August 15 2017
A betting shop on the high street is arguably a unique retail experience. The terminology, the products and the means with which it is presented all contribute to attracting defined types of customer.
Historically, for the retail betting operators capturing the necessary data about their audience and understanding how it can be translated into the online sphere has been difficult. Much as the audience is loyal to a shop, the majority tend to be wary of giving over information about themselves, and their method of transaction will overwhelmingly be anonymous cash as opposed to identifiable payments cards.
Yet with omni-channel offerings now penetrating the retail betting space, the barriers to collecting betting intelligence about retail customers appear to be breaking down. Many of the leading European gambling operators are now beginning to reap the rewards of a great emphasis on engaging with their customers across multiple channels.
Leading among these is the largest retail betting company in the UK, Ladbrokes Coral which having merged in late 2016 now controls the largest high-street betting shop estate in the country with over 3,500 outlets.
According to the company’s 2016 results statement, omni-channel services are now at the center of the company’s thinking when it comes to growing both its retail and digital businesses and the key operational numbers show why.
Between its two brands, Ladbrokes Coral has now signed up nearly a million retail customers to the digital offerings. This cohort is cheaper to acquire – £20 per acquisition according to the results statement – and, key, it is more loyal with their lifetime value being nearly twice that of customers which come to the brands via online-only acquisition channels.
Keeping the customer satisfied
Why this degree of loyalty? Ladbrokes Coral’s answer is straightforward: when dealing with a consumer which is habituated to dealing with cash, offering them a single-wallet solution that enables them to ‘take’ their retail winnings out of the shop via their online account will inevitably mean they will use that account when they are away from the retail environment.
Throw in the familiarity occasioned by deploying much the same games in both shops and digital, and alongside such new innovations as self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) which aim to replicate online betting functions in retail, it means the company has a recipe for increased customer loyalty.
Ladbrokes Coral employs loyalty cards systems to help it gather data about its customers and Marcus Wareham, a consultant in the gambling sector with a specialization on omni-channel, says that knowing your customer is vital if an operator is to persuade the consumer to switch between the two channels.
“The challenge then comes down to what you need to do to create loyal customers and this comes down to some key principles,” he says. “Get to know your customers, understand their likes, dislikes, desires and motivation. Feed these desires in everything you do.”
Then he adds, you need to build bridges, providing customers with frictionless ways to move between the physical and digital environments. “Not one bridge; not just proclaiming to have the same content. They must be real, meaningful, useful bridges.”
Finally, he says there needs to be an exchange of value. “This is not a one-way relationship; consumers are smart, they know you want them to be loyal. Don’t just expect them to give it to you for free.”
Retain, retain, retain
Retention marketing can play a vital role here, says Richard Beach, research and development program manager for the research and innovation team at backend provider Playtech which works with Ladbrokes Coral in both retail and digital. Once they move from the anonymous play in the shop to a more engaged relationship with the operator, then they can be both rewarded and protected.
“As the player is encouraged to make themselves more identifiable, retention marketing can keep them playing in their existing verticals and product areas as well as offering alternative channels or products to them,” he says.
A unified wallet is obviously a building block, but Beach says much more can be done when it comes to marketing. “Bonusing and communications also need to be unified and make sense to the player across all channels and products,” he adds. This will include CRM, personalization, content and player experience.
A key distinction is that customers shouldn’t be seen as having simply “migrated” from land-based gaming to online, but rather they should be viewed as customers that have added online to their gambling engagement touchpoints.
“These types of players are generally happy with any well put together and meaningful messaging, and they are often happy to be messaged via multiple routes – email, SMS, retail flyers and via websites or apps,” he says. “They are increasingly looking for omni-channel communication in an increasingly connected landscape.”
Another backend provider that is looking to particularly leverage the link across from retail to mobile betting is BtoBet. It’s chief executive Alessandro Fried says special offers, customisable interactive avatars and push notification avatars are “perfect hooks” than can entertain the user via the mobile while also directing them to retail environments to collect bonuses in shops.
“These are just some examples of how the mobile can be a bridge directly to the retail,” he says. “It almost feels like a generation of bettors are at the point of skipping desktop altogether. This is very much evident in many markets in Africa and elsewhere where it is mobile, not desktop gambling, that is already the predominant form of activity.”
Whichever channel, whether online, mobile or retail, Wareham says that a key aspect to always bear in mind is not to favor one type of customer over another. “There are lots of examples – not just gaming – where new customers seem to be more preferably treated which just gives the message ‘once you’re in we don’t care about you as much’,” he says.
He concludes that “consumer choice” should be the guiding principle of omni-channel. The key to retaining the customer lies in “understanding that all customers are different and allowing them to choose, without favoring or penalizing.”