Many companies have the technical capacity to deliver custom software for web development and mobile applications, yet delivering solutions specifically tailored to the gambling industry can often come with a different set of challenges.
Adam Gontarz, CEO of CrustLab, explains why his company’s ‘industry know-how’ stands it apart from the competition, before discussing the impact of Apple guidelines, the size of the opportunity in the US and new tech trends to look out for in the next few years.
SBC: In a few sentences, just explain what it is that you do?
AG: At CrustLab, we mainly create custom software for the betting and gambling industry. It’s not the only thing we do, but our main focus.
We provide services from web development to app solutions to mobile and web design, as well as things like strategy consulting and direction of the product. So, we’re a custom development software company with a strong focus on the betting industry.
SBC: So, you’re developing the software from scratch? For example, the mobile app solutions. You’re not consulting on solutions that are already there?
AG: It depends on the customer’s needs. We’re open to any kind of co-operation. Depending on the current state of the product, we might simply assist our customers. It could be a new product or it could also be a product that already exists.
For example, if a customer has a problem with the user experience and is looking for some kind of improvements. As another example, on the backend side, the customer may look for an improved performance of their solution which we can also assist with. It strongly depends on the customer’s needs and the root of the problem.
SBC: If we talk specifically for the gambling companies and user experience issues that these companies often have, what are the common problems you see?
AG: I’ll give you a few examples of our projects. One was developed by a different software consultancy company that cooperated with developers of our client. They simply thought they were doing things in the fashionable and proper way when, in fact, they were just doing it a totally wrong way.
For example, a real user experience (UX) testing was missing, user paths or rather information flow within the application was very complicated. We had to look at how to improve the application. We had to ask the question, how could our client attract more customers? It could be marketing companies or better content or better promotional deals, but also improve the rates in mobile application stores.
A client might have a lot of negative objections from the customers. In the betting industry, it’s difficult because we see a lot of negative feedback that relates to problems with operations like lack of customer support or delayed withdrawals, so we have to filter it out a bit and solve the technical problems that exist in the apps.
SBC: You would imagine that some technical issues are quite standardised wherever you’re working, but what about in terms of UX? Do you position yourself as a company for specific gaming verticals or markets, or take clients on a more global level?
AG: We’d like to operate in the whole gambling industry but with the current size of the company, I don’t believe that we’ll have the level of quality that we currently have.
Our main focus is on pari-mutuel betting, such as greyhound and horse racing, so the totalisator systems in particular, but also sports betting and sportsbooks or embedded solutions for casinos. We don’t create slot games but this is one of our interests for the coming year.
SBC: Is the US somewhere you’re looking at in terms of picking up more clients?
AG: With the series of events in America regarding licensing online sports betting and online casinos, parts of the gambling industry are growing rapidly. Many processes are going on, but based on the conversations I have with my partners and clients, the casino market’s digitalisation will be a top technical need shortly, having in mind the number of land-based casinos in the USA. Here I refer to purely white labels, as well as dedicated custom solutions. Sports betting is growing fast, and here as well, the needs are rapidly growing.
We have noticed that there are a lot of companies that are investigating and trying to invest in the market and there is a bigger interest not only from the UK or Malta but also from the USA, not counting big players that already exist on the market. Those parts of the business are our main focus.
SBC: If we talk about specific projects, can you talk about the clients you have in betting and some of the things you’ve done so far? And what countries you’ve worked in?
AG: Recently on our website, we’ve published a case study presenting the scope of work that we’ve done for Sportech – one of the biggest clients we cooperate with. Regarding the industry, it’s global, including both US and UK. We also created a sportsbook right now for one of the US markets, but the name of the company wouldn’t be well known to everybody.
Other than that, European markets such as Danish markets where we cooperate with Danske Spil, so one of the most important brands. We’ve got work in co-operation with one of our local software houses. We also assist casino creation for one of our clients in Sweden.
SBC: What about companies in the Polish market? You’re from Poland yourself?
AG: This is something I can’t describe transparently because of the contract limitations but we create one of the platforms for one of the Polish operators, which is very similar to what is currently offered on the market. There’s going to be a new website for this client, operating in Polish, Czech and Slovakian markets.
SBC: Okay, let’s talk about Apple guidelines; I assume these hold a lot of influence over the work you are hired to do?
AG: New guidelines were published as a part of the update introducing iOS 14. The core of guidelines has not changed very much. Then I can say that the impact wasn’t significant. However, one of the things that have increased the scope of work on our side for the existing projects was the introduction of restrictions for notifications. The limits are essential mostly from the marketing perspective as Apple has limited what can be published in notifications.
A few companies that we cooperate with had marketing campaigns promoting their other services, but not the app’s features. Right now, it’s restricted, so they’ve had to limit their marketing campaigns – on our side changes in the notifications logic were required.
Apple guidelines are a kind of greatness to our developers. Following them, we guarantee that the quality of apps we deliver is high and competitive. With the 14th version of the iOS system, we have received two significant changes – widgets and App Clips.
App Clips are small parts of an app so that users could get what they need right when they need it. The feature has not been widely introduced in the market. Most probably, some companies do not know about the potential of the feature. It makes it possible to quickly promote your app, shorten bettor acquisition by opening multiple new channels like messages or dedicated QR codes. We strongly suggest that feature to our customers.
With newly introduced widgets, app owners have a great occasion to reduce the number of steps customers would have to perform to place a bet or at least customers should be able to, for example, review top pools, carryovers, or favourite events directly from the main screen.
Both things are something companies should use very offensively as they reduce the user journey and improve customer acquisition rate. I believe this is an excellent set of updates that companies should invest in, especially for offensive players spending thousands of dollars a week through multiple channels.
SBC: So the guidelines make more companies turn to businesses like yours for help?
AG: To answer your question – yes, I would agree. To be honest, every update that Apple makes creates problems for our customers and the more problems they have, the more work we have! We have more questions regarding how we can solve these problems.
From our perspective, sometimes it’s hard to explain that this is something that Apple has created and we can’t be responsible for the problems you’ve had because of the introduction of new rules. It’s sometimes a point of discussion.
SBC: If we change to a more general level, in terms of wider mobile software solutions what is it that you do that stands you apart from your competition?
AG: I believe we pay strong attention to the customer’s needs. A lot of companies focus on the businesses, forgetting about the end-users.
We have a set of people we have to ask for any kind of assistance and we have to focus on them, since we are creating an app for them. Our extensive user experience research is critical because some companies forget about that and just create a product. Another aspect is the technical part of it; extensive testing to ensure proper performance of the application.
We have the domain knowledge and know-how to create an app that attracts new users and we mix it with technical specialisation. We aren’t a random custom development solutions company that creates apps but we also use our know-how regarding the gambling industry.
SBC: Is it then fair to say that lots of companies like yours offer similar services on a technical level, but where you stand out is for your understanding of the customer and the wider industry?
AG: This is what I meant. The question you asked me before was mostly about mobile applications. What’s important, and makes us different from our competitors, is the experience and knowledge of the industry.
For example, integration with external providers, wallet and risk management systems, dedicated sportsbook APIs, odds, spreads, GDPR rules, responsible gaming regulations and customer identity verification stuff. All topics that are very hot in the betting industry and most of the software development companies are not aware of them.
Typically, when companies are looking for a regular partner in software development based on some budgetary criteria and then they have to fix problems. One of the examples are the responsible gaming rules that, when violated, could cause a huge amount of penalties and financial problems or services that would be forced by the government to be closed.
SBC: What has been the biggest tech trend from a design perspective? And what do you think might be coming next?
AG: First of all, I believe one of the key things in the gambling industry in the future could be to make use of the games as a service (GaaS) model, which enables the on-demand streaming of games to users’ devices. We see semi-static esports web applications but I believe the industry could go a little bit further.
Technical solutions offer a real user experience where you are a part of the game. In my view, that could attract a lot of users that would be able to play almost any game and bet but that would definitely be a topic for the new domain of the esports part of the business. I can imagine high-quality slot games to use technology as well in the future. Of course, that would be great for low volatility games and help gamers keep playing for hours.
I believe that social gaming is also important and companies that offer betting should focus on this. By cooperation, customers will have more fun and be more keen to place more bets.
The final part is progressive web applications. When we are talking about mobile we tend to think about native or cross-platform solutions. It has some limitations but for apps that let users check odds or latest stats and compare different sites, there’s no point investing in a dedicated solution since you could create something that is valuable, a bit cheaper and also help you in the marketing of your services.
SBC: Finally, what’s the big ambition for you as a company? Where do you see things heading in the next few years?
AG: This is just a dream I’d say but in a few years I’ll only say we’re successful when someone thinks ‘I need custom software development services for my gambling project’ then decides ‘Alright, I’ll talk to CrustLab’. We’d like to specialise in this area for the industry with lots of connections and successful products we and our customers are proud of.