iGaming 2023: How to Take Your Product to the Next Level!
The iGaming market is currently going through an exciting and unprecedented period of transformation.
New markets. New regulation. And of course New Technology. They all mean that the opportunities for growth in our industry are plentiful, indeed greater than ever before.
Yet going to market with the ‘right product’ offering is essential.
So we caught up with Erik Bäcklund, much-in-demand iGaming industry guru and Chief Product Officer for Kindred, to hear his thoughts and tap his vision on the very best ways to leverage product growth in these unique times.
We asked Erik what we can do to ensure our customers stay engaged–and enjoy the best across-the-board player experience– well into the future.
Do you think as an industry we are making best use of mobile device capabilities, what factors are limiting the range of features that can be offered and how can they be overcome?
“I think we are getting better at it as an industry. Internally, we talk about it often. We’re specifically focused on customer preferences and how they are changing. What we are seeing, in terms of the development and the types of bets, such as Bet Builder, popular accas and in-stream markets is exciting.
“Mobile web and apps are easily our most important platform, and we don’t see this changing any time soon. They typically account for around 80% of our turnover in most markets.
“Specifically on overcoming our challenges: The factors that limit the range of features that can be offered are, ironically, also the fundamentals of a successful mobile gaming product or gaming app – for example, speed, stability, clean design & intuitive UI. These will continue to be the most crucial factors. So there is a dichotomy there but it is one we are embracing.
“Apps are also impacted by the interplay of both national regulations and the rules that Apple or Google put in place for Real Money Gambling apps.
“Moving forwards, if you look at sports betting as an example, away from the traditional 1×2 format, there is a different customer expectation in terms of how bets are packaged. In the past on the mobile, there wasn’t really a need to present any extra information. Nowadays, customers expect to see data and match information that will help them make more informed decisions. With mobile we are limited by screen space, so it is critical that we nail the navigation, UI and personalisation to make finding content slick and intuitive.
“We’re improving, but there is still a lot we can do as an industry. For example, around watch extensions, player streaming, dynamic islands, lock screen widgets, intelligent event push notifications.”
Having a wide selection of products and markets is a key factor in maximizing the customer experience. How can integrations with multiple suppliers be streamlined or better managed to improve the efficiency of resources?
“I think that the overall provision of suppliers and options available to the operator has always been a challenge. On the sportsbook side, while previously there was just a handful of niche suppliers who provided wholescale, turnkey solutions, now there is a plethora of smaller sophisticated suppliers that are offering add-on services or a complimentary service to boost your whole portfolio. Abios our esports provider for instance which gives us a bespoke service. Many other are data suppliers, big and small, offering highly dynamic services at almost zero latency to enhance our in-play markets.
“It means a lot of complex integrations that your internal systems need to consume and make sense of. We handle an enormous amount of data. Then you need to ensure that you have a good engine, that can receive all these separate feeds from various sources, integrate them and then standardize them in a way that allows for easy internal usage. Critically, we then need to present this data in an engaging way to our customers for features like personalisation, bonuses or customer communication tools.
“Good technical tools that allow for a user-friendly interface are very important. Regardless of if a customer plays a casino game from supplier A, B, or C, or on a sporting event that is from a supplier D, E, or F, the customer should not notice any difference in their experience. They don’t care that we have multiple suppliers nor should they. This is necessary for consistency and a clear line of communication to the customer.
“At Kindred, we’ve put great focus on finding a good mix between external suppliers and in-house development. With the KSP (Kindred Sportsbook Platform), we started with a clean slate, totally legacy free, and could hand-pick best-in-market suppliers to complement our infrastructure and create what we believe will be the next generation of sportsbook.
“On the gaming side, we acquired Relax Gaming a couple of years ago, which gave us the capacity to build our own games and have our own dedicated game studios. Nowadays, we work alongside a more select range of premium partners who really understand what tier one operators need to deliver a best-in-class gaming suite for their customers regardless of what country they are in or what brand they are using.”
How can we, as an industry overcome the challenge of sourcing good tech talent? Some argue that iGaming can’t compete with other tech companies because of our industry reputation causing operators to struggle to find good talent, having to pay over the odds to attract the right person. Would you agree?
“I don’t really agree. This has been the case in the past when the markets were not locally regulated. But now gambling is regulated across Europe, with strong local regulation and it’s become more accepted amongst the public. There are of course still some negative views on the industry, particularly in terms of problem gambling and there is definitely a section of the available talent pool who prefers to not work in gambling.
“Getting the talent is very doable. It’s then more how you manage them within the company, We believe we have a great company culture at Kindred and that’s really important for the retention part of it, but also in terms of acquisition.
“The challenges and opportunities for tech talent are woven into the nature of our industry – for instance we cover thousands of bet markets every day, offer in-play betting that requires highly sophisticated algorithms to assess massive amounts of data in real-time. Even the likes of TikTok, Amazon and Google do not offer techies this kind of real-time challenge!
“To attract the right Tech staff, we are promoting the use of big data, algorithmic predictions, personalisation etc – and we are heavily promoting the fact that we are utilising these technologies to roll out new gaming apps and the Kindred Sportsbook Platform (KSP) is built on these foundations. Our aim with KSP is to build our own world-leading, bespoke in-house sportsbook and we are using innovative technology that is appealing to the best tech talent as we strive to deliver highly personalised content, trading/pricing, and marketing.
“As an industry we should also be mindful of future technologies. ChatGPT for example threatens to disrupt our industry – and many other industries. For our developers and engineers, ChatGPT represents a chance to introduce efficiency in their tasks, scale up productivity and minimize errors and deficiencies. Used wisely and appropriately, it can help developers become better at their jobs by sharpening their abilities and enabling them to work more creatively within their existing functions.”
The UK gambling white paper was published recently. Do you think the outcomes of this paper will cause a ripple effect around the rest of Europe? If so, to what extent?
“It obviously brings changes for the UK market, but I believe that it won’t have much of an immediate affect throughout the rest of Europe.
“Many European markets have undergone regulation, and re-regulation, in recent times. From a Kindred perspective, we operate in recently opened markets such as Netherlands and Sweden. As they’ve only recently implemented their new iGaming regulatory frameworks, I think they’re unlikely to change things too drastically anytime soon, just because the UK White Paper has been released.
“Of course, what we are seeing is a trend of regulators across the globe who are looking at what others are doing with hopes of creating their own local versions. So, the White Paper will definitely have an impact in those cases, where jurisdictions are still in the planning phase within their markets.
“The key for us is to really work closely with the government and regulator to ensure that we achieve proportionate, consistent implementation of any new regulations. We will continue that kind of relationship building, especially in the UK. The guidelines have been set, but there’s still a lot that needs to be worked out. I think there’s an appetite to do that by the regulator with the operators and we are keen to ensure that we can be part of that journey, along with the other main operators in the UK market.”