Marketing mobile gaming: the industry has to focus on the mobile platform

28 October 2013

To date gambling operators have mostly relied on traditional marketing techniques (with basic, but increasing, mobile and tablet references) and cross-selling desktop customers as the basis of growing their mobile business.

For the past few years this proved sufficient to experience the sensational growth rates the industry has witnessed – so in the early days of mobile gambling there was no real need or impetus to adopt widespread changes or employ new strategies. The point has now been reached where sustaining the growth rate will require extensive “mobilising” efforts.

In doing so, there is very little to be achieved by mimicking desktop campaigns, yet this is the comfort zone that the industry finds itself currently, with most mobile marketing efforts limited to advertising (display and social) and too few operators taking advantage of the unique potential the mobile world offers from the extensive behavioural, device and location data available to the plethora of everyday apps used by consumers.

Mobile marketing is evolving right around us. Concepts that didn’t exist a few short years ago, such as App Store Optimisation or mobile search, are now critical to success and the customer’s home screen opens myriad opportunities – with potential reach available to gambling operators within almost every application that is used on a daily basis, from email to maps and SMS to social networking apps such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The home screen is a shop window like no other that has come before, and it is time to take advantage of that fact, bearing in mind three central tenets to the prevailing marketing landscape:

  • Adopt and incorporate the new mobile marketing tactics that are available,
  • Re-think and “mobilise” all traditional marketing techniques such as email,
  • Adapt communications to an “always on” consumer.

The Mobile Gap: Time Spent vs. Money Spent

Despite the bullishness surrounding mobile marketing, and mobile display advertising in particular, there is a huge gap between time spent by consumers on mobile and money spent by companies on mobile ads. Google’s Mobile Playbook puts the mobile spend imbalance at 1% media spend to 23% consumer time and there are many acknowledged reasons behind this disparity:

  1. Mobile marketing is in a nascent stage and many marketers are still learning or are out of their depth,
  2. Mobile CPMs are low compared to desktop advertising leading to a general lesser spend,
  3. Conversion was lower than desktop in the first stages of mobile advertising quite simply because the sites visitors were being directed to weren’t mobile-optimised.  This is no longer the case for the majority of gambling operators offering mobile services, so the rates have and will continue to increase,
  4. The mobile advertising ecosystem is complex, with new and additional stakeholders and different combinations of device, mobile network operator and operating systems.  The ecosystem is addressed in the next section of this report, and while it is likely to become more streamlined and delineated, as the desktop landscape is, for now it presents sufficient obstacles to be an issue,
  5. Mobile lacks the desktop’s technical maturity that enables seamless ad targeting, delivery, measurement and reconciliation.  There are more technologies (devices, operating systems etc.) to support, and less standardization.  On the desktop, a campaign is bought, trafficked and managed through well-established ad server.  Ad formats and standards are clear and understood; only a handful of browsers need to be supported, and industry standards such as Flash are commonplace. On mobile, the tools and protocols that marketers are familiar with are not yet in place, and ad networks, publishers, vendors and ad servers all offer different technologies when it comes to ad formats, ad serving, and reporting,
  6. Tracking is problematic on the mobile platform for a variety of reasons including:

a. Apps, in particular those on the Apple App Store, pose substantial difficulties for marketers because tracking stops at the point of download.  There are solutions, however recently Apple removed the commonplace solution of using a unique device identifier (UDID) which has caused further complications,

b. The desktop advertising industry has long had standards regarding cookies but it is not the same situation for mobile, where cookies are either not available, not reliable or have restrictions, so it is necessary to look at device IDs instead,

c. Many mobile ad networks have their own code packages which track engagement stemming from their specific network which means that the cumbersome implementation of multiple tracking packages is required to track across networks

       7. The user experience in mobile advertising has been less than stellar to date which has caused frustration and reluctance amongst both marketers and consumers.

Consumers accessing the mobile internet do so in short, functional and deliberate bursts, as compared to desktop where it’s a deeper dive into the web, involving more (sequential) websites, more page views and considerably longer time. 

For this reason, on mobile, it’s more difficult to capture the user’s attention without excellent context and timing.  This has been somewhat of a downfall to date as mobile marketers have engaged to a degree in “spray and pray” tactics i.e. throw lots of different initiatives into the realm and hope one or more works.

The level of contextualising, personalising and targeting that is required on mobile far exceeds that of desktop, yet this is one of the key form factors that has been noticeably missing in early mobile efforts, leading to adverts being considered intrusive on such a personal device. 

The right advertising in the right place is considered content rather than commerce and in some ways mobile technology offers much more than desktop in this regard however this is an area that only now marketers are giving sufficient consideration to.

The ad types and formats also play an important factor in the user experience as to mobile advertising.  As initial forays into mobilising product and service were based on reducing the size of the desktop offering, so too has advertising followed an identical path.

Currently most spend is on paid search and very basic display advertising i.e. “mini-banners”. On the small screen tiny banners can verge on incomprehensible and are subject to higher bounce rates due to accidental clicking. 

In addition, the content of the banners and adverts all too often remain unchanged by device and quite simply what works on desktop doesn’t necessarily follow through on mobile due to the differing use patterns and consumer motivations.

Users are becoming more receptive to good mobile advertising, especially the gambling audience. Search specialist Latitude Group works with several gambling clients and is seeing vast improvements in results over time.  

New technologies including rich media advertising and real-time bidding are disruptive forces which are changing the mobile advertising landscape and location based and context based targeting can offer massive improvement as long as placement is selected to match a user’s interests, but not so closely as to induce fear of being “followed” on the device.

       8. Inventory availability was an issue until the social networks, on which mobile users spend massive amounts of time, fully mobilised.  In particular, Facebook (on which one in two minutes of UK mobile internet access            is spent according to comScore) solidifying both its product and mobile marketing offering has offered substantial improvements to advertisers in terms of context and inventory.

       9. Mobile specific offers are necessary to incentivise conversion both in terms of new player acquisition and cross-selling existing customers to the mobile platform.  Increasingly this is being done by gambling                              operators, but was noticeably absent in first attempts on the platform.

     10. To take full advantage of mobile advertising, marketers need to invest in additional efforts, such as mobile landing pages and supplementary tracking/reports/analysis.  While there were doubts about the                                     effectiveness of mobile ads combined with deficit of targeting tools there was little or no stimulus for the extra workload.  Not only is it non-negotiable now due to the popularity of mobile gambling, but the lingering                     hesitation surrounding mobile advertising is being eroded away and the effort is validated by growing success.