Follow other retail trends and personalise your sports-betting product if you want to succeed says Ari Lewski, Executive Director, Digital Sports Tech
We have seen over the course of the recent European Championships that the sports betting sector has never been more competitive.
With marketing budgets stretched as operators fight fierce pricing and bonusing wars, product is once again emerging as a genuine way to stand out from the crowd.
Since the advent of cash-out a few years ago, sportsbook has been searching in vain for a game-changing innovation.
I would argue that innovation is already happening, and while it may not be as headline grabbing as cash-out was, it is arguably having a greater impact on the way operators interact with customers.
The gaming industry is not the only business sector to talk about the importance of personalisation. We’ve seen online retail very successfully tap into the deeper understanding of customers they have acquired to deliver a tailored experience. Those which have done this particularly well, such as Amazon, have reaped the rewards.
For sportsbook, the challenge is greater than retail. We are not offering our customers a static catalogue of products, but rather an ever-changing offer of fluctuating propositions. Targeting the right content at the right player is a massive undertaking.
There is a fine line to tread when it comes to personalising and curating a player’s betting experience. While it is vital to serve up propositions which are relevant, prematurely pigeonholing a user is a sure way to throw away value.
There are a number of different approaches to this challenge. Digital Sports Tech’s recently-launched product Player Props, for instance, lets sportsbook users create their own proposition bets on any player and statistic for a range of sports. The process is fully automated as to not place added pressures on trading teams.
What we have found from early usage data is that when presented with the complete freedom to create tailored bets, many users opt to place wagers on outcomes which wouldn’t be considered headline bet types.
Take the recent NBA Finals, where 60% of the player-centric wagers were not placed on the two most high-profile players, LeBron James and Steph Curry, but rather on their various teammates.
What this shows is that a very basic level of personalisation is unlikely to be competitive in the long run. It is not enough to segment players into broad groups and assume you are speaking directly to the user.
Certainly pushing opportunities to bet on Manchester United to a Manchester United fan is beneficial, but it is only really scratching the surface of the complex relationships which determine what a sports fan chooses to bet on.
Instead, the secret to truly engaging customers with your product is to offer them greater autonomy and choice over their experience.
While there are clearly benefits to building up a deeper understanding of users, ultimately they know themselves better than you ever will.
So offering a full service, where the user can customise exactly what they bet on and how they bet on it, has to be the way forward. This is the level of service customers now expect in most comparable industries, and gaming must follow suit.
Once we hand the player this freedom, I think we will start to see some unexpected trends develop. For one, I don’t believe niche bet types will necessary cannibalise more traditional markets.
There is an appetite among a growing segment of punters for something beyond 1x2 or first goalscorer markets, and I can see this driving much of sportsbook’s growth in the coming years.
Handing this level of choice to the user will also pay off from a marketing perspective. The opportunity to be all things to all players will enable operators to do what they do best: Focus on selling their brand.
Shrinking margins and increased competition might not be welcomed by all, but I see a bright future for sportsbook as technology allows us to offer a fuller, more automated and less restrictive proposition to users.
Those who succeed will need to find innovative and creative ways to differentiate and hand control back to their players. Only by offering genuine choice will you be able to truly engage the sportsbook punter of the future.
Ari Lewski joined Digital Sports Tech in 2013 having formerly worked in accounting and finance. He has been instrumental in the development of its Player Props Product that was launched in May this year