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IN-DEPTH 30 November 2016
The future of live casino
Taking the croupier’s table from the physical casino to online was the move that introduced a whole new audience to casino gaming, but what will come next? Sam Brown, NetEnt’s Head of Live Casino, looks into his crystal ball and sees a mobile future
By Gambling Insider

It has been 20 years since the first online casino was launched. Right on the cusp of the digital age, they soon took the world by storm. With roulette, poker and blackjack leading the way, online casinos across the globe soon signed up millions of players and, with every year that has passed, improving technologies have opened up the possibilities of more games, better gameplay and, more recently, mobile capability.

However, even with all this new technology flooding into the betting and gaming industry, it was live casino that brought the casino atmosphere to life for online players. With real people, on real tables, dealing the cards, live casino lands in the middle ground between online and retail, proving particularly popular with customers who have traditionally less experience of random number generated games and a desire to interact in a live environment.It’s a successful recipe which continues to reap rewards for operators across the online space.

Reams of research shows that people are spending more time online than ever, and it’s on smartphones where they’re racking up the hours. With mobiles now the premier choice for surfing the net, it becomes crucial for developers to ensure that their games are designed with a mobile-first mentality, and live casino is just the same.

For NetEnt, it’s important to ensure that NetEnt Live, our successful live casino brand offering, continues to move with the times and makes the most of evolving player habits. We feel that designing for mobile is no longer optional for developers; it’s a necessity. So, how do you bring something such as live casino – a product with inherently more technical complexity than an RNG game and traditionally enjoyed on a larger screen – successfully to mobile?

Every effort to keep those elements in which make live casino popular should be the first consideration. A core strength of the product is the ability to interact with other players and the dealer, so maintaining social capabilities is key. In the future, the level of interaction and realism will be taken to a whole new level, using virtual and augmented realities that are currently taking the gaming world by storm.

Another important consideration of any live game is trust, and maintaining the integrity of the game – the synchronisation of the audio, video and game interface – is everything. Keeping all the game elements synchronised across numerous devices, operating systems, browsers and connection speeds is crucial.

We must then consider design, keeping consistency across devices, working with smaller spaces and acknowledging the varying needs and interactions of users across their different devices. If developers simply copy and paste a desktop product into the small screen, they are destined for failure. Being successful in the mobile world requires nuanced, dedicated and knowledgeable design.

A simple example is to think about the way people use their mobiles – generally in shorter, more regular bursts than when compared with desktop, and seldom for a single function. How can the design and user experiences leverage this opportunity to enhance the product? How can we facilitate the multi-tasking environments that users crave?

There is no silver bullet, and instead we must engage in an ongoing relationship with our players, where they are given the forum to describe their needs. Technology and interfaces are changing much faster on mobile devices than they ever have on desktop, so we must take on an iterative cycle of improvement based on the voice of the customers, and subsequently sensitive product design.

The future for live casino is incredibly exciting, and improving technologies in the mobile space are destined to grow the live environment even further. Now is the time for suppliers to future-proof their existence and join the mobile revolution.

Sam Brown is head of live casino at NetEnt, the leading digital casino entertainment provider. He is responsible for overall delivery of NetEnt’s live dealer experience covering all aspects of technology, operations, development and marketing. He has more than 10 years’ experience in betting and gaming
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IN-DEPTH 18 October 2019
Automating acquisition

Alex Czajkowski discusses the automation of acquisition within online gaming.

It’s almost every operator’s perennially hot topic - acquisition. While acquisition strategies can vary market-by-market, there is a case in every market for automating more of the process to improve conversion rates or significantly reduce acquisition costs. In any market, you can segment your prospects, regardless of your product, into two: inner-directed and outer-directed. Inner-directed prospects know what they want; your job is to get out of their way, but be there for any obstacles that occur in achieving their goal.

Typically, this is to join, deposit, get a bonus and play. For example, when I go into a store to buy a laptop and having to deal with some sales clerk who knows less about them than I do (and in fact may be financially incentivised to push me to the wrong selection), I know what I want; get out of my way. But the sales clerk may know something I don’t, like how last year’s model is now significantly reduced and the changes were largely cosmetic.

Our inner-directed online gaming prospects benefit from a bit of guidance in their rush to register. No, they don’t need to know of password format requirements; they’re using a sufficiently robust password to begin with and they’re experienced players. But by reminding them that with every play they are accumulating loyalty points they can redeem for cash, this could be welcome news at a new site. So while we don’t want to interfere with the inner-directed prospects hurling themselves through our conversion funnel, we do need to be there to inform and support. This also helps ensure a higher conversion rate, not to mention an opportunity to really introduce the brand voice.

Sure, you could use distracting pop-ups, or unmemorable banners alongside the necessary forms. But those are all one-way communications. You’re talking at the prospect rather than with the prospect. Sinitic.ai, a leading AI-enabled, gaming-focused chatbot provider, or more specifically, an automated intelligent customer experience (AICX), enables operators to engage in “asynchronous conversations” through this process. It uses proactive yet passive messaging through an open, automated chat window. In this window, the chatbot prompts as the player moves through the forms, offering to help but also reminding the player of site benefits and interesting news (e.g. there’s a new game to try or a big match tonight).

Should our inner-directed prospective be intrigued by any of the prompts, they merely have to chat back to the bot. With language-specific NLP (natural language processing) behind the bot, the prospect and the site can have a natural conversation about that topic. They could even discuss any relevant topic the prospect may choose to ask about, such as: What are the odds on Liverpool vs. Arsenal tonight? An integrated chatbot can answer these questions, in real time, as straightforward or cheekily/sassily as you want your brand voice to be.

The outer-directed prospect is just the opposite; they need assistance. They are like the new dad standing in front of 300 choices for car seats for their first baby, with prices ranging from $50 to $500. Only one word comes to mind – help. Here, an intelligent chatbot can walk this prospect through the registration, deposit and bonus processes, field by field if necessary; just as if there was a customer service agent holding their hand through the process, but with no delay, as a human agent would be handling multiple chats and not be truly one-on-one. An integrated chatbot should know where the prospect is in the journey, right down to the field in focus on the form, and prompt appropriately.

Again, the chatbot can also insert “marketing messages,” new promotions that may be of interest, game suggestions for the newbie to try and matches they want to bet on. These all help in the conversion process, not to mention churn; one key reason online casino operators so quickly lose their first players is the players play the wrong game and have a fast bust out, leaving disappointed. This can be prevented through chat-supported onboarding with proactive chat for churn prevention.

In some markets and cultures, prospects skew more to this outer-directed side. For example, in Japan, prospects want to know everything going into a site, while in Vietnam, they do want their hand held. In more mature western markets, inner-directed players may be more prevalent, but the key is automated intelligent chat support for both segments. Speaking of Asian markets, one clear difference between the west and specifically China, is the necessity to leverage one-to-one direct sales communications to bring players onto the site. For China, operators have rooms full of imported Chinese speakers, at no small cost, chatting with prospective and existing players over WeChat and other social platforms. These one-to-one chats for acquisition can also be automated, right down to including the 20% or so of messaging we classify as flirty.

Sinitic.ai's AICX solutions can push messaging through virtually any channel, be it the ubiquitous (and popular) web chat, SMS, WeChat, Line, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp etc. So wherever your preferred hunting ground for players is, you can set loose an AI-based chatbot to harvest players with the same methodology you use in the call centre. But of course chatbots don’t take breaks, get ill, ask for raises or housing or travel expenses - all real call centre issues. “Chatbots are the new email,” some say. But they are actually better; they are as synchronous or asynchronous as the player wants. They can be chatty and real time (synchronous) or stand-by ready, simply announcing a relevant message that may or may not initiate a reply from the player (asynchronous).

Chatbots are increasingly the preferred way for players to interact with a site; why dig through the FAQ when you can just ask the chatbot? Why not even navigate using the chatbot? “Take me to the game with the biggest jackpot.” Using AI and NLP, Sinitic.ai’s AICX solution can add an entire new level of interactivity to your site, delivering automated acquisitions, improved conversions, reduced churn and better player lifetime values.

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