Erica Anderson looks at how digital marketers can potentially take advantage of evolutions and shifts in the igaming landscape on behalf of their brands
According to a July 2019 report from Statista, there were nearly 34 million active online gaming accounts in 2018 in the UK. Another report, released last September, forecasts the global value of the online gambling market to exceed $94bn in 2024. This figure represents almost double the current market size, with casino and sports betting verticals funnelling a large segment of that revenue.
With the rise of digitisation, affiliate marketing practitioners have access to new tools which support operators and affiliates in maintaining relevancy by delivering enhanced user experiences. A deeper assessment of marketing strategies, technology and industry developments can further aid affiliate managers in positioning their clients for success. Heading into 2020, attention must be paid to trends influencing igaming’s shifting landscape, as well as tactics that directly contribute to improving products and responsiveness to consumer needs.
AN EVOLVING IGAMING LANDSCAPE
In the US post-PASPA environment, mergers and acquisitions are playing an important role in the market’s growth and strategic evolution. For example, in October, Flutter Entertainment announced its plans to acquire The Stars Group, owner of the world’s largest poker site PokerStars, and in the process create the world’s largest online betting and gaming operator.
Another example of M&A’s influence is Better Collective’s acquisition of US sports betting affiliates VegasInsider.com and ScoresAndOdds.com last summer. The transaction positioned the developer to potentially become the market-leading sports betting information company in the US, specifically in states with regulated online sports betting.
Emerging markets are also poised to maintain their role in the changing industry landscape. Latin America is one such region holding great potential.
Based on BtoBet’s November 2019 report on South America’s igaming industry, Argentina’s mobile penetration sits at 135%, well above South America’s 109% average, pointing to a potentially expansive player pool. A similarly telling report from Statista reveals that as of January 2019, Argentina has the highest internet penetration of any Latin American country with 93% of its population of 45 million considered to be active internet users. The next highest among Latin American countries was Paraguay at 89%. According to Statista, that figure puts Argentina in close proximity to the UK, which is anticipated to be at 95% penetration by 2021.
On building connections with top affiliates and employing strategies for player acquisition, PASPA’s repeal opened many doors on the product side. For state lotteries, this means entering new verticals. In October, Oregon Lottery released Scoreboard, a mobile app and desktop game allowing consumers within the state to place wagers on professional sports. Notably, Oregon Lottery doesn’t own an iLottery product or run an affiliate programme. Two weeks after the launch, Oregonians had bet more than $4.5m on Scoreboard.
Focusing on market opportunities, diversified revenue channels and strategic partnerships will be instrumental in enhancing acquisition strategies and expanding affiliate portfolios.
DIGITAL MARKETING: SEO & VOICE SEARCH
Between retail brands, online brands and other offerings, the igaming sector is more competitive than ever. This makes marketing and SEO vital for brand awareness and relevancy, especially as search engines regularly review their rules on advertising.
In October, Google updated its policies surrounding gambling and games. The changes will allow operators to run adverts in certain US states, as well as Colombia, Kenya and Nigeria. Complete beta testing of sports betting ads will also be permitted in some US states.
Another SEO opportunity is the coveted ‘position zero’ on a search engine’s results page (SERP). Position zero in SERP is the featured snippet displayed before select ads and top organic search results. The snippet summarises details pulled from a web page that best answers the search query. According to Jumpshot, nearly 62% of all Google search results are now zero-search. While each search result is generated based on the user’s location, the listings yield a condensed view of the most useful content, which correspondingly designates stakeholders as trustworthy experts in their field.
Position zero also caters to mobile and voice searches. As of January 2019, 66.4 million US adult consumers own at least one smart speaker such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo. Google reported that 20% of queries made on its mobile app and Android devices were completed via voice search in 2016. With an increased usage of built-in voice assistants like Alexa, along with smart speakers, stakeholders are presented with the opportunity to optimise campaigns, ads and sites for the platform. To emerge at the top of SERP, brands are being advised to provide relevant answers to gaming-related questions using conversational tones and long tail keywords.
These trends indicate that select strategies and new technology can improve organic performance, boost brand awareness and increase player acquisition, retention and deposits.
TECHNOLOGY AND USER EXPERIENCE
Technological advancements within the industry have streamlined the data collection process and ensuing analysis, which provide insights on how consumers interact with brands.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one technology making headway in the industry. Accumulated consumer and website data become resources feeding into machine learning algorithms, which can be used as support tools for a brand’s customers. For instance, casino operators can integrate AI to create better in-game content and serve personalised ads.
In November 2019, Wondr Gaming acquired Rival.ai, an esports AI integration company offering data and insights to the wider betting community. Through the acquisition, specialised data services will be extended to stakeholders, complementing current processes.
Another opportunity created by AI is chatbots. Chatbots enhance user experience by providing 24/7 human-like customer service to basic user queries. Their integration streamlines the communications process and incorporates personalisation capabilities for customer support. In 2017, Paddy Power became the first bookmaker to introduce a chatbot for customer service. The chatbot allows users to login to their account, place wagers, check balances and receive custom updates.
Technology, evolving markets and industry movements all have an impact on the marketing strategies employed by brands to drive quantifiable results. The shift towards a digital-first strategy will require industry stakeholders to exhibit a strong brand identity and an affinity for community building to promote future growth.