As the industry affiliate market reaches peak saturation, leading player acquisition firm Better Collective has launched new sports betting portal SmartBets.com. SBC speaks to with Better Collective Chief Product Officer Thomas Høgenhaven, on how the SmartBets portal will challenge the market by placing big data and user engagement at the heart of its operations.
SBC: This year Better Collective has launched a new affiliate site in the shape of SmartBets. What were the key elements behind the project?
Thomas Høgenhaven: The key element is personalisation. We knew that SmartBets had to cater to users’ individual personalities and preferences. We have done this by creating self-learning algorithms that help deliver bespoke betting information, which is more than just odds. Things like match facts, team/league information and relevant offers. Based on pre-established preferences, SmartBets helps punters find new and exciting bets they may not have previously considered. Imagine Netflix but with suggestions for odds instead of movies and documentaries.
SBC: SmartBets is a mobile-first design – how important is that to pull off considering the amount of data you are providing to users?
TH: SmartBets has been built based on feedback from our users. One of the main things they asked for was a mobile-first site, so that is exactly what we have delivered. Although it is important to be on mobile, it is not without its challenges. The sheer volume of data we can present has caused a few headaches, but due to our personalisation algorithms we can cut through the clutter. We have steered clear of offering them too much information that has no relevance or connection, and instead are providing the data they are looking for.
SBC: Has the affiliate sector managed to pull off the transition to mobile or is it lagging behind operators still?
TH: Most affiliates have now embraced mobile and are starting to move things up a gear with what they can do on the platform. It has been a natural evolution, as most users now come via the channel. But there are still a few best-practice humps that need to be flattened out by some of the major affiliates, particularly those who have opted to retro-fit their desktop sites for mobile rather than taking a mobile-first approach. While this is a fast and simple way of optimising for mobile and tablet devices, it falls way short of the user experience offered by taking a mobile-first approach. It used to be the other way around, of course, but mobile has created a new world order and affiliates must adapt.
SBC: Most affiliates are focused on attracting new business (which is something that has been encouraged by operators). Could more be done in terms of retention of existing custom?
TH: Yes, it could. But the problem is that operators are only incentivising the accumulation of first time punters and not repeat customers. With SmartBets, we have taken a slightly different approach, gearing the site more towards customer retention than acquisition. Of course, we are sure it will attract new users over time, but we want to offer our existing user base new and exciting products and services. Operators need take notice of this; if they want the industry to become more interactive and innovative they are going to have to shake things up and be open to the idea of adding more incentives for affiliates.
At present, we are doing the hard work for them by expanding our range of platforms, products and services that extend beyond the initial deposit. Keeping punters engaged and coming back for more is a key resource being provided by the affiliate, but they are not receiving any recognition for it. However, operators could foster more active lifetime customers if they were to work more closely with, and better incentivise, their partners.
SBC: There are a lot of odds comparison tools already on the market – why do you think there is room for SmartBets?
TH: Because SmartBets is the first customisable odds comparison platform built around user preferences. Our rivals offer little more than endless databases that often overwhelm non-experienced users. By tailoring the experience to individuals, we can be all things to all people from veteran punters to those looking to place their first accumulator. From there, we can help them expand their understanding of the betting industry, and for those who have been wagering for years, the sorts of markets and odds available to them. We are the only affiliate doing this, and it puts us firmly ahead of the curve.
SBC: How have market stakeholders taken SmartBets so far?
TH: Very well, so far. Operators like the fact we have risen to the challenge and have breathed fresh life into the odds comparison market. There has been a void of innovation for some time, and SmartBets goes a long way to fill this gap. We have also received great feedback from users; on-page engagement is strong with most spending longer on SmartBets than they do on an average website. Users have also been open when it comes to sharing their preferences with us, meaning they understand what goes into delivering a tailored experience and are willing to provide the relevant information to get it. We have also had several requests for SmartBets to be released in other languages, so stay tuned for more news on that in the coming months.
Thomas Høgenhaven – Chief Product Officer – Better Collective