Sports Betting 2022: How to Level Up the Player Experience

Engagement tools have been around for a long time in the casino space with many suppliers launching their own suite of tools and new innovative features frequently being introduced. We are now seeing similar products being developed for sportsbooks.

In this roundtable, iGamingFuture speaks to suppliers in the space about how these tools take the sports betting experience to a new level and help increase engagement and retention levels in this traditional vertical.

Roundtable speakers include:

  • Suren Kachatryan, CEO of Technamin (SK)  
  • Alex Kornilov CEO of Betegy (AK)
  • Vasilis Betzelos, Commercial Account Manager at Altenar (VB)

Sports betting differs hugely as a vertical to casino with players betting on upcoming or live sports events which might only take a few seconds to place. How can engagement tools and gamification elements be implemented in practice to enhance this experience further?

SK: “Engagement tools can certainly be as effective in sports as they are in casino. They have simply not been as prevalent in the sports segment until recently. There are many ways to boost that engagement, such as segmentation and gamification. An example of this is having a flexible cashout system on your sportsbook which can keep customers engaged. Moreover, offering both full and partial cash-out options builds trust with them, encouraging further engagement. These are some of the features that we have as part of our sportsbook which can help operators with engagement.

“Another way to boost this is welcome packages. These are very common in casino and can also be applied to sports. When customers make the first deposit on our sportsbook, they will be provided with a free bet or wagering bonuses. This is especially effective for newcomers who are just discovering the product. For more loyal bettors that have a history with the sportsbook, you can offer multiple bonuses together with multiple cashback bonuses. Basically, when they win a multiple bet, they receive additional win percentages. This is very effective in terms of gamification, segmentation, and engagement.

“Then there are unique opportunities with each bettor, such as birthday bonuses and special offers.  Believe it or not, engagement is also possible when they lose a bet. For example, if they lose a multiple bet, the operator returns a certain percentage from the bet amount to the user. All of this is possible through our sportsbook and has yielded positive results and feedback from both operators and end users.”

AK: “Let’s take a look at casino to see what can be done. Here, you have the gamification of the process – while with sports betting, the betting itself is the gamification, as you’re likely watching the match playing out in front of you.

“When it comes to adapting casino-style gamification to sports betting, it’s all about the UX. As it currently stands, when a player lands on a sportsbook page it’s not as simple as casino, where you click on a slot and play it. Sports betting platforms have far more barriers to engagement, as when a first-time player lands on a sportsbook page, they are faced with a multitude of numbers and markets, which makes it very hard to understand and choose what bet to place. Extra time markets are a great example of this, as there are countless legions of punters out there who have bet on their team to win a tie, but are surprised to find out they actually lost because they didn’t back the team to win during extra time.

“To drive engagement, sportsbook should become just as simple to navigate as casino; easy to bet and easy to understand, even for someone completely new to the site. This simplifies, and indeed can gamify the process, a great example being F2P accumulators that require you to predict 6 outcomes for serious cash prizes. William Hill does this very well in the UK, but we have yet to see this implemented by anyone else properly to really drive loyalty and retention. Yes, we have seen plenty of giveaways, but no one else has been able to successfully gamify that experience to drive engagement.”

VB: “These engagement methods can help to enhance gamer experiences within the sports betting industry, and as we see greater adoption of Esports and Fantasy leagues, certain types of engagement tools like amazing content, undeniable odds and gamer incentives will continue to bring players back to our operators’ sites and is something we employ at Altenar.

“In terms of gamification, this naturally lends itself to Casino for instance, though it could have amazing features for betting in the fantasy leagues, or as a modified and gamified version of bet building … but as for now, traditional and next generation gamers come for the content and ease of use, sports betting grows with tradition at its core, even if gamers are betting on fantastical creatures instead of football players.”

What needs to be considered when developing engagement tools for the sports segment as the customers differ from casino?

SK: “We must take into consideration that sports betting is mostly a ‘thrill of the moment’ experience because the events are more often than not taking place live. So, any new engagement tool must take that factor into account. Sports betting has often been more of a social experience traditionally, unlike casino. Customers who bet on sports events are more likely to celebrate their wins, and engagement tools must be designed accordingly. You can offer bonuses per win, for example, that can prompt them to engage further.

“I think as suppliers, we need to focus on these social experiences, especially with the World Cup coming up very soon. Most people won’t be able to attend the games, so we need to recreate the feeling of being present in the stadium. This can be achieved through high-tech devices such as VR or augmented reality, but also something as simple as a chat function which will allow customers to interact with each other in real-time.”

AK: “Keeping it simple and segmenting your customers by offering different products and markets that are tailored to specific interests. If this is fully integrated, it will make it easier for players to access the sports they want to bet on.

“Spotify and other algo-driven recommendation services are right up our street in this sense. These machine-learning-based tools focus on building up player profiles that constantly deliver content which is relevant. This in turn creates an accurate personal profile for driving engagement, and just like with Netflix and Spotify – means that you can then deliver personalised betting markets to each customer.”

VB: “This will be specific to a country and its players, some countries still prefer more traditional aspects of betting, whereas, other countries enjoy the thrill of fantasy play, for this reason, engagement tools must be nuanced to these differing markets.

“We have to add the aspect of stability meets flexibility here, which has worked well, displaying only the content the players want to see, there’s no need in having league of legends as an offering on the site if a player won’t engage.

“It comes down, again, to sports content for engagement and the desire to feel like their custom is repaid … via better bet builders, odds, and betting options.”

What can we expect from this area in the near future? Will gamification tools become the norm in sports betting and will things as simple as tournaments be a game changer in this space?

SK: “With the way our industry is progressing, I think we will see more and more gamification in sports betting in the very near future. Advances in technology will surely have a bigger role to play in creating more immersive and exciting experiences which will engage bettors on a whole other level. However, we must also keep in mind that their safety must remain a high priority at all times.  I firmly believe that the same technology and advancement, which will bring forward a new era for sports betting, will also be utilised to protect customers and ensure that the betting experience is safe for everyone to enjoy. Combine that with multiple tournaments, and you’ve got a very interesting result that they will appreciate!”

AK: “It won’t be a game changer, but it will most definitely be a new untapped market that will offer plenty of potential. As a result, I’d hesitate to brand such tools as ‘transformative’, but rather an additional channel that can be utilised.

“The benefits of course are clear –lesser tier sports will no doubt become more popular as we create greater incentives via engagement – and thus, broaden a punters’ reach beyond their traditional markets of choice. As a result, and as operators learn to better promote an event, they’ll have a higher margin and an easier cost per acquisition – which of course will drive further investment in this space.

“To succeed, operators need to learn from Netflix to provide ways to influence the delivery of sports media and the consumption of content, thus enabling segmentation and personalised promotions for each individual player. The final goal of course, is for betting sites to become like Netflix; or in other words, a site that delivers tailored content, specialised for you.”

VB: “I think we will see the essence of gamification appear in increments and stages, because there’s something straight-shooting about sports betting that traditional and next-generation gamers often love. It’s not gimmicky so to speak, we let our content speak for itself, as is the historical nature of sports betting and this works tremendously well in engaging players.

“It could be a game changer, but it will take some time to become player demanded.”

Editor’s Note:

From catching up with these industry leaders, it’s exciting to see just how much value can be extracted from the traditional casino vertical and implemented into the sportsbook experience for players. Gamification has been a buzzword for some time, but now it seems as though our industry finally has the perfect tools and resources available to bring the vision to reality. Which is great news for the players!

The fast-moving nature of sports betting can make innovations in engagement slightly more challenging, especially when done at scale. It’s also important not to lose the thrill of the moment, which is a key aspect of sports betting. However, with new, progressive technology readily available in the market, the possibilities are infinite. It’s also important to note that these breakthroughs in player engagement are not going to be transformative for the market but rather, value-adding, bringing a new stream of incentivised engagement to your operations and most importantly facilitating the sustainable growth of sports betting for many more years to come.

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