Operators have boiled their launch processes down to a science, offering welcome bonuses to bring players to their platforms. From there, retention is the true goal. That’s where SharpLink comes in.
“There’s a huge audience for betting, but the experience can be pretty one-dimensional and transactional,” says Phythian. “The technology today gets you live and gets you secure, but it leaves you a generation behind.”
Phythian compares sports betting to tech giants like Netflix or Amazon. Consumers expect personalisation and tailored recommendations in almost every industry. In sports betting, they’re not getting that same degree of personally catered offers.
SharpLink aims to change that. The company seeks to understand user behaviour and serve it back to bookmakers so they can use it for personalisation.
“There’s plenty of space to think about how this could work,” Phythian says. “So the next step is coming up with a solution using generative AI and modernised tools. Plugging it into the sportsbook is the biggest challenge.”
All in place
He emphasises that the technology is there, making this problem more of a workflow issue. SharpLink is building BetSense, a personalisation tool that will integrate into a sportsbook’s back-end systems and offer bettors a personalised journey.
“Sahara Bets has been our first partner,” Phythian says. “And they’re using IGT as their backbone. So we’re toying with ways to integrate that personalised journey into their user experience.” Phythian expects to go live with Sahara Bets by March Madness 2024.
BetSense will be like a behind-the-scenes wizard for sports bettors, conjuring targeted deals and promotions based on their preferences.
“Say you’re a New York Jets fan,” Phythian explains. “You’re a $50 player and you like parlays. Maybe you bet later at night. We get this information from the Player Account Management System and it’s anonymised with random ID numbers so we don’t know who a specific user is.
“We ingest that data, game markets and some historical data, mix it all up and do some generative articles on the Jets. Then we’ll look at markets for the Jets game and make some suggestions. When you log in, you’ll get information on the game, maybe a two-for-one parlay and an analysis of the game.”
This approach, Phythian says, increases slickness, retention and betting. Retention is the overarching goal.
“We’re less about finding new users. It’s more about seeing operators spend lots of money to get players in, then we help increase betting activity for those players.”
It’s a calculated approach because welcome bonuses aren’t moneymakers. They’re essentially acquisition campaigns run at a loss.
“There’s proof that if you get a user depositing now, you’ve got him for life,” Phythian says. This is why operators put what are essentially guaranteed losses for the book out there as initial bonuses. The second wave of sports betting, Phythian posits, will be more focused on retention and long-term value.
And this is where we get into the nitty gritty of BetSense. It’s an umbrella term for a variety of services SharpLink can provide. Phythian says the company is currently working with limited data, with just a small sample size from Sahara Bets. But the potential for scalability and growth is there.
BetSense can integrate into operator systems and provide value in numerous ways, Phythian says.
“We put all the data together and we can combine it in an output via API or just send it to the operator for them to serve themselves. Or we can build a page for them. We can also insert smart widgets so it doesn’t have to be a dedicated page. We’re building an arsenal so operators can choose how to deploy our tools.”
Lots on the horizon
It’s just the beginning, though, as Phythian says BetSense is in its “1.0 era” right now and will be iterated 15 times or more before it’s at the right spot. He likes to think of BetSense as “the bot behind the bet”.
Phythian and SharpLink “did some McKinsey research and saw a 20% lift when you add personalisation” to certain industries. While the figure is far from a sure thing, other industries seem to indicate a massive upside.
However, getting operators on board with a revenue model is a challenge considering the theoretical money to be made. “The model is still evolving. If we could give a book 20% lift and take a third of it, not every operator wants to do that. So in some cases, we turn it around and bill by usage. It’s an evolution of our business based on what the customers are comfortable with.”
As for the bettors, Phythian is confident that BetSense works for all types of sportsbook users. The data and engine can curate offers based on behaviours, so a casual bettor is likely to get a much different offer from a regular game-time live bettor.
Over the next few years, Phythian foresees meaningful results from SharpLink and BetSense.
“The proof is out there,” he says. “We’re hoping more books pick up on it so we can scale.”