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The future of mobile player retention: it’s real-time

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Real-time engagement with mobile players is vital, and so is real-time retention. Dorothy Creaven looks at how and why real-time CRM strategies work.
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As mobile play increases and real-time engagement with players becomes more important so does real-time retention. Dorothy Creaven, co-founder and chief executive of Element Wave, looks at the advantages of different retention strategies.

Retaining play is key for operators In betting and gaming, like many other verticals, user acquisition is expensive. Your acquisition spend is less effective if you have little or no focus on player retention strategies to support it.

Here, we investigate measures to build successful retention infrastructure and show why real-time retention is the crucial differentiator for all successful brands.

In data released by H2 Gambling Capital for iGaming Business, the Worldwide iGaming Gross Win on mobile earned €13.1bn in 2016. This figure is set to grow to €22.8bn by 2020.

This monetary sum mirrors worldwide mobile penetration. The GSMA estimates that by 2020, there will be 5.7 billion smartphones available globally.

In the UK alone, the Gambling Commission says almost half the population takes part in gambling-related activities. Betting and gaming on mobile/tablet devices is currently at 43%, an increase of 10% since previous data was released in 2015.

In parallel, igaming operators updated mobile products to complement this growth in apps, particularly in the live or real-time areas. Casinos now offer progressive jackpots, sports betting operators brought in cashout markets and extensive in-play improvements.

The growing trend to appeal to real-time mobile activity must extend to player interactions. In European sports betting 70% to 90% of mobile bets are in-play, however only 10% of mobile marketing messages currently in-play focused.

Mobile bettors love the immediacy and excitement of in-play betting. Players want to bet with ease as they multi-task. That includes second-screening, in the pub with mates, at home on the couch, or anywhere convenient for them. They want to get caught up in the rush of the match, from wherever they are.

The common thread here is a focus on live, in-play, real-time engagements with players. Real-time is now the standard. In-play is the main driving force behind igaming apps. Now is the time for innovative companies to introduce real-time interactions with players.

Real-time retention returns
Real-time retention strategy is the use of data-mining and triggered interactions between operators and players to create loyalty and increases in monetisation.

Real-time interactions can be used to great effect at any stage of a player journey from the very first install. These interactions draw players in, urge them into action and deliver value.

Incorporating real-time marketing into your CRM strategy boosts your lifetime player value, as well as the instances of bet per event, per day and per month.

On specific matches, we've seen up to three times as many mobile bets in-play when compared to pre-match bets for the same event. Leveraging real-time messaging engages with the player on a one-to-one level and increases turnover for operators in an extremely competitive space.

Data-led retention
Your mobile messaging strategy is very much focused on the player as an individual and their particular preferences. A data-led approach is crucial to delivering real-time context and value.

Operators can access data sets on players who use apps. Betting, casino and bingo operators see the value in monitoring behavioural data, deposit and spend activity and sports preferences.

Finding the best ways to harness this data creates effective player relationships.

Betting is a very pattern-driven experience. Punters exhibit strong preferences for sports, odds, stakes, types of bets and they respond to messages meant for them.

In La Liga match examples we saw up to 12 times more in-play mobile bets with half-time messaging when compared with a control group. These were targeted messages delivered to players who had placed a pre-match bet.

The overwhelming preference is for in-play betting, and players like to bet in a systematic way. Feeding the appetite for in-play with mobile marketing is a key way to reap the rewards of predictable betting behaviour.

For example, knowing if a player loves multiples is valuable. Knowing if a player loves multiples of three or more teams is much better. 

Knowing whether a player loves multiples of five or more on in-play only markets means you have the capability to create intensive interactions between the player and the operator that pay off.

Trigger messages in real-time at the most important points in their journeys. Let’s take a new user registration example. Trigger bonus or gamification messages on registration pages to encourage players to complete at the right time for them.

The aim is not to disrupt the player experience which is especially harmful for the likes of poker players. Interactions need to trigger on the lobby page instead of the table page. In-app interactions should be seamless and not interruptive.

An agile approach moulds lifecycles to the player as an individual, instead of forcing them to behave in a way they might not necessarily want to.

Real-time context delivers more value to players at key stages in their app journeys than ineffective spray-and-pray mobile messaging.

Getting technical
Although there are some challenges when creating in-play marketing, these can be overcome with the right tools. Real-time data-mining is a distinct advantage.

It eliminates latency and ensures real-time is really real-time. It’s the ability to react in real-time to a goal, a corner, or penalty, and for the messaging to be useful.

App event triggering allows you to send or restrict at the precise time it suits the player, whether they complete a registration page, or fill a betslip. Machine learning examines your data and puts it to work. When combined, this technical advantage delivers revenue increases.

Real-time retention methods
Buoyed by its success in the social gaming sphere, gamification is a winning tactic for mobile iGaming. Using real-time leaderboards, point scoring, achievement unlocking or social competition with other players delivers real impact, and players really respond to this.

Mobile data says at least half of players who install an app for the first time will run it once and then never again. Betting and gaming app data tells us that 25% of your players use your bonus offering and then churn.

You're losing real-money players left, right and centre. Reacting in real-time to what your players are doing engages them and uplifts bet numbers.

Gamifying the app experience in real-time recreates the excitement and appeal of in-play experiences before a bet is even placed. Real-time gamification is a winner in onboarding or betslip journeys and starts the retention process.

Live data helps with this by arming triggers to deploy at key moments in the process.

Real-time crossover
Topical events tend to spur players into action. Most betting and gaming companies see natural increases during the biggest events of the year.

Champions League final, Super Bowl Sunday, the Euro 2016 final between Portugal and France, are the events that can make a real-time impact on your bottom line.

Occasional players are ripe for monetisation as they log in to stay in the loop. Now is the chance to engage by delivering in-play odds or bitesize content in the form of stats or live content.

Horse racing apps do this well by offering live video streaming of selected races.

Leverage the range of markets available
Mobile data says in-play tennis betting is hugely popular, second only to football for many operators l and it lends itself well to the quick and convenient clicks and taps of mobile. The action moves fast, but there are natural pauses.

These breaks are the ideal opportunity to trigger in-play suggested bets, or stats. When the action picks up again, players can bet in minute detail, on next set or even next point. Punters can back a player to win the next set or the next point. This is the kind of live betting that delivers strong returns.

Tennis is ideal for real-time cross over. From a pre-match perspective and a cross-sell live-to-live perspective. Grabbing a player’s attention at the 45 minute mark with an exciting live tennis offer increases the chances of impressing players and raising bet numbers.

Real-time is the future
Right now, agile operators with a focus on real-time innovation will see the rewards and will, in turn, move in-play betting on to its next evolution.

Operators see the benefit of updating products to focus on the real-time betting trends we’ve seen in recent years.

Marketing trends predict a strong focus on real-time, whether it’s deploying key messages to wearables or designing mobile products to keep up with how fast players consume sporting action.

Employing a combination of real-time retention methods truly ensures your strategy is ready for the next evolution of mobile.

Related articles: Real-time interactions that matter: a Champions League story (paywall)
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