Personalisation is the buzzword among product and marketing teams across the sector at the moment, but how effectively is the industry using the data and analytics at its fingertips to genuinely give individual customers an experience tailored around their online experience?
Scott Longley speaks to John O'Reilly from Grand Parade, Nathan Rothschild from iSport Genius and James Derbyshire from the Racing Post
The online retail world is already well aware that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to personalisation. In March 2015 WebLoyalty, a UK-based reward programme provider produced a report entitled The Connected Consumer in conjunction with retail consultancy Conlumino.
It asked consumers how they thought online and mobile shopping was changing the world of retail. Of particular interest for the online gambling industry is what they found out about consumer attitudes to personalisation.
The poll of 2,068 respondents conducted in early 2015 found that just under 60% said that personalisation had affected their buying decisions, while only 32% said it had no effect.
Importantly, only 8% said that personalisation would put them off buying the product in question. That is particularly significant, given that the persistent tracking of browsing behaviour is an oft-cited reason behind consumers resorting to the adoption of online ad-blockers.
Evidentially, when consumers have opted-in to a personalised online experience they have fewer qualms about the level of tracking that might be involved.
Indeed, another key finding from the survey shows that the level of awareness among consumers that personalisation is already a part of their online retail experience is already quite high.
Nearly three-quarters of all respondents had noticed that personalised deals had been displayed on any given retail site and 45% said they had paid attention to and acted upon personalised deals. Further, 56% of all respondents said they would use a retailer more if they had enjoyed a good personalised experience.
It is figures such as these that have meant that debates about personalisation are now primary topics for discussion among those who work on the product and marketing side of online gambling.
As the analyst team at Morgan Stanley noted after a trip to Tel Aviv in December last year, “the key buzzword” they found in their conversations with the likes of Playtech, 888 and Ladbrokes Israel was personalisation. “This ranges from predictive product engines through to proactive prompts,” they added.
“The level of data and analytics around marketing and player recruitment is accelerating, it appears. Operators and affiliates are increasingly using detailed knowledge of customers from their web profiles to personalise marketing messages and bonus offers that are tailored to a particular type of customer (or prospective customer).”
The arrow hits the target
Given the rush towards retention, it is no coincidence that as Eoin Ryan, head of sportsbook product at BetVictor, suggested in a recent blog post the industry is now living in the “early stages of the age of the supercharged bet”. As he wrote, over the past 10 years we have witnessed the commoditisation of betting.
“The difference between (operators) is minimal really,” he added. “Same products, same bets, slightly different ads. Everyone is more or less the same and moving in the same general direction.”
Hence the move across the industry towards innovations such as cash out, best odds guaranteed, price rush, price boost and the multiple other forms of betting up-sell which, Ryan added, are designed to “create real experiences, new experiences, new feelings.”
However, according to John O’Reilly, ex-online chief at Coral and Ladbrokes and now the non-executive chairman at gaming technology supplier Grand Parade, the industry is still falling short of genuinely giving individual customers an experience which is tailored around their online experience.
“The industry certainly hasn’t got it right yet,” he says. “There is scope for huge improvement. That will come in the form of more targeted content; contextual banners; interactive scoreboards.”
Other suppliers are likewise entering the content fray. One such is data provider iSport Genius, which recently signed a deal with Ladbrokes in Australia to provide the content for the company’s new InfoHub offering.
Co-founder Nathan Rothschild says the product is a function of the move towards personalisation and the possibilities that big data opens up in terms of feeding customer information that the operator knows will have an appeal.
Data can add context. “It can tell a punter what teams have form, in what conditions and given other certain circumstances.” Similarly working on providing contextual information to accompany betting pages is the Racing Post, which has also recently launched a new football content offering with BetBright.
James Derbyshire, B2B sales manager at the Post, says that the whole point of its content is that it stimulates betting. “Customers will always hunt around for the best prices, free-bet offers and the best overall user experience,” he says.
What seems clear is that the sports betting audience – and particularly those interested in betting on football – are now more enticed than ever before by facts and data. It’s the Sky Sports effect, if you will; the greater the reliance of the TV presentation on data, the greater the acceptance and adoption by the audience.
It leaves the betting operators with an opportunity to appeal to each individual consumer with a content offering that plays to this desire for ever more detailed information. For Rothschild, data analytics has entered the sporting audience mainstream.
“Stats in sport is now part of the pub conversation,” he says. “Our product highlights that. It gives people the information they want on the team they are betting on. The response has been great. People really like the idea of betting with a greater knowledge, being more informed and generally feeling engaged.”
More, more, more
At a sports data conference held in New York in March this year, Angus McNab, North America vice-president of content at digital sport and media company Perform Group, said that interest in data had exploded in recent years.
“It’s a big leap,” he told the audience at MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “Everyone wants more data, everyone wants more detail. Increasingly, the trend we see is the value that data brings.”
This is certainly true in the experience of both iSport Genius and the Racing Post. “There is so much data out there – we know because we monitor it all – but the key is utilisation,” says Rothschild from iSport Genius, who points out that the key is matching interest in a given sport or contest with an intention to bet.
“We have teams working on bringing the data together and presenting it in a way that is easily digestible. Don’t forget that the real estate available on any given site – and particularly a mobile offering – is very limited.”
Derbyshire from the Racing Post concurs: “The average sportsbetting punter probably is more demanding than they would have been 20 years ago. The customers want all the information at their fingertips.”
The evidence from the WebLoyalty/Conlumino survey would suggest that efforts towards greater personalisation pay off, and certainly the efforts being undertaken by many operators to provide bet recommendation tools would suggest they are seeing the benefit.
In its early May trading statement, Paddy Power spoke about its new ‘Kicker’ product, which suggests an additional bet to football customers on the bet slip which escalates the payout depending on the margin of victory.
Meanwhile, Unibet is trumpeting a bet recommendation widget which it says is powered by its in-house big data push, and is similarly part of its own move towards greater personalisation. These go hand in hand with things like Betfair's Price Rush, which enhances the odds to increase pay out on certain bets.
Working through the WebLoyalty/Conlumino numbers for the percentage of consumers who say a good personalised experience would encourage them to use the site more, the consultancy calculates that such figures would likely translate to a near 8% uplift in sales for an average-sized retailer. The online gambling industry will take note of such numbers.
“We have entered a new era for online sports betting, with a more sophisticated gambler now a given,” says O’Reilly from Grand Parade.
“We have to think about what they get in terms of customer experience for any online retailer and look to match or better that. If operators don’t hit such levels, then they can’t expect to keep hold of that customer. That’s the new challenge for the industry.”