The recent unforeseen hiatus in live sporting events has presented the betting and gaming industry with one of the biggest challenges it has ever had to face, yet the experience has also been a learning curve, says CCO Bobby Longhurst
The transition of sports bettors to alternative gambling content streams provided us with unique insight into player preferences which would not have otherwise been available – including some surprises.
For sportsbook operators that recognised the opportunity to expand their offering with virtuals, esports and additional casino content, this remarkable period has taught invaluable lessons in how to cross-sell.
Despite the sports betting shutdown, many of our partners have been able to attract a number of existing customers to the new products in their offering. Although a proportion of this growth has been organic, the number of transitioning customers has been amplified by efforts to educate sports bettors on alternative content and tailor promotional activity.
For eSports, a vertical more traditional customers may have been unfamiliar with, education has been key to conversion. Bettors are more inclined to wager on markets that they understand, so promoting esports events on sportsbook platforms first required educating customers on how to bet on them.
The virtual sports offering, meanwhile, presented people with a more familiar concept. Football and racing fans have naturally gravitated towards the virtual sport counterpart to continue engaging with a version of their favourite hobbies. What many have been impressed by, however, is the quality of virtual content now on offer.
Advances in technology have made for huge improvements to the graphics and mechanics of virtual games in recent times, as well as an increase to the number of formats and betting markets available. As the virtual gaming experience aligns even more closely with that of real-life, the conversion of sports bettors will no doubt continue.
In terms of cross-selling to online casino, the effectiveness has largely been dependent on the product offer and presentation. Fast-loading swipe casino games such as roulette and blackjack have been successful in attracting sportsbook customers. As well as seeming more approachable than slots, these traditional table games offer a convenience and quick-fire play which appeals to punters.
Moreover, they allow players to seamlessly swipe between casino and sportsbook content, rather than redirecting them away from the main event. As sports events resume, this content will likely continue to serve as a tool to maintain engagement in multiple products at the same time.
Looking at these three verticals combined, the overarching learning from recent events is the importance of having a diverse product portfolio. Being overly reliant on one offering has brought significant consequences for businesses throughout the industry, and it is those that have been quick to adapt and diversify which will emerge out the crisis in a better shape.
At Pronet, we immediately refocused the user experience of our platform to give greater prominence to alternative products. Taking virtuals as an example, this allowed our partners to market virtual football and racing as though it was prime-time Premier League action and racing from Aintree, thereby offering another form of cross-selling for our operators by introducing players to entry-level RNG offerings.
Ensuring these converted customers stick around as sports betting resumes is now a task for the industry as a whole. As the key to player engagement, retention techniques will be more important than ever before. In an ideal world, sports bettors will continue to take part in the form of entertainment they turned to during lockdown, whether it be virtuals, esports or online casino, at the same time as betting on their favourite sporting fixtures.
Whether that becomes a reality will depend on the quality of the new gaming experiences offered, combined with a more considered approach as to how content is presented.
If what we’ve learnt in recent weeks is applied to cross-selling strategies moving forward, then we’re confident a strong segment of bettors will keep returning to the alternative betting entertainment they enjoyed during this period even when live sports returns.