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IN-DEPTH 16 January 2019
Adapting to player psychology trends
Betting marketing consultant and online gaming PR specialist Mark McGuinness believes the future of digital gaming could depend on operators simplifying products in a fast-paced world
By Gambling Insider

As another year ends, many within the online gaming industry, in boardrooms, at industry tradeshows or even in their WhatsApp groups, cogitate that age-old question; what does the future hold for digital gaming?

The stark reality, and not the virtual or augmented reality, is that the future isn’t happening tomorrow; it’s happening now. In our hyper-connected digital world, technology pervades every tiny part of our lives. It is woven into the actual fabric of the human body, from biometric tattoos analysing the inner processes, to wearable tech, and smart-enabled applications or IoT (internet of things) to the secondary brain, although some would argue the primary brain, the smartphone. In this connected world, technology is driving changes in our innate learned behaviour and in our consumption and interaction with brands, products and services; so what could this all look like?

The attention economy

You have most likely heard or read about this marketing hyperbole. In short, that ubiquitous of all devices and perhaps the instigator of many digital-related synonyms, the humble smartphone has a lot to answer for.

This device knows more about you than your wife, lover or partner or your therapist and some would say is touched, coveted and fondled more than your nearest and dearest. It’s the one we use for shopping and messaging real and digital friends; it's the one that knows all our innermost and darkest secrets and keeps all our pictures for Instagram.

It is the synaptic backbone of our daily digital interactions and digital trivialisations and grandiose happenings through social media. Smartphones also have the highest number of user interactions per day and act as the most common starting point for activities across all multiple devices in this hyper-connected world. All of which leaves an unbelievable stream of digital data record imprints, which of course is another hotly-debated topic.

Digital decision overload

What does this all mean? Aside from the fact the mobile is the gateway to this digital universe and attention-based economy, it has created a narcissistic nirvana of espoused synonyms such as covert narcissist and introvert narcissistic. In simple terms and perhaps harshly, this has created a marketing and product paradox where everything should reside around and be centered on the individual, in terms of personalised and relevant communications. In short, while the mobile has created the attention syndrome and access to limitless information, it has caused an equal and opposition effect of digital decision overload and an attention or interest span of seconds. It’s almost akin to the goldfish effect.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology, the average human attention span is now eight seconds, whereas at the start of the noughties, it was 12 seconds. What would the evolutionary biologist Darwin make of that factoid?

Scientists at Cornell University, New York, concluded the average adult processes 35,000 conscious decisions every day, with 226.7 decisions each day taking place on the topic of food alone. Now that’s big, big data and shall only continue to overload us mere carbon life forms. Sadly, we can’t add another rack of servers or another organic brain to assist – at least not currently, that is.

The preponderance of choice

The psychology of choice is a well-researched discipline in other industry verticals. Yet if one is to review several gaming operator brands, or platform providers within the online gaming supply-chain, why oh why is every pixel or dot on the visible device screen or user interface crammed with the latest betting content? This includes available sports, statements of more than 3,000 casino games to choose and 50,000 live betting events per month.

Players aren’t a separate cohort group; they have a choice overload of trying to navigate irrelevant betting content, which is directly increasing betslip abandonment rates. Many sportsbook products managers would tell you off-record that only 5% of the available betting content displayed results in a confirmed bet, so that infers the other 95% of published betting content is irrelevant.

Players need assistance. However, I’m not sure if the industry is brave enough for a popular sportsbook or well-known casino brand to consider the reduction of choice to simplify the betting or gaming decisions-making process. Or to reduce choice overload, improve customer satisfaction and churn management for fear of the impact on their brand, and more importantly, EBITDA.

Hyper growth and hyper local

Everything in today’s digital economy is moving at lightning speed. Products, technology and even people, due to social networks, are becoming disposable, because new products, tech and friends are easy to find and source, as it’s only a swipe and click away.

Hyper growth and hyper local are relevant business concepts and models that will shape the future of digital gaming. Traditionally, gaming product marketing models that have been developed before the advent of the internet are somewhat outdated. Most rely on segmenting potential players based on factors such as age, gender, interests and media consumption patterns.

Other models use geo-demographic segmentation, based on principles that people who live in the same postal code area are more likely to have similar characteristics than two people chosen at pure random. Of course, I’m not saying these factors are unimportant when developing and shaping a gaming operator’s business or marketing product plan and roadmap. What I’m saying is more data points and perhaps different models need to be considered to be successful and stay one step ahead of the competition.

One area where the gaming sector could adapt is the growing area known as behavioural economics. This field involves the studying of the effects of social, cognitive and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals, of which gaming and gambling are affected and influenced by those processes. Behavioural economics therefore explore why people sometimes make irrational decisions, and why and how their behaviour does not follow the predictions of standard economic models.

Examples of such behaviour are players who keep betting even while expecting to lose. Loyalty programs generally don’t work in the gambling industry, as digital natives live for the day, not tomorrow. In other words, $10 today is preferred to the potential of another $15 tomorrow. We usually find gamblers prefer small and more immediate rewards or pay-offs to large and more distant ones.

You have to remember real people and those that gamble on the internet or via mobile devices are not rational creatures that can be shoe-horned into the same neighbourhood or suburban postal code standard segmentation models of old. Increasingly, objects of consumer desire are being described first by other people, not the marketers through social media networks, which then influence others to purchase or engage with that brand. Marketing, communication and technology are therefore not only changing the ways in which we reach gaming customers and how they interact with that technology, they are changing our innate behaviour.

The future of digital gaming per se is not about gargantuan leaps forward in technology or seismic innovation shifts. It’s about simplicity, reduction in betting choice and solving the mundane, striving to make products and services hyper relevant.

Sexy it perhaps isn’t but, ultimately, players shall make the decision for you as to where they deposit their hard-earned money.

Mark McGuinness has more than 22 years’ experience in digital marketing director roles with both private & public online gaming operators. He currently serves as the resident iGaming Futurologist & CMO of BetOlimp & is the founder of esportsbet.com, a resource for gamers and sports bettors who wish to start betting on esports.
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