Jakob Famme, Chief Operating Officer, A GAME ABOVE.com
A player’s progress
Progress through the pandemic has created a new normal for society, commerce and entertainment, and led to reactive pivots in how we meet and greet customer behaviour across products in the betting and gaming industry. Our hybrid distribution, across land-based and online, has tilted firmly towards online as the pre-eminent, practical channel, and exposed the challenges of regulation, particularly in the USA, where the restrictions of retail-reliant regulation, featuring in-person account opening in some States, are being shifted swiftly to enable online routes.
Our abilities to adapt and pivot, effectively, for the players and their opinion of our brands, products and entertainment status is a factor that needs careful attention, always, but especially so in the current time, given the likelihood of the new normal to echo in its impact upon betting and gaming for many years to come. The calls for, and enactment of, coronavirus stake caps, quarantine time limits upon play, and self-isolation advertising bans, across this period need to be recognised for what they very likely are: not temporary measures.
When the fundamentals of how we’ve done business to date are under siege in this fashion, and not simply due to the pandemic, we need to ask if we are doing enough to gain, retain and maintain our audience, and the players we derive from that, now and for the sustainable road ahead across many products?
An industry in crisis?
Alun Bowden, a senior consultant for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, wrote in March 2020 (Eilers & Krejcik Gaming: Euro 2025 Outlook) about six factors creating a gathering storm for betting and gaming:
Revenue: Slowing growth
Regulation: Higher barriers to entry
Scale: Being redefined
“The Death of Fun”: Forgetting the player
Regulation: Country by country fragmentation
Audience: Changing tastes
Add to this a cancelled sports calendar, the rapid escalation of negative dialogue between government and industry, played out across the pandemic, in particular in markets like the UK and Sweden, and we could take all these factors as telling us one thing: we need to adapt.
Of all the issues that need immediate and important focus, it would be easy to react and assume that regulation and compliance concerns were most pressing, particularly given developments like Sweden’s rushing through of new deposit limits “for the COVID period”, against the advice of both regulator and industry, noting the complete absence of any factual increase in risk-profile gambling behaviour. These are, of course, vital and urgent to adapt to changes, but, as an industry, we will continue to be on the defensive, in appearance and practical reality, should we fail to recognise the enduring importance of the audience. The pool of adults from which we hope to create engagement, play and loyalty, and for the majority of whom, across the majority of markets, we are often portrayed, by media and other stakeholders, as irresponsible, indulgent and intemperate.
This, however, is not the case.
We are a regulated, compliant industry providing products that work on players’ desires, not necessarily just demand, and well aware of the need to market our offerings responsibly and sustainably. This needs to be said, clearly and stridently, to draw a definite line between the right and wrong sides of our reality: between legal and licensed operations, available in a regulated marketplace, or, illegal and unlicensed offerings, available from the illicit, or “black”, market.
The player experience is the single, fundamental reason why.
The dynamics of play over betting and gaming products, with a win/loss cycle across all, require care, commitment and focus in how we engage, advertise, offer and operate. That can only be entrusted to the legal, licensed industry, and government, regulator, audience and stakeholders need to be keenly aware of the same, and how we must all adapt, for an effective reality in each and every betting and gaming marketplace.
Experiences, not just expenditure
Bringing in customers who want to back their team for sports bets, then aggressively cross-selling them to casino, slots and other products, chiefly by way of purely financial incentives, that often do not work how players expect them to, has become decreasingly effective and is increasingly subject to regulatory control and influence. How do operators best approach the challenges of gain, retain and maintain when there are fewer marketing levers available, since many incentives, such as bonusing, price discounts and loyalty, are all under legal review or threat?
In an industry where, in the minds of the audience, all our products tend to be identified as commodities, we need something more to make them try, buy and establish loyalty. That something is best served by exciting, engaging, and effective player promotions. It produces a different kind of audience engagement: healthy, mission and achievement-focused customer behaviour, with loyalty built-in, throughout their participation with the games above - the promotions that we build and operate for our clients. We take players out of the bare transactions of gambling, where their status and achievement in completing a mission, qualifying for a championship or receiving a prize against the clock, matters, often more than money.
Throughout a player lifecycle calendar that gains and retains, or a back to lifecycle schedule that reactivates, across various A GAME ABOVE customer promotions that we run for our brand clients, we’ll engage and enhance the customer experience so that it drives unmatched acquisition, retention and, fundamentally, increased value, across a sustainable, enjoyable career-path plan for the customer.
Player protection – a part of the player experience, overall
Customer experiences should create a mission and reasons for being on a journey as a player. This sort of engagement is packaged with our philosophy on player protection: the “little but often” revenue strategy. We don’t want problem play as a responsible industry. Where we find it, we need to do something about and for it. Promotions that work to impact all stages of the lifecycle, and the entire customer value chain, are not, then, at odds with any of the essentials of player protection. We want our brand partners to have revenue - frequently, sustainably, and over years of a positive player lifecycle - alongside the customers having a fun, entertaining and unmatched player experience, that changes their hour, day, week, month, and, quite possibly, their lifetime as a customer.
That’s the point of the must-play promotions A GAME ABOVE run for brand and product partners – making customers believe and giving them an effective career-path of play, across experiences and not just expenditure, that allows players to take their time to enjoy and be entertained by the products and the missions we set up for them over and above the gambling.
A game above the crisis
We have to take the current crisis and find new and different ways of marketing to meet, greet, gain and retain our audience. At A GAME ABOVE, we work to see past the “bad news” one could focus upon and identify a clear, open window of opportunity, leading to a sustainable, regulatory-compliant future. That opportunity comes with benefits for all stakeholders, across political and pro or anti-gambling viewpoints, if one fundamental is addressed above all others: the player experience.
The betting & gaming business is premised upon challenges and games that customers wish to take part in. It can be made more sustainable, and safer, by extending the notion of gamification through greater parts of the relationship with customers. Engagement encounters are more valuable when each customer feels they have an individual, emotional connection to a brand, product or service. We create that for clients by offering a game above the transaction for lifecycles that forge player experiences and do not focus solely upon expenditure.
We look forward to helping brands, product owners and content partners welcome their customers to a game above the gambling, for the sustainable, long-term reality of the playing hobby it provides.
Learn more at www.AGameAbove.com