Mobile bingo: a broad but avid player base with tablets prominent

29 October 2013

Although bingo is P2P game, it doesn’t have the exact same problems as poker because once a player’s cards are bought the player is in the game, no amount of latency or loss of connectivity makes a difference to the game, which will have settled correctly the next time the player connects, upon which they are offered the chance to see a replay of what they missed.

Growth of bingo has really come with tablets – although not necessarily the iPad. This is very important for operators to realise, as the “default” for development is often the Apple range of products, but bingo players are a wider demographic and often are price-sensitive, so the Android and Windows tablets, which have a wide spectrum of price points, are crucial for success with this product.

In terms of tablets, their suitability for bingo is due to the sheer volume of activity that happens on screen at any given time, and they offer a much richer user experience than smartphones will ever be capable of. A lot of focus and discussion is on the chat module, but it is so much more than that.

A bingo game in progress must accommodate balls being drawn, tickets (which change in order according to how close each one is to being a winner), side games being played and, of course, chat. Players are used to a landscape appearance on desktop and this can be replicated on tablets, which is why so many bingo operators, including All Slots, have seen a massive bump in growth and revenues as the tablet market began its inexorable rise.

In addition, it is known that tablets rarely leave the house (unlike smartphones) and this is where the vast majority of bingo game play happens. There is also an added benefit to this, as it means the user is typically on Wi-Fi rather than mobile broadband, which is important as bingo is a game where people must be connected and receiving their balls simultaneously. Latency that might occur with broadband will affect a user’s experience and trust in the game.

It is generally accepted and believed that bingo is a social game; that most players play with money rather than for money, and it is the social interactions and virtual friendships that drive loyalty retention and therefore revenue.

Chat is regarded as the “spine” of the product. This is true – but up to a point. In fact, although the most loyal players are those who do interact deeply with others, Scott Logan, director at Bingo Port (a long established portal, partner, affiliate and operator focussed entirely on online bingo) has offered some insight into the “science” behind sociability within the product.

The ideal number of players per room/game is between 30 and 50.  This is considered optimum for both chatting and the players’ perception of potential to win. Depending on the bingo site and style of room, typically only around 40% the active players in a room will use the chat feature at all and, in doing so, will limit interaction to the basics of abbreviated bingo conversation, for example “1TG”, “WTG” or “GL” (“one to go”, “way to go”, and “good luck”, respectively. Of that 40%, only 10% to 15% will actually engage in more interactive discussion and conversation; that is, have a conversation with other players or the chat host.

For this reason, while chat is crucial and its presence, even when not used by a player, is reassuringly familiar, clever operators will have an option to minimise the chat window if it is not being used – in order to open up more of the real estate for side games, which contribute up to 80% of the revenues in the first place.

Bingo is a very saturated market; there are up to 400 bingo sites, yet fewer than 10 proper providers. All of the key suppliers have mobile offerings, including the likes of Playtech (Virtuefusion), Cozy Games, 888 (Dragonfish – which has a partnership with Probability Games, who have a very successful B2B arm), etc.

Results are varied and dependent on when the bingo suite was launched. Sky Bet launched their bingo offering, powered by Playtech, within the past few months and their results for all the mobile products are extremely impressive, bingo being a significant contributor to this. United Bingo recently reported a spike in Q1-Q3 revenues upwards of 85%, and others are showing signs of similar growth.

It is Mecca Bingo, however, that is the undisputed leader of the pack – as it was the first land-based/big brand to move online. Recently the company outlined that not only was it cross-selling from its desktop site but it was also seeing a new audience, acknowledging that having its app in the App Store has led to discoverability for bingo players that Mecca wouldn’t necessarily have found online. Up to 50% of people playing on mobile have registered on mobile and only play on that platform.

Marketing for mobile bingo is very important – and crucially, it is time-sensitive so operators should, as best practice, analyse their time-of-day game play data to ensure that campaigns can be optimised for maximum effect.

Avid bingo players will log-in and play daily, but they are very bonus-driven. It doesn’t have to be a large bonus, but they will select their site of choice at any given time based on what offer is available. This is where push notifications and, in particular, SMS are crucial for marketing a mobile bingo site – as marketing messages and offers are received immediately – and just as important, if not more important, is that the messages are forwarded and shared between friends if the offer is sufficiently compelling, so the players are actually involved in the marketing efforts themselves. 

Email, while useful, is not as frequently opened as SMS by this player group, so this should not be the first port-of-call for direct-action tactics. Bingo players are typically prolific TV viewers, particularly of soap operas such as Coronation Street, Eastenders and daytime television programmes like Jeremy Kyle, which is why bingo companies advertise heavily in the commercial breaks and sponsor the programmes.

With a tablet literally in the customer’s hand when an advert or break bumper comes on, second-screening marketing has great success as the immediacy of action and response will increase conversion and retention.