Pooja Capellos Head of Product at user testing agency Gutsy Ninja details to SBC readers the importance of industry stakeholders implementing effective user research and testing initiatives in order to improve operational conditions and practices for future industry growth.
Capellos a former Unibet product and digital strategist details to SBC that with a more demanding consumer, industry operators, suppliers and technology developers have to tackle overlooked R&D functions in order to create more dynamic enterprises and services.
SBC: Hi Pooja, thanks for the interview. Gutsy Ninja is specialising in creating R&D mechanisms and capabilities for the igaming/betting sectors. Why is creating a research dynamic an essential benefit for the long-term growth of the industry?
Pooja Capellos: The igaming industry is more competitive than ever before. Success belongs to those that continue to create experiences that delight customers. Customer experience has become a growing focus for companies of all sizes, including all of the interactions the customer has with the brand – not just the digital ones. The igaming industry would benefit by taking a more strategic approach to collecting and utilizing customer feedback.
While R&D is a broad subject, at Gutsy Ninja we specialise in User Testing. Through User Testing we help companies identify the pain points in their customer experiences.
We work with companies to conduct regular user testing at different stages of product development to achieve ROI benefits through increased conversion rates and improved user experience and satisfaction. Feedback from User Testing is also crucial in validating design decisions before committing resources. This is also important when it comes to testing new product concepts and ideas.
User Testing has a wide variety of benefits and is used to help inform the design process by uncovering unknown or unexpected issues. It also allows people within the organisation to test assumptions and concepts before investing millions of pounds in building a product that customers may not engage with. In smaller companies, there are limited resources and it is a race against time to get products to market.
In a larger company, it becomes progressively more expensive and time-consuming to make changes to products. This is why User Testing is so important in ensuring the company is focussed on the right things.
SBC: Why do you feel that igaming/betting stakeholders have so far neglected deeper user and product testing initiatives as a business practice?
PC: If we look at R&D from the perspective of User Testing, companies haven’t always fully understood the tangible benefits that User Testing can bring to their bottom line. Working with a few gaming companies now, we can see that this perception is changing in the industry. The emergence of social media has given customers a stronger voice where if they are unhappy with a product or customer experience they will share their complaints online. Companies have learnt the hard way how damaging this can be for their brand.
User testing before launching a new site/app not only means that usability issues can be surfaced – it also allows the proposition to be refined. In this way companies can launch with peace of mind and reap the full benefits of their marketing campaigns.
Another reason that companies in igaming have done little user testing in the past is due to lack of available funds. Budgets are often allocated for marketing or towards building even more features. Companies have soon realised that if your product doesn’t provide a good customer experience all marketing efforts will be in vain and targets will not be reached. At Gutsy Ninja we are making User Testing more accessible to companies so that they can test products early and often. User testing doesn’t have to be expensive especially when you consider the cost savings involved.
SBC: Assessing igaming/betting’s convoluted value chain, where do you feel that User-Testing and research capabilities can be most effective for industry processes and operations?
PC: Companies in the igaming industry are continuously developing new products and offerings as they strive to stand out from the competition. Integrating User Testing throughout the design and build process would enable companies to test concepts, wireframes and prototypes. The benefit of doing User Testing early on is that customer feedback can be fed into subsequent stages of product development. This can also help prevent costly end-stage failures.
User Testing is also very beneficial when done on key aspects of the sales funnel. Often companies have analytics on their websites. They have knowledge that the conversion rates are lower than they would like. However, they don’t know why. This is where User Testing allows companies the opportunity to find out how customers think and feel about certain products and experiences. Users are unpredictable. Often sites and apps are designed assuming that users will interact with the site in a rational, logical order. This is often not the case and actually seeing a user struggle on your site is an eye-opening experience.
In the betting sector, most companies operate in multiple markets. The customers in these markets vary massively and when designing a product offering it would be hugely beneficial to test the product across the key markets to determine the different customer perceptions and needs. From our experience, even seemingly small features like how betting odds are formatted can keep customers away from a site that is not personalised to their needs. User Testing can give you this information at a stage in product development where it is still inexpensive to make the necessary changes.
SBC: In terms of development, how do you introduce industry clients to R&D practices, which may be unfamiliar to their day to day operations?
PC: It’s all about building awareness and a culture of User Testing in to the fabric of the company. Many companies might have experimented with User Testing where a study is commissioned at the end of a large project every year or even every couple years.
At Gutsy Ninja we are focused on innovating in this space by enabling companies to gather customer feedback in an Agile away. Saying that, we carry out smaller but frequent studies. We provide actionable and prioritised reports that can be shared with the teams involved.
Each company is different and we have built flexibility into our own culture to cater for different sized of companies, time constraints and project needs.
If companies are starting out with User Testing, we’d recommend choosing a small, focused project where companies can show the value of User Testing to Executives and stakeholders alike quickly and cost effectively. Each company is different and has its own set of priorities. However, we have frequently tested websites, apps, prototypes, games, competitor sites and landing pages to name a few.
We work with each individual company to plan the study and tailor the research objectives. Having hands on experience in the iGaming industry as well the experience of running a multitude of other studies puts us in a strong position to provide guidance to our clients so they can get most value from the customer feedback.
SBC: Which outside industries should igaming/betting take its lead from with regards to creating effective research, testing, and better knowledge-led capabilities?
PC: It’s difficult to recommend a particular industry as the degree of User Testing carried out varies from company to company. The Times newspaper in the UK successfully launched a new suite of products this year, including a new website, iOS app and Android app. The Times was diligent about User Testing throughout the product lifecycle from early stage prototypes to beta versions of the apps. The customer feedback helped them produce a suite of products that were user friendly and fulfilled their customer needs.
Another example in the movie industry is where Marvel ran focus groups with children before launching the first Iron Man movie. The research showed that the kids had serious awareness and connection issues with the character that they perceived to only be a robot. This knowledge enabled Marvel to tailor their promotional material and marketing campaigns accordingly. The result? A very successful box office hit that appealed to adults and children alike.
Marks and Spencer conversely did not fair as well. In 2014, Marks & Spencer re-launched their website at a cost of a massive £150 million. This was only to see their online purchases plunge eight per cent in just three months. Several usability issues were revealed including poor product information, navigation issues on tablet and the most fundamental issue of all was that of preventing users from getting to the checkout page to make a purchase. It seems like the focus was on the hype of the launch itself as opposed to whether customers would be able to complete key tasks on the new site.
When User Testing is done correctly companies can expect cost savings, efficient use of development resources and a positive impact to the bottom line. Gutsy Ninja works with companies to understand their constraints upfront. This enables us to deliver actionable customer insights that can be fed back to the business and development teams to improve products and customer experiences.
SBC: Finally by building effective research capabilities the industry should see igaming/betting standards being tested or re-valued. What industry led legacy values do you feel will be put to the test by implementing effective user testing and research dynamics?
PC: Customer journeys frequently span multiple devices and channels. However, consumers don’t view these as separate experiences. This tells us that companies cannot treat digital and physical channels as separate entities anymore. The line between digital and physical experiences is blurring. Providing a consistently excellent experience across channels is of key importance.
Historically managers have said that they didn’t need user testing as they had analytics in place. This mind-set is changing as organisations realise that while analytics tell you what happened only User Testing can tell you why.
User Testing was previously regarded as too expensive and done occasionally before a big product launch once every couple of years. Many companies within the industry operate within an Agile framework and incorporating User Testing in to this framework is one of the best ways to achieve remarkable results – like identifying conversion killers so a company can dramatically increase revenue. If the value gained from user testing is that high, the cost is negligible in comparison. What’s really expensive is to use development resources to build products and then rely on analytics to tell you whether it was the correct thing to develop and whether it’s resonating with customers. The opportunity costs associated with building the wrong thing easily eclipse the cost of testing. User Testing can positively impact sales, leads, customer satisfaction and retention. Analytics on their own simply are not enough.
Pooja Capellos – Head of Product – Gutsy Ninja