Team SBC catches up with Industry marketing veteran Toby Oddy CEO & Founder of acquisition and ROI focused marketing agency Digital Fuel, to discuss changing dynamics and values in customer acquisition strategies.
Having consulted numerous top tier igaming and sports betting operators on player acquisition projects and ROI practices. Toby outlines how the relationship between agency and operator should change/evolve with new market and consumer conditions being applied throughout the industry’s value chain.
Toby Oddy believes that this will be a key feature in bringing marketing and acquisition individuality to igaming operators in what has become a saturated and uniformed market place.
SBC: Hi Toby, our readership will know you from previous positions working and consulting for major igaming operators, what drove you to set up customer acquisition led agency Digital Fuel in Australia?
Toby: The main reason we set up Digital Fuel was to develop a digital marketing agency that takes the things learned from the established European wagering sector and applies them to the developing Australian and Asian wagering markets. Similarly, we thought our team could also explore new wagering territories, grow to understand how they work, and apply this knowledge to our European clients’ campaigns. So far, the emphasis has been on the areas of mobile acquisition and social media marketing.
For me personally, the Australian market fits very well with my personal experience in wagering. Australia in the past has been a retail tote based industry. Previously, I developed the UK Tote business from a retail business to an online and retail business, and I bring this expertise to the table. Knowing how to overcome these challenges in Australia is a major benefit to our clients in this part of the world. We understand what is required, and we have encountered most of the same challenges and obstacles before, so we are able to quickly overcome them, and fuel the growth for our Australian wagering clients.
SBC: As the founder of an acquisition focused agency with knowledge of igaming markets, how do you want to set Digital Fuel services and competencies within the industry’s operational arc? Where do you see your agency’s future potential?
Toby:Digital Fuel staff is a highly skilled team in all areas of digital marketing. We are made up of experienced individuals that have worked across all products, and for many leading gaming and gambling companies. We pride ourselves on being unique within the gambling sector, as we truly understand the requirements of our gambling clients and their marketing strategies.
Our future potential is working with global operators who wish to develop their business outside of Europes mature regulated markets. Digital Fuel currently has offices in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and we are soon to open an office in North America. We are a global company with a global understanding of the wagering and gaming industry. From a product perspective, Digital Fuel is already working with leading mobile app developers to bring their games to market, plus we see the future in multi-device marketing by using new developments in social media marketing, paid search, and real time display advertising.
SBC: The igaming market is set to undergo major changes due to taxing and imposed legislation, as an agency looking to target igaming clients what factors and disciplines have become key priorities when dealing with igaming clients?
Toby: This is a great question, and one I have been focussing a lot on with our existing UK clients. There has been a lot of talk about how marketing budgets will be cut to compensate for the 15% consumption tax, plus the negative effects that affiliates will see in the reduction of revenue due to new taxation in the UK. I agree that we are facing a challenging time, but having worked and seen similar levy/taxation laws imposed on online betting on horse racing when I was Head of Marketing at Totesport, I understand how important it is to ensure that the return on investment is key to developing our acquisition strategies, and also growing the business.
I believe now that the industry has to focus on the mobile and second screen customers, as these customers have a better lifetime value, as their access to betting is easier, and the experience is enhanced. The challenge for the main sports betting operators in the UK is customer retention, and how they now engage with their customers, and build a loyal audience. This has been done via social media, TV, and traditional media, such as email and SMS. However, lets not forget that the acquisition offers will play a big part in what type of customers they attract from the outset, and ultimately what the lifetime value will be from these types of customers. It all comes down to the cost per acquisition now, and the true lifetime value by acquisition source, and how the attributions of spend is modelled.
My prediction is that the pure gaming brands will find acquisition very difficult due to the cost per acquisition and lifetime value of a customer. The reason for this is that acquiring customers at a low cost and cross selling them to higher margin products will become even more vital to returning a gambling operators annual profit ambition. Acquire customers at a low cost when volume is available, and then cross sell them to higher margin yielding products, which can be accessed on the move, in the pub, and outside a competitors retail outlet, and then pay the government a percentage on the way. This will be achieved by a better understanding of the customers from acquisition right through to first bet, and beyond. The retail operators have introduced loyalty card systems and one-wallet all devices solutions, so they will naturally be able to gain more insights on their type of customers, and more importantly to identify the profitable ones.
I also think that the consumption tax will hit affiliates quite hard at first, as the bigger affiliates will have the budgets to compete in the marketing arena. But I also think that it’s at a point in evolution where new and existing small to medium affiliates move into the mobile affiliate space and focus more on these types of customers. We will see a marketing spend increase in the short term once the consumption tax kicks in at the beginning of 2015. This will be due to the gambling companies desire to secure their position in the market, and also to acquire customers who have been traditionally gambling with a non-regulated gaming or gambling operators that are now not approved to advertise on certain platforms. The Digital Fuel team has years of experience in acquiring and retaining customers to achieve a positive lifetime value, and we have been preparing for the changes for well over six months.
SBC: In terms of industry acquisition strategies, many commentators have criticised the uniformity seen in operator acquisition incentives, bonusing and marketing strategies. How should operators look to improve marketing individuality in customer acquisition?
Toby: Being individual and unique is being able to adapt to trends and provide product innovation. This comes in the form of bonus offers, and more importantly, how your acquisition strategy is aligned with your business goals. For example, I would like to see a gambling operator providing bonus strategies based on channel of acquisition, and even device. Digital Fuel has tested the “one bonus offer” for all products, and we have seen some interesting results. Join get a bonus you can use on all products or a bonus for all products. This is playing to the strengths of understanding customer actions right from the start, and then using this data to better remarket and up-sell the new customer by new and innovative marketing platforms, such as programmatic real time display and social media advertising. Retargeting based on abandonment has also come a long way, not just on desktop computers but across mobile and tablets as well, with real time and data driven mobile engagement tools, such as push messaging and automatic push messaging.
SBC: In recent years the industry has seen a saturation of its player base, with the majority of customers having multiple accounts with numerous operators. How do you target and engage this saturated player base, what should be the fundamental communications from operator to consumer?
Toby:Multiple accounts have been, and continue to be an issue for many gambling and gaming operators. Ensuring you engage your customers is fundamentally down to knowing your customers. If you have one customer that has several accounts with your sportsbook, and also with several other gambling operators, you really are on a losing streak to knowing how to retain and profit from this customer or customers.
The way to tackle this is to be very hard on player management from the point of acquisition to inactive accounts and KYC policies. Once you know your customers’ activities, you are able to build remarketing strategies that engage your customers, and also bonus or incentives that will appeal to your customers. Branding plays a massive role in your customer’s perception of value, and ultimately their loyalty to bet with your brand.
In the UK, price and offers plays a big role in engaging and gaining that share of wallet, but in Australia price and offer is not the main driver, it’s ease of use and brand perception. My advice to our customers is always to keep the communication simple, and to execute it in a smart and informative way. They must make sure the product is easy to use, that the path to conversion is easy to navigate, and all messaging is aligned. You would be surprised how many companies get these fundamentals wrong.
SBC: Looking ahead how do you see acquisition strategies evolving, and what impact will these have on agencies and marketing service providers such as Digital Fuel.
Toby: There has never been a more important time to have a digital marketing agency working in partnership with your gambling and gaming brand that has experience, and more importantly an understanding of the industry. I see acquisition strategies in mature online gambling markets becoming greater aligned with customer retention and development strategies, as the marketing channels gain more insights on potential customer behaviours, and that is in turn, matched with operators data insights. The path to success is to adopt these new technologies and work towards greater sharing of data that can be used to acquire the right type of customer. It’s also critical to increase the lifetime value of a customer by remarketing to them in real time, and with the products or services they are consuming, or that we have identified and tested they will consume.
Like it or not, this is the future of digital marketing as the big three, Apple, Google and Facebook, are now building profiles on all our activities, likes, interests, and much, much more. Match this with learnings and insight, and you have all the correct ingredients to execute a perfect marketing campaign; it then comes down to “the cook”, aka the Digital Agency you empower to deliver the ROI.
Toby Oddy – Digital Fuel CEO & Founder