this is at the crux of its offering.

“At GG.BET, we carry out funnel analysis from the customer’s very first click on a banner to the moment they make their first deposit. By keeping track of patterns in each bettor’s behavior on the platform, we can already predict at this stage when we’ll make back our investment in a given user.

“Based on these results, we can draw a conclusion about whether we’ve reached our target audience or need to adjust the targeting.”

Analysing player behaviours to get ahead

“Retaining users is generally a tricky task that requires close communication between those departments responsible for marketing, product development, and retention.”

It is this first interaction with a player that could prove pivotal in engaging them enough to want to stay on the site, initiating a domino effect in encouraging them to return time and again. Though this encounter shouldn’t solely rely on a personalised promotion, instead an operator should look to go a step further with its personalisation and look at showcasing upcoming matches for their favourite sports.

He explains, “For GG.BET, our task is to ensure that players have the ideal experience during their first session, so that they go away wanting to install the app and keep using it regularly.

“Analytics indicate that for some users, receiving a reminder about matches of their favourite sport is more important than the promise of a bonus. After their first session, the full range of features becomes available, complete with gamification of the platform, tournaments, and challenges.”

Following this first engagement, Mishchenko believes the momentum of analytics and communication should continue building. Rounding out the customised approach and ensuring the correct offers, matches and experiences are targeted to the right players.

“At GG.BET, we have the option to pin matches, regardless of what’s being recommended to the user. This allows us to direct users straight to the page for the match which will interest them most, while simultaneously presenting them with up-to-date bonuses. In this scenario, the bounce rate will be minimal.

“Then, the product’s algorithms have the task of retaining the user by offering them other events and markets that might be of interest to them, thus channeling them into the retention journey.

“The CRM channel kicks in at the next stage, regularly reminding the user about additional promotions and building anticipation for upcoming events. The third component involves ensuring that the user is always seeing the latest banners and is aware of new tournaments and any new features launched on the platform.”

Building features around unique customer demands

“If we notice that a bettor is interested in the casino as well, we can use additional engagement methods. For example, while watching a football match, players have the option to spin the slots at half-time. In this way, by making use of the same traffic channels, we’re promoting our other products without running up extra acquisition costs.”

For Mishchenko, this personalised approach to esports provision is key to an affordable retention strategy. Creating a tournament feed that targets the unique preferences and gaming features of a players can enhance a user’s overall experience. Not only will this provide instant access to their exact preference of tournaments and events, it can potentially introduce them to other verticals or games that may take their interest.

“Simply put, a well-thought-out customer journey allows us to keep acquisition costs as low as possible. After all, a unique bonus for a bettor’s favourite slot is the kind of personalisation which keeps the journey from creative idea to the product itself as short as possible.”

The power of understanding a player’s preferences and the journey they are likely to take is pivotal in displaying GG.BET’s ability to boost engagement and lower acquisition costs, mitigating the need for any guess work.

Engaging new players through brand awareness

In a similar thread to mapping out a player’s journey, Mishchenko believes the power of brand awareness can be a vital way of attracting new customers and engaging current players. The ability of a tournament to boost brand recognition and awareness not only gives confidence to existing fans but can reassure new players of an operator’s capabilities in the market.  

“We can also attract new users to the platform by taking a sound approach to brand activity, such as ensuring brand placement during streams of top tournaments, running special PR projects, and working with brand ambassadors.

“For example, in the summer of 2023, GG.BET organised a show match between two legendary Counter-Strike teams – Team Vitality and NAVI. At the stream’s peak, we reached 76,000 viewers at one time, and the match drew in 1 million views overall; on the day of the event, registration of new users soared by 46%.”

Impacting acquisition costs with funnel analysis

It’s not just player analysis that Mishchenko believes should be high on the priority list when it comes to a retention strategy. Instead, taking a magnifying glass to the player funnel and seeing the drop off areas can prove important in keeping players on the site.

He highlights, “Close funnel analysis of any errors is also key to reducing acquisition costs. For example, if a user who wants to land on a betting page ends up on a casino page, chances are they’ll “drop off”.

“Additionally, the user may run into difficulties while using the product, for example being unable to make a deposit, problems when it comes to verification, a negative experience with the customer service team, or trouble finding games that interest them. In cases like these, the bettor may tire of the platform and the cost of re-engaging them will be even higher.”

GG.BET combats this with the combination of two key elements – a carefully planned strategy and effective communication between marketing and product.

“This strategy allows us to successfully manage an increased budget for customer acquisition. In doing so, we can ensure that creativity levels and the quality of our service remain as high as ever.

Successful retention vs acquisition costs

“The best way to beat increasing acquisition costs is by coming up with a suitable strategy from the get-go.”

While the challenges of appealing to a player’s needs may be multifaceted, operators must balance the costs of personalisation and within this, promotional offers, against their potential revenue streams. 

While one strategy may work for one operator, Mishchenko is quick to highlight that it’s important to define a unique route to successful retention and that perceived errors for one may ultimately be the golden ticket for another.

“As far as mistakes we see in the industry, to a large extent it all depends on the product, the brand’s audience, and a player’s lifetime value (LTV). Approaches that are ineffective for one operator could yield good results for another when it comes to their audience and product.

“Therefore, defining something as an out-and-out error is very difficult, as each product is unique and has its own story and specifics.

“Likewise, acquisition expenses which work for one operator may not work for another. Everything really depends on each specific situation, and it would be a mistake to rely on someone having a recipe to a universal “secret sauce” for balancing customer acquisition costs with a creative approach.”

Supporting tools for retention

With unique routes in mind, Mishchenko feels there are many ways other than solely through promotional offers that can form part of a cost-effective retention strategy.

One vital way he believes operators could create a new revenue stream is through affiliate marketing – tapping into the capabilities of other platforms to drive revenue to their own offerings.

“Affiliate marketing is a really important one. Our brand’s official affiliate programme, GG.BET Affiliates, works with a large number of webmasters, each of whom uses their own creative methods to attract an audience.

“We offer them the best terms on the market, along with generous bonuses, and provide them with creative support.”

But ensuring the opportunities that come with an affiliate programme can also prove to be another area of concern for operators. Again, strong communication, this time externally, is the key to success for Mishchenko.

“By being active on social media, posting interesting content regularly, and hosting prize draws and competitions on our own media platforms, we keep in constant contact with our users while also attracting the attention of new customers.”

Elevating your esports offering     

Operators wanting to stand out from the competition must be prepared to analyse player behaviour on a deeper level.    

Through the use of analytics to channel each unique player journey and proactive communication, Mishchenko feels confident his team is hitting the right audience with the right content, and ultimately creating an ideal esports player experience for its client’s time and time again. 

“Our primary goal is to provide a fair and honest gaming environment for all GG.BET users, allowing them to enjoy their gaming experience in a safe and secure environment.”

Sergii Mishchenko, chief executive officer at GGBET UK

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