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Getting personal with sports bettors

| By Daniel O'Boyle | Reading Time: 6 minutes
As operators seek new ways to engage customers and drive more betting activity, a combination of personalisation and data can play a key role, by creating new content that keeps customers on site and helps inform bettors. Daniel O’Boyle speaks to some of the rising businesses looking to leverage these tools to stimulate betting.

With years of experience, operators have become adept at getting customers onto their sites. 

But as key channels may get shut off thanks to tighter regulation, increased competition and – in the US – a need to shift from investment to profitability, these operators need to find ways to maximise the value of those customers, and that means finding ways to retain them and encourage them to bet.  

To Yoav Ziv, vice president for sales and business development at LVision, engaging customers is the most natural way for operators to differentiate themselves. 

“All operators, at the end of the day, want things that will increase turnover,” Ziv says. “But assuming that everyone is offering similar markets, that they have similar general offerings, it becomes about engagement.” 

His business’ BetBooster product is one in a wave of new attempts to increase engagement through personalised content. 

Looking at historical data and live events, the product tracks trends and patterns to help inform punters’ bets.  

This data is then personalised, offering players insights specifically related to the bets they have placed in the past. 

“After one or two months, we’re going to have a lot of data,” he says. “It is of course collected anonymously – but we know that the anonymous player likes to bet on Asian handicap markets on the Premier League, so we can offer tips and insights about those games. Or you can offer tips for similar markets and maybe try to expand the way in which the player bets.”  

Freedom to choose 

As these tools become more popular, they have become available for a wider range of markets, including for sports and verticals that may have been neglected when it comes to technological developments. 

EquusForm’s Bet Finder tool, created by Jim Fitzmaurice and Michael Turner, shows a different side of personalisation for bet stimulation. Unlike tools which personalise themselves to a customer, it is designed to allow customers to personalise tips for themselves: showing a list of horses based on user-selected criteria such as form and odds. Viewers can then see the performance of horses in past races that meet this criteria. 

“We made it twofold really,” Turner says. “We put the genie function on the top, so you can press one of three buttons and the genie will make selections for you. That can be maybe for someone who’s just starting to get into horse racing. 

“But then we’ve also made something for the more astute punter. We come from a more form-reading background, but traipsing through newspapers, spending hours looking at form takes too long. The BetFinder cuts that down to second.  

“The punter can choose their own criteria. They can have as much or as little criteria as they like and either way it can give horses in all the day’s racing within seconds.” 

While tools to increase engagement have been popular in other sports, Turner adds that horse racing – despite being such a key sport for betting – had previously been left behind in this area. 

“I think racing has been neglected for a lot of years,” he says. “The online sites have been jumping on the latest bandwagon. Horse racing is, believe it or not, on the rise, but bookies haven’t been putting out new products that engage these customers. 

“In football, there’s a lot of different ways to bet and there’s lots of widgets, but in horse racing, nobody’s really done it.” 

A hub for content 

Streaming, by offering bettors the opportunity to watch while they bet, has been a clear way to increase engagement. 

For Aviv Arnon, co-founder and vice president of business development at WSC sports, sports betting represents an opportunity to leverage assets that it already created. His business had been delivering sports content for media companies for more than a decade before venturing into the world of betting in an agreement with FanDuel, initially covering PGA Tour golf. 

Rather than delivering betting tips, WSC creates personalised highlights for players. 

“We work with whoever owns sports media rights, and we have a cloud platform that basically analyses every moment of a game and the context of the moments involved,” Arnon says. “So what was the moment, what just happened, who did it, how important was that moment.  

“It analyses the footage of the broadcast, the reactions of the crowd and commentators and the statistics of the plays, and delivers relevant highlights. 

“ We traditionally worked with media, with clubs with broadcasters, but now there’s an increasing convergence with other areas because of how consumption is changing. 

“There’s a unique synergy with what we do and what betting operators want to achieve.” 

Those highlights are then personalised based on betting activity, so players who bet on an individual golfer are likely to see highlights related to their performance. 

Adam Kaplan, general manager of FanDuel, says that the deal represented a greater shift in general towards making the operator more of a home of sports content than ever before, stimulating betting activity by keeping customers around not only to bet but also to stay on top of sporting events. 

“Content is an area where we’re investing very heavy and the opportunity to leverage WSC’s capabilities with great content was an opportunity worth pursuing and focusing on,” he says. “I think there’s a clear path to growing our addressable audience and reach in a way that can drive our gaming businesses. 

 “We can do that by enriching the customer experience through content and through experiences.  

“This is just one step towards that, but WSC is definitely going to be a big part of that strategy.” 

While this foray into betting only covers one sport for now, Arnon says you need only to speak to those involved with other sports and competitions to see that the appetite exists to broaden the scope. 

“That’s already an opportunity where we could and will expand,” he says. “Our existing clients are all the major sports leagues in the world and they’re all thinking about ways to work with betting operators.” 

Overcoming challenges 

For Arnon, the move to the world of betting has had differences with anything his business had done before. 

“It’s a little different,” Arnon says. “There’s a lot of the core of what we did for media in this, but there’s new ways to think of it when it comes to building a customer experience.  

“We’re trying to create an experience that complements what FanDuel is doing and the ability to deliver the right video at the right time to the right person to incentivise them to come back involves different challenges.” 

LVision, meanwhile, found much of the challenge concerned integration. The supplier therefore worked to create a version of its product that could be implemented easily. 

“When we started with the product we offered it as an API solution, but it was rejected by many potential customers who said they didn’t have the resources, other regular excuses that customers like to use,” he says. “But then we made a shift to make it a widget, or maybe even more of a web component.  

“There’s just three lines of code to include everything, including the language component.” 

Turner, meanwhile, noted that working with operators to build the product, speed was one of the most important things operators looked for. 

“What we tried to do with the BetFinder is to make it really simple,” he says. “So if any customer was new to horse racing they can just open the BetFinder, click a few buttons and then it’ll give them a few horses that they can add to betslip and place the bet. 

“Everyone was after speed. Everyone wanted to know how fast you can go in and place a bet.”  

Similarly, Ziv said he was surprised to find that an increase in the speed at which players place bets turned out to be one of the key benefits of BetBooster in A/B testing, alongside growth in turnover, betting volume and average size per bet. 

New ways to personalise 

While showing content based on past betting activity is the most obvious form of personalisation, both Ziv and Kaplan point out that there are other ways to personalise content too. 

“We know how to collect data on logged in players and we know how to collect data based on cookies,” Ziv says. 

“We have different levels of personalisation. So if we don’t know much about a player’s betting but we know their city or country or language, we can offer betting based on popular teams or sports in that region.” 

Kaplan says that this type of customisation available in WSC’s product, meanwhile, can be used in conjunction with marketing activities. 

“You can imagine if we’re running certain promotions or odds boosts, we might want to enhance that experience by delivering certain content to those users,” he says. 

Ziv says that ultimately, allowing the player to be more involved in the betting process provides a huge number of opportunities for operators. 

“BetBooster definitely allows that engagement operators are looking for because it offers a new level of betting,” Ziv says. “It involves mobile notifications. It creates a lot of new engagement opportunities for operators and for the punter it makes the customer feel more involved and more educated. 

Similarly, Turner says that this has become more important than ever given the effects of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

“Having an online presence is important, but having a way to interact with customers has never been more important given everything that’s happened with betting shops,” he says. “That community aspect from betting shops is something punters will be looking to find something close to online. 

“We probably understand the punter even more than the bookmaker, so we’re building our products around the people who really matter,” he adds. 

“I always liken it to having a game of golf. If you have a really good game, you’re going to come back. If you have a really bad game, you’re not just going to snap your clubs in half and give up, but you’re going to need something to come back to.” 

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