Thursday
Jan072016

The ace up the sleeve of gambling businesses?

I've just finished speaking with Jack Hershman of Hot Topics about all things mobile and digital in gaming. Mobile certainly is a hot topic in the industry, and something that I think could well be worth over $100bn by the end of the decade.

We chatted about astounding technology developments that are being implemented thanks to the wealth of data generated by smartphone users, as well as the personalized experiences generated for users and more.

As Jack says in the piece: 'Brace yourself. The gambling market will never be the same.'

Why do you think there has been such a rapid digitization of the gambling industry?

Gambling is made for screens – in one form or another – so the ever-increasing digitization leads to an ever-improving product.

This trajectory first allowed people to have a betting shop in their own home. The capabilities of today’s smartphones mean that players can now have casinos in their pockets.

Betting and gaming naturally lend themselves to digital. The gambling industry arguably created the first social networks with the introduction of online, multiplayer poker and bingo offerings that included sophisticated chat settings.

What will the continued digitization look like?

One of the biggest opportunities with digitization is the scope for personalization. Suppliers are already tailoring products for operators, allowing them to offer different products in different regions, and enabling interface customization for end users. But this trend has only just begun.

There will be a deeper channel convergence. This has already been seen across retail, online, mobile and social. There is a lot of talk about regarding wearable tech and, while there is potential, players will want to see tangible benefits from it to take off. A natural next step might be for this technology to be integrated to the current experience – for instance offering reminders and notifications – rather than facilitating play via a new channel altogether.

How do you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to being aware of the relevant innovation in existence?

At IGT our distribution is so wide that we are constantly exposed to new markets, new products, new technology, and new ideas. Innovation is key to a business’ development and we look outside of gambling for innovation inspiration. Who are thought leaders in other industries? What are they doing? How can we develop these concepts?

We are hungry. With our scale, we are uniquely capable of addressing the needs of our valued customers, who demand and deserve innovation.

How are gambling companies optimizing their content for mobile?

A broad product portfolio and game library will create the right first impression, but then players must be presented with a personal offering and an easy-to-navigate journey.

Start from a mobile perspective and work backward to create games with far greater longevity. Observe what other activities people are doing on their mobiles – the content is perfect for ‘snacking,’, and creates a similar appeal.

Explore and capitalize on gaming genres that are suited for mobile. Some players don’t want a long, epic experience. They are after entertaining quick rewards, such as simple slots, clear and easy-to-use table games, and scratch cards.

People are more inclined to play fun, social, ‘quick hit’ games on mobile; replicate this with the gambling experience.

In what ways is the gambling industry improving the overall customer experience for users?

We are on a journey. We have made good progress but there is still some way to go, and this is where we can learn from other sectors.

The regulatory constraints – quite rightly – are incredibly tight. In order to offer responsible gambling products, suppliers need to work within certain parameters that impact on the user experience. The sheer number of financial transactions is at banking industry levels and player protection is always the first factor to consider.

How are gambling companies maximising the reach of their digital communications with customers?

Digitization has enabled advanced player engagement and marketing. We can talk to players on an individual basis, and provide them with tailored support that maximizes their enjoyment.

Advertising spend should focus on Google, Pay-Per-Click, social media – TV commercials should demonstrate clear calls to action. Anyone watching is almost certain to be on their phone at the same time.

Take advantage of the tools, like alerts and personal messaging, to keep in communication with the player. But make this relevant and specific, not broadcast.

What are the key industry trends for 2016 that we should look out for?

Rather than the emergence of brand new trends, the major forces in 2016 will be the maturing of existing ones. In addition to the potential for more consolidation, regulation will open up markets and present opportunities in new territories. Mobile, which already accounts for almost two-thirds of total bet volumes, is poised to maintain its exponential growth.

The gambling industry is transforming at a rapid pace, incorporating tech innovation to improve every part of the sector; what can other industries learn from this adoption?

The gambling industry processes billions of financial transactions per day. It is one of the most closely monitored and tightly regulated businesses in existence. This creates an incredibly sophisticated financial ecology where, on the interactive side, Europe is the global leader.

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