Next month will see the start of the greatest football tournament on earth, the World Cup!
This will be a great opportunity for operators to take advantage of a high-traffic period and generate increased revenue. However, periods of high traffic can be very demanding on your back-office systems, so its imperative operators have the right setup to manage this busy period and get the most out of it, while giving their customers a great betting experience.
We caught up with Simon Noble, Sportsbook Product Director at Champion Sports to hear his thoughts on the upcoming tournament and what he believes operators need to do to ensure they’re ready to maximise the opportunities the World Cup has to offer.
What should online sportsbook operators/brands be doing from a technical perspective to ensure they are ready for the World Cup?
“Everyone goes a little bit mad for the World Cup, but, in reality, there are fewer matches taking place each day than a normal busy Saturday during the regular season. High-profile matches including semi-finals and finals can see a significant spike in betting traffic, but the vast majority of operators should be able to take this in their stride. This is why it is important to regularly stress-test systems – to do this, we take a busy Saturday where there may be upwards of 300 games taking place simultaneously with live betting offered in-play and all the data and transactions (live scores, price updates, etc) that come with it, capture this volume and then ramp it up by between 20% and 30% to make sure that we have the capacity to cope with what would be considered extreme demand.
“Of course, a World Cup final with hundreds of millions of patriotic punters watching and betting can put pressure on a sportsbook, and this will undoubtedly lead some operators to reconfigure their UI to streamline the customer journey so that players can quickly find the markets and odds they are looking for, place their bets and enjoy the game. Others might restrict the number of markets offered for the lower leagues that will have gotten underway by the time the final kicks off in December or switch off some of the more advanced platform features that consume bandwidth. Ultimately, it comes down to having the capacity for new accounts and being able to onboard players, fund their accounts successfully and accept wagers without putting the platform under so much pressure that it collapses due to the weight.”
What are some of the key challenges they can face at big betting events like this? Is there one that stands out above the rest as being “mission critical”?
“One of the biggest challenges is balancing the book. Trading teams go to great lengths to ensure their books are perfectly balanced, but that can’t always be the case during events like the World Cup and you can sometimes find that you are betting against your customers. Patriotic punters always typically back the local favourite so there is a lot of one-way traffic. That is why operators should see events like this as a huge acquisition opportunity and given the timing of this World Cup and its dovetailing with the regular Premier League season, books should be optimistic about retaining players acquired during the event. Another key challenge is winning the fierce marketing war that takes place between brands vying for bettors – getting noticed and staying relevant is incredibly tough, especially for those with smaller budgets and advertising war chests.”
Do operators pay enough attention to platform stability and ensuring a seamless player journey during big betting events? Or do they get distracted by big-budget ad campaigns?
“The vast majority of operators do pay attention to platform stability and understand just how critical it is for their books to be online at all times. If a site is failing, then all that money spent on customer acquisition and retention is wasted. It must be remembered that sports betting is different to casino in that the action is taking place live, in real time, so any delay in being able to place a bet will simply see players leave the book and go elsewhere. Worse, if they cannot access an active bet then they can feel like they are being cheated out of a win or prevented from making a timely cash-out, and that is a cardinal sin for any brand looking to acquire players and keep them loyal.”
What impact can an outage or prolonged downtime have on a sportsbook brand? Will it see players go elsewhere with a very small chance of coming back?
“It can be game-over for the sportsbook. Players are incredibly promiscuous with many happy to jump to another brand simply because it offers a generous welcome bonus. Throw into the mix a book that keeps suffering outages and players will leave and never come back. There is just too much competition and choice for operators to even think it is acceptable for their books to be down for a prolonged period of time or even just a limited period of time at a key moment.”
What can operators do to ensure their platforms are stable and can handle the higher volume of bets passing through their systems?
“It really comes down to volume testing and pushing the book to its limits and beyond ahead of big betting events. As mentioned, we take a busy Saturday profile, replicate it and then increase that demand to the point where the system ultimately breaks. Thanks to the availability of cloud computing, it is fairly straightforward for operators to increase bandwidth in line with anticipated demand, with many offering burst arrangements. It’s worth mentioning that operators must also ensure their books are working in real-time, with no lag or delay. If a system starts to run slow then it has a significant, negative impact on the player experience. This is certainly the case for in-play betting. By volume and stress testing systems regularly, operators can ensure this does not happen.”
Anything else to add?
“It is worth noting that a lot of new players will be wagering for the first time so are more likely to be betting pre-game to begin with. This provides operators with a big opportunity to then educate these players as to the other exciting betting options available to them and incentivise customers to perhaps try in-play for the first time. They may also want to highlight cash out, live markets and other fast-paced betting products. This is the sort of ‘beneficial’ behaviour operators will then want to reward through other bonuses and offers, however, it must be done responsibly and with safe gaming in mind at all times.”
From speaking with Simon, its clear that during the World Cup, operators will need to pay close attention to their UI and platform stability. This is important because it will play a key role in their ability to onboard and service as many bettors as possible. Simon also cautions that it may not always be possible to create perfectly balanced odds during this period, so instead of trying to make the biggest margin, operators should be looking at this time as a massive acquisition opportunity. We look forward to an exciting World Cup and seeing all the great opportunities it hjas to offer.