Room to grow

6 September 2019

While many questions remain unanswered regarding the future of igaming in African’s most populous nation, the growth fundamentals remain solid for operators with the right acquisition and retention strategies, writes Sarafina Wolde Gabriel

In July, in honour of Word Population Day, the Pew Research Center published a story detailing which countries are projected to see the biggest population gains and losses by 2100. Nigeria, which is currently the world’s seventh most populated country at more than 206 million, is projected to move into the number three spot, behind only India and China. It’s arguable that, from the perspective of igaming stakeholders, an 80-year outlook is too far out. But it’s also undeniably alluring.

As significant as Pew’s numbers are on a global stage, Nigeria is already Africa’s most populated country, giving it plenty of prospective value in both the short-term and long- term. The question for igaming operators, affiliates and service providers, particularly those based locally, is how to tap into that potential in a manner that is considerate of Nigeria’s distinct culture, regulatory framework and market positioning.

Developing an acquisition strategy

When considering the challenge of designing effective acquisition and retention strategies, Sebastian Loaiza, chief marketing officer at Lagos-headquartered Surebet247, explains the importance of hard-earned trust to the sportsbook and casino brand’s customer base.

“The current competitive landscape in the market has changed the player situation – decreasing loyalty, and increasing retention and acquisition costs,” says Loaiza. “On the other hand, thanks to this challenge, it’s given us the push to further our internal efforts with a more customer-centric approach. The fact that Surebet247 has been around since 2011 as one of the first players in the market has, of course, helped as well, giving us a vantage point in brand affinity and trust.”

Historically, Nigeria’s gambling landscape has largely been influenced by the popularity of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. But as the country has only three such licensed establishments, a sizeable opening exists for local online operators with a thoughtful approach to engaging their target demographics.

Akram Bacha, co-founder and director of sportsbook brand LionsBet, describes its strategy as one that is in tune with the needs of Nigerian customers and the preservation of brand loyalty. “In a technological world, customer loyalty really is the new marketing. Today’s customers have access to an endless amount of information about every business, and research shows they’re willing to stick with brands that go above and beyond to create a fantastic user experience,” he says.

Delving into the specifics of LionsBet’s strategy, Bacha explains the thought process that drives the company’s product offering. “Acquiring a new user is five times harder than retaining one,” he says. “As a result, we’ve designed a number of promotions specifically for acquisition purposes, while also building well-structured automated promotions to support customer retention.”

When asked what strengths drive Surebet247’s acquisition and retention strategy, Loaiza highlights the company’s years of experience in nurturing customer relationships and building brand awareness. He also points to the importance of sound leadership. “In general, it comes down to the team behind the brand, which is led by co-founders Sheriff Olaniyan (CEO) and Olasupo Badmos (COO),” he says.

A unique market

A key objective for any brand pursuing a greater market share is a nuanced understanding of what distinguishes Nigeria from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.


That knowledge is applicable to regulation, responsible gambling policies, smartphone adoption, telecoms, banking options and more. Similar to the US igaming market, Africa’s whole is comprised of many individual parts that need to be viewed as such to ensure credible analysis.

Bacha points out that a strategy tailored for Nigeria should segment users based on criteria such as their level of brand engagement, while also employing a marketing mix that acknowledges aspects of daily life.

“Digital marketing is key here. We use sophisticated tools to reach relevant demographics through different digital marketing channels, including demand- side platforms (DSPs), ad exchange, programmatic advertising, social media, blogs and e-magazines,” Bacha says. “Nigerians also spend a big chunk of their day driving, because of long distances between work hubs and residential areas. This creates a need for engagement through radio advertising, as it corresponds to a part of their daily life.”

According to Loaiza, this is another instance where brand reputation is key to building a sustainable customer base. “In this case, you need to build that brand awareness and positive perception before you try to approach the player base. Consider their preferences too, as they’re not all interested in the same categories and channels,” he says.

Although an emerging market, Loaiza emphasises that Nigerian customer expectations should not be undervalued. “Nigerians are part of a hyper-fast-growing market, which leads to a fast-paced environment as well. In other words, there’s little patience for errors and delays. This is also in line with the years of scam tactics that put everyone on extra alert.”

Emerging mobile market

A recent report from GSMA, Spotlight on Nigeria: Delivering a Digital Future, shows that mobile penetration within Nigeria is currently about 49%, with 97.5 million unique subscribers. Both numbers are expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.

According to Bacha, LionsBet has been focused on mobile’s growing influence since day one. “Smartphones and tablets are cheaper, smaller and more portable than traditional PCs and laptops. This means that people who previously were not able to be online are no longer restricted by financial, geographical or technological barriers.”

Loaiza is similarly invested in the growth of the mobile market and what shape it will take. “I’m a big PWA (progressive web app) believer for this market, but it should be a mobile-first approach,” he says. “A mobile-friendly site, maybe even an app and Opera Lite functionality. Think low bandwidth, lack of data and patchy WiFi hot-spots.”

Through a culturally informed approach that also takes into consideration the need for responsible gambling practices, Nigeria could feasibly realise its full growth potential and outpace every other sub-Saharan market. As evidenced by the stakeholder quotes, the strategic considerations are many as brands seek to expand their player base through a blend of marketing initiatives, customer care and technological awareness.

Many questions remain unanswered regarding the future of igaming in Nigeria, something which makes it all the more captivating.

Sarafina Wolde Gabriel is VP of strategy at Paysafe’s Income Access. Sarafina focuses on growing the Income Access brand and driving the evolution of the company’s suite of products and services. She has more than a decade of digital marketing experience.