How do you find the balance between product diversity and brand identity? Interview with Itai Zak, Ex CEO, SBTech and GoWild Gaming

As we see more and more countries develop an iGaming infrastructure in response to the recent months, we face an increase in competition for the players, as operators pivot towards their next big move.

But what are some of the ways an operator stand out?

After our last conversation with Itai Zak Ex CEO, SBTech and GoWild Gaming “The Future of Online Casino”, we caught up again to hear his thoughts on everything from brand differentiation, customer acquisition vs retention, and leadership strategies.

What are some of the ways operators can differentiate themselves and how can this impact the future of their business? 

Many operators, including ourselves, have been debating this for very a long time.

I think that there are several ways you can differentiate your business. The first one, which is not easy, is to try and identify untapped and less crowded markets. You need to find markets that you can expand your vertical reach in.

Obviously, this comes with lots of challenges. For example, you need to adapt and localise the product and find the right payment method.

The second option, which is a bit of buzzword right now, is to innovate. It doesn’t necessarily have to be doing something new, but perhaps doing some things a little better and making them a little simpler.

You need to make sure you have a deep understanding of your users and you know exactly who they are.

They know what they like, and you have to make sure you’re giving your audience exactly what they want, how they want it, and through the appropriate channel.

Another way to differentiate yourself is to use marketing channels outside of the traditional scope.

We’ve obviously got channels like Affiliates, SEO and banner ads – but try to find where they converge.

If you have an offline presence, you could learn how to leverage it in a better way.

For online, you could use more social media, blogging, videos, things that aren’t being as commonly used.

I think it’s also about the focus.  You see many operators trying to do everything and we see a lot of different products going to a lot of different markets.

At the end of the day, you need to define who you are and who your customers are.

Once you understand this, you need to make sure the service, the marketing and the CRM activities are the right fit.

What impact can a diversified portfolio have on customer acquisition and retention?

The more options and more depth you have, the larger the type of client you can target.

For example, slots products will attract slots players. If you add in a live dealer, you can start attracting the high rollers and live dealer types of player. You could then add a sportsbook to attract sports players, and cross-sell them to the casino. You could then go into bingo, poker etc.

The question is where does it end?

It all boils down to where you are operating, where your customers are located, and what are you strongest for.

It’s not good to only rely on one main product, but equally, having too many products can also be negative.

You can spread yourself too thin and it becomes very difficult to have optimised marketing, CRM, retention, and acquisition. This becomes especially true when you are operating in many different countries.

That being said, the ability to have multiple products does help you minimise lead cost, as you’re not just relying on one stream.

If you have the right CRM and follow best practice, you can maximise the profit per player because you can cross-sell into other products.

If a player engages with more than one product, for example, casino and sport, then on average this player will be 20-30% more profitable. This is compared to if they were just playing one product.

If you make sure that you have the main verticals and optimize your CRM marketing acquisition strategy, this will be the key to maximising profit.

Do you think customer engagement is shifting towards reactivation rather than acquisition?

I believe you always need to have both.

The more the market becomes mature and developed, the more operators compete for the same base of players.

This increases the chances that a player has multiple accounts with different operators. A typical player today has at least 3-4 iGaming accounts.

I think that brand and loyalty is the key.

In order to make sure you retain your player (which you’ve invested lots of money acquiring), you’ll need to focus more on the brand, the USP, and on the added value you’re able to offer.

There needs to be a whole strategy around how you will give them excellent customer service.

So, I don’t think its shifting from one to the other. I think we need to focus on both.

Where do we see the most room for innovation within the industry?

I think the product should be more localized and more targeted towards the player.

If you go to a typical iGaming website, they’re almost the same.

You have the same provider of the same game, the same slots amount, they’re different promotions, different offerings, but it’s more or less the same.

So, I think that there’s huge room for improvement when it comes to the product, especially when we’re talking about personalisation, geo-targeting and mobile.

Understanding your player’s preference based on their history with you and being able to offer them what they want in a matter of seconds, will be key.

In essence, it’s about giving every customer their own unique experience.

What impact does working from home have on company culture and how can a business adapt?

We always make sure we have the right technology to work from anywhere and we’re connected to the business 24-7. We believe that regardless of the pandemic we need to live and breathe the numbers.

All of our management team are used to working from home, not like in the epidemic, but we have the technology and data infrastructure in place.

But then it comes to the company culture, based on the fact that you need to do lots of face to face meeting and focused conversations with the team, it can be very difficult.

Some of the things we’re constantly refining with the management team is how to adapt, how to trust your people, how to empower them, how to give them more flexibility, how to measure them based on results and not just hours in front of a computer. We try to offer smart targets that can be measure remotely or in person.

Working from home was a big change, and we needed to change the entire management culture in one day. We needed to find new ways to help and support people, as people close to them may have lost their jobs.

In the beginning, people were burdened with many different things, and as a company, it was our responsibility to make sure that we always take care of our employees and put them first.

After some time, you finish what they call the survival mode. At this point, you’re able to educate your people on how to work in this new environment, and you can make sure everything is running and nothing is falling apart. Building day to day routine, policies, structures, how to make sure the business is surviving.

Once you see the business surviving, you want to go to the next phase and continue to grow and take advantage of opportunities. That’s why you continue to evolve the processes to enable increased remote collaboration.

With the right people and the right tech, it’s a bit easier to make the transition.

Editor’s note: From speaking with Itai, it seems apparent that there are many ways a brand can stand out to make an impact in its chosen market.

However, too much choice can be a bad thing and it’s about striking a balance between diversifying your offering whilst staying true to your audience and brand identity.

It’s also clear that the operator is only as good as the team behind the product and delivery, and the importance of pivoting towards a people-first approach cannot be underestimated.


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