Betting on mobile: a mature product that must keep on evolving

29 October 2013

French critic and journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once declared that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, and quite frankly he might have been talking about the evolution of mobile products as they relate to the evolution of desktop.

In terms of product deployment, we are seeing the same rollout, starting with the sportsbook, then casino, followed by bingo and poker. The only difference this time around is that the time gaps between the product launches are dramatically reduced in the mobile world.

This is due, in part, to the fact that operators are savvy about products now, whereas in the past it was a massive and risky learning curve, and also that consumers want an identical service, no matter what device they are on.

Sports books were a natural start point because products that require zero “lag” were ideally suited to mobile devices. At the outset, before we had the Wi-Fi/3G penetration we do today, problematic 2/2.5G bandwidth and costly data packages meant the opportunity for the operator to deliver a quality product, and for the user to enjoy it, was limited.

The landscape is very different now in every respect, from customer behaviour to bandwidth and even devices themselves – so, from a technological perspective, no product needs to be excluded from the line up, even if some of them do bring their own unique issues and considerations.

H2 Gambling Capital – Global online gambling gross win: category share based on gross win:

  2012 2015E
Bingo 7.4% 7.3%
Casino 25.4% 26.7%
Poker 14.2% 16.3%
Sports betting 53% 49.7%

Product size: global online gambling gross win:

  CAGR 2012 – 2015 CAGR 2012 – 2015
Bingo 8.3% €2.1 billion GW
Casino  10.9% €7.5 billion GW
Poker 14.4% €4.6 billion GW
Sports betting 6.9% €14 billion GW

Sports betting

While the emergence of mobile gambling has been stellar in Europe, in the “early days” much of the heavy lifting was done through a combination of both the organically evolving gambling and consumer environments, regardless of how much or little effort was put in at the time by the operators in their mobile platforms. 

The global consumer trend towards mobile internet and app use, the immensely close demographic correlation between iPhone owners and sports bettors, and the upsurge in in-running betting all contributed independently to the speedy progression of mobile gambling to the phenomenon that it is today.

These factors, along with the inclusion of simple mobile references in traditional marketing, were initially sufficient for the operators to experience sensational growth rates; therefore until recently there was no tangible need for gambling operators to adopt widespread changes or employ new strategies.

That is not to say that operators didn’t evolve their mobile sites and apps – they certainly did; in fact, although there are discrepancies between services deployed across the operator spectrum on all the leading products, live and in-running betting is at the forefront when it comes to catering to audience requirements.

Furthermore, products have become more iterative and streamlined, in terms of their usability and graphical presentation, as the operators learned and adapted to the platform and its usage.

There is a risk, however, that complacency will set in – after all, sports betting is performing incredibly well and will continue to do so without significant effort, and going forward, while the betting products will continue to grow, the market share will soon start skewing in favour of gaming products, which is where the attention is focused right now. 

To leave betting as a “mature” product relative to others would be a big mistake, however, because there is so much more that can be done on mobile devices than was ever possible on desktop to keep growing the user base (without relying on marketing).

Understanding consumer behaviour is the key to mobile success, and it is no different when it comes to product evolution. For example, the entire concept of second-screening and using social networks during television programmes, from sports events to The X-Factor, allows for the dynamic delivery of products to encourage retention and acquisition.

Dynamically promoting X-Factor odds on website or app and linking them to social pages and marketing is a compelling impetus for a casual bettor to have a £5 punt as their phone/tablet is in their hand. Maximising product deployment in a real-time manner using deep-linking direct links to pre-completed bet slips and custom landing pages can and will make a difference, as will deploying different homepages per audience, and permitting customers to create their own preferred user journey.

The technology exists to do this; the gambling operator’s mindset and internal team organisation and communication just need to catch up in order to cater to a wider betting audience.

No matter how attractive and effective it may be, a “static” product, while acceptable, is not the best practice for managing to grow a mobile business – and throughout this report, this is discussed widely. It is not just the marketing team that can make a difference in reaching B2C goals. Usability and development teams have the opportunity, more than ever before, to contribute to front-line profitability.