Jonathan Patterson Qubit Business Development lead for Betting & Gaming speaks to SBC on how industry operators are redefining their operations and forming new values through optimised personalization processes.
Digital data and customization specialist Qubit has formed a number of tier-1 industry partnerships in 2016. SBC gains insight into why effective personalization can enhance all dynamics of the industry’s value chain…
SBC: Hi Jonathan, great to catch up. In the past year Qubit has grown its betting industry portfolio working with a variety of operators such as Ladbrokes, Sky Bet and BetBright. Can you define your firm’s approach to creating effective personalisation competencies and why they are valued by industry stakeholders?
Jonathan Patterson: The level of competition in this industry means that acquiring and retaining the right customers remains a constant challenge for Operators. Qubit helps them understand and identify high-value customers and engage them with compelling and personalised experiences.
The process of personalising products in the eGaming sector comes with its own unique set of challenges. The process must be carried out in real time and work with a myriad of complex front-end technologies, while also relying on both historical and in-session user data and relating to markets and prices that are constantly changing. Of course, the more personalised your product experience becomes, the more overhead is placed on your marketing, design, product and development resources.
Qubit’s solution has been built to specifically address these challenges. I’ve found that most of the Operators we talk to have either already encountered these difficulties or realise that they are about to. Our solution is responding directly to this need, so it’s resonating particularly well in this industry.
SBC: Qubit is undertaking personalisation with bookmaker digital properties that consume mass data on a day-to-day basis. What challenges does this reality present to operators and how does your team create effective business processes?
JP: eGaming products, particularly Sportsbooks, contain hundreds of different data points across millions of sessions every day. With modern data technology it’s now relatively easy to collect and store all of this data. This is great for enabling BI teams to understand what users did or did not do and form hypotheses as to why. The real challenge is , how to use these signals that your customers are giving you and react to affect their behaviour in real-time.
The best ‘experience’ to engage with could be determined by the historical context of the user (for example, if they’ve been classified in the VIP and Predominantly Football segments), or alternatively it could depend on the context of the session they’re in (e.g the type of bet they’ve just placed). Sometimes it’s a combination of both.
Our tools help identify key signals and behaviours and allow teams to build personalised experiences and offers depending on both the user’s historical and real-time behaviour. In other words, we are able to provide compelling messages tailored to what the customer did one year, one month, or one second ago.
SBC: Beyond marketing and customer messaging, what advantages can operators gain from undertaking deeper personalisation functions?
JP: A key advantage that operators can gain from personalisation is growing loyalty and retention.
Deep personalisation requires a rich understanding of the customer. Qubit’s system helps build a detailed profile on each user and expose this to the front end at execution time. Personalised experiences then help build an affinity to your brand. If you have identified and segmented your customers effectively, your app navigation, banners and creatives can be tailored for each segment.
We also see our solution used heavily in customer retention projects. Data science teams build predictive models around customer churn and feed their results into Qubit user profiles to activate their models and take preventative action. With retention at the top of many operators’ priority lists, we’re seeing a shift in focus from marketing and acquisition projects to those that improve loyalty and retention KPIs on the existing customer base. This is something that we’ve worked with brands like Ladbrokes on, leveraging capabilities like personalised recommendations to provide a best-in-class experience for their users.
SBC: As an industry stakeholder, is there a concern that personalisation practices will be replicated from company to company creating static functions. How do Qubit teams maintain fresh thinking and creativity?
JP: We’re not too concerned about personalisation practices being replicated across the industry. This is primarily because personalisations based upon first party data are, by definition, difficult to replicate. The data is fundamental to the effectiveness of the personalisation and one company’s data will be vastly different to another company’s data. Since Qubit clients always own the data we collect, they retain an inherent degree of protection from the competition.
Furthermore, unlike any above-the-line acquisition or bonus offers, many subtle personalisations are not obvious to competitors. Many Qubit experiences load in the unique context of the individual user, so unless you have multiple accounts and compare the differences, it’s difficult to reverse-engineer the logic of how these experiences were triggered.
Finally, our gaming team is exposed to the successes of personalisation across a number of verticals including retail, travel and publishing. This helps Qubit’s strategy consultants to take learnings from non-competitors and apply them to the gaming space, injecting fresh and creative thinking into the strategy.
SBC: As bookmakers and industry stakeholders place a higher emphasis on personalisation, how will this impact the core make-up of marketing teams and their decision making processes?
JP: Through our engagements, we’ve found that it’s not just Marketing teams that drive the Personalisation efforts. Typically a combination of stakeholders from Marketing, Product, Development and BI teams are required to get the projects up and running.
Marketing teams are starting to get very sophisticated with the types of players they’re targeting and how they structure the offers. Of course, if an Operator offers enough bonuses and pays enough money to get to the top of the SERP, they will drive traffic to their site, a small percentage of which will lead to acquisitions. But this growth model is not sustainable if the players only stay for the offers.
Instead we’re seeing marketing teams looking to take their finite budget for bonuses, and target them at the right types of players, at the right time in their journey. This strategy requires a shift away from blanket offers to something more sophisticated. With Qubit they’re able to reveal the right offers to the right users based on in-session behaviours and/or use our behavioural data to trigger omni-channel CRM messaging systems to send the appropriate outreach.
SBC: Finally, which new technologies and consumer trends do you feel will have the biggest impact of personalisation. How do bookmakers and wider stakeholders stay ahead of the game in terms of digital innovation and its impact?
It’s been discussed at length but it would probably be a mistake to think that the Mobile disruption is done. Millennial and Gen Y recreational customers jumped straight onto Mobile quite quickly but I wonder whether it’s still going to disrupt the older demographic, particularly the retail user base.
Maybe retail will go through a different kind of disruption focused on a younger crowd though, if you look at broader consumer trends there is a bit of a renaissance in ‘real life’ experiences. People are starting to return to buying physical books, Amazon and Microsoft are opening retail stores and even though film content is more readily and cheaply available as it’s ever been, cinemas are taking more money per capita in the UK than ever before.
Obviously, no answer about the future of anything would be complete without mentioning Artificial Intelligence. I actually think that technology vendors are guilty of marketing an image of a generic AI ‘brain’ that can be applied to any problem. Then one can simply deploy their ‘brain’ so that websites and apps will magically self-optimise.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely narrow use cases where machine learning is a great way to improve results and reduce human efforts, but the algorithms need to be specifically calibrated to the particular industry, company and product area each time they are used.
The Research team at Qubit are constantly looking for the best applications of Machine Learning. This research has resulted in our Programmatic Experiences that allow vendors to deploy repeatable personalisations into their products, for example, surfacing the top trending sporting events in given areas or countries. We’re also using our data pipeline to automatically spot key signals in customer behaviours, uncovering where the biggest opportunities for improvement may lie.
Jonathan Patterson – Qubit – Senior Business Development Manager for Betting & Gaming