iGaming Growth: The Power of a Native App with Tom Atfield, Creative Director at mkodo

It’s a great time to be an online gaming operator. The digital shift is in full swing, accelerated by the Pandemic and betting activity is up, especially in key markets such as online casino and sportsbook. However, being able to take full advantage of this opportunity over a sustained period of time, whilst tackling the evolving regulatory landscape is the real challenge.

The quality of your digital product will be a major qualifying factor in the long-term success of your brand, but with so many white-label, web-based products on the market it can be difficult to find the optimum solution. Tom Atfield, Creative Director at mkodo believes that the capabilities of a native app are instrumental in driving the growth of your platform, especially when operating across multiple jurisdictions. Read more below as he explains why.

Post pandemic has caused many traditional land-based players to shift online. How can a robust digital product help to cater to these migrated players?

“To start with, brand consistency is important to help land-based players feel more comfortable and confident when migrating to a digital product perhaps for the first time. Trusting the brand will remove any reluctance that players might have when trying something new. Making the digital product feel familiar is also key as this will help attract land-based players in the first instance and retain them long-term. Offering complicated games and products that players are not familiar with risks confusing them, so keeping it simple is always the best approach.

“On the tech front, an option for players to seamlessly integrate their land-based membership to online makes the onboarding process uncomplicated and ensures a smooth registration procedure. A slick and easy signing up process should not be underestimated as a large number of potential customers drop off if they find the registration too complicated.”

As more markets begin to open up across Europe, how do operators best deal with the increasing challenge of managing their digital products across fragmented jurisdictional frameworks?

“It is important to keep things consistent where possible in terms of function to not overcomplicate things. Different territories will have different regulators and requirements, which is where the main development work should be customised and tailored to fit different markets. This would include things like responsible gaming tools which can differ a fair bit from region to region.

“A good geolocation platform is needed, such as mkodo’s mCloud Gateway, to manage access to a jurisdiction. This is not only important for regulation but also for API integrity, as tools like ours can monitor, enhance and protect APIs and web services. With emerging markets such as the US and Canada this plays an even bigger part as regulation can differ from states and provinces within the same country.

“Digital dictionaries for language are important for multiple jurisdictions and a good Content Management System (CMS) is invaluable here. The CMS should enable the operator to tailor and control translation dictionaries for the key content, if not all content, that is delivered to the app based on the device’s language setting.”

Many of the leading white label iGaming platform providers include a mobile or web app in their packages at minimal extra cost. Why should operators be using 3rd party digital app developers such as mkodo instead of using the basic features of their turn-key platform packages?

“A web-based product is very different from a native mobile product. Although the end goal for the business and user may be the same i.e. play a game or buy a lottery ticket, the technology, context and intention differs. A web browser is called such because when navigating a website, a user is discovering, researching and basically browsing. In a native environment where the app is integrated into the user’s personal device and home screen, it becomes more of a utility and a task-based context for regular tasks. From a technical point of view, a native app can access thousands of native APIs, leverage the device hardware for better performance and user experience, and the operator will have a presence on an app store, which is vital to ensure they’re present among the competition.

“Using native features available on iOS and Android helps increase player engagement and entertainment and offer a better experience for players within a native app over a web/web app. A native app should be complementary to a web app and be an important channel in the operator’s digital armoury. At mkodo, we concentrate on providing a more tailored and focused digital product than the basic features of a turn-key solution from iGaming platform providers. We have 20 years of experience in mobile-first customer engagement, and our focus is on the design, user experience, development and ongoing enhancements of our clients’ native apps, web apps and digital products.”

App Store submission can be a tricky process at times, especially as app stores continually evolve and update their regulations, it can be a challenge to keep up and stay compliant. As online channels become increasingly popular, do you think this process will get increasingly harder for operators going forward and what can be done to mitigate the risk of having a rejected app submission?  

“As the gaming industry and the technologies used within the industry evolve, Google and Apple’s push for compliant and reliable apps, subsequently monitored and executed through their app submission process, will continue to add pressure on operators in the sector. As changes are regularly occurring, mkodo know when to check regulations, have access to OS release notes and developer news sites, track newsletters and chatter as having a finger on the pulse is key.

“Operators should be looking to companies like mkodo to help them navigate the guidelines and reach out to those who have strong expertise in the app submission processes for both App Store and Google Play as it can be a minefield and it’s easy to make mistakes that can be costly in terms of both time and money. Before a new OS update comes out, mkodo studies the Beta versions for potential issues with our clients’ current apps and look holistically at the new OS and regulations for both challenges and opportunities.

“Last year, we worked with our clients to ensure that they are compliant with Apple’s 4.2 guideline, requiring apps to be native and not just a repackaged website, and 4.7 which forces operators to either build games natively or embed HTML5 games into their application code since sideloaded content is no longer permitted. This involved a lot of work but together with our partners, we made great progress in resolving the challenges these new guidelines created. We can proudly say that our clients’ apps are now compatible with the guidelines and have encountered minimal disruption along the way.”

Editor’s Note:

After speaking with Tom, it’s clear that there is still room for improvement in regard to app development in the iGaming market. Many operators are relying on basic web app solutions that come as part of a white label package to service their digital customers, but according to Tom, this is not going to maximise engagement.

The use of native apps enables an integrated experience via the user’s personal device and home screen, becoming more of a utility and a task-based feature. Furthermore, the operator will also benefit from a presence on the app store, which is vital to ensure they’re well-positioned among the competition.

Going forward, the pressure brought on by digital trends and app store regulation will force operators into investing more in their digital platforms. To ensure they’re in line with consumer expectations and to be seen as a true entertainment brand, companies like mkodo offer the perfect solution.

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