SBC News Innovation: fuelling the industry’s growth or simply a buzzword?

Innovation: fuelling the industry’s growth or simply a buzzword?

The word ‘innovation’ is somewhat inescapable when working in the igaming industry. There isn’t a day when the term isn’t used on LinkedIn or in a press release announcing a new product launch. But what does it mean to be truly innovative? And have we reached a point where we’re innovating too much?

In a roundtable discussion, GR8 Tech CEO Evgen Belousov was joined by CEO Max Potyomkin, LiveScore Group CPO Sam Talbot and Steven Salz, CEO Rivalry, to dive into all things innovation as they discuss the importance of client feedback, the implications for marketing and whether igaming can take inspiration from other sectors.

SBC: How do you define innovation in the igaming industry, and can you share examples of how your company is contributing to it?

Evgen Belousov: Innovation in the igaming industry, from our perspective, is about creating something entirely new, not just what’s currently available in the market. It involves a unique approach and mindset, where every innovation must have a clear purpose. 

However, this purpose shouldn’t just revert to familiar and already working solutions. For instance, at GR8 Tech, we’re committed to pioneering advancements that redefine user experience and operational efficiency. We’re not just following trends; we’re setting them by crafting solutions that address unmet needs and open new possibilities in the igaming sector.

Max Potyomkin: We see innovation as a constant process of development and implementation of the new techniques, technologies and approaches towards the players’ experience, to touch their deepest feelings and emotions. This is when we as a business can provide an outstanding or even stunning update to our approaches, that literally blows our players’ (and competitors’) minds, in a good way. 

A nice example of our contribution is our AI-early-VIP-and-non-VIP-detection system that has been developed together with our technical partner GR8 Tech. Based on the analysis of clients’ behaviour on the platform during the first days after they have registered, combined with the fully-automated OSINT research and imposed confidential patterns, in less than 48 hours, with a high degree of probability, we can assign the newly-registered client a specific VIP, pre-VIP, low/high-margin status and automatically tune all future approaches towards him. 

This innovative approach is so precise that we could identify a high-profile individual like, say, Johnny Depp, even if he registered using a pseudonym and false information, without him being aware of our identification.

Sam Talbot: I think the igaming industry is a mixed bag when it comes to innovation. There are some great examples where truly innovative experiences have changed the landscape for the better, but there are other areas which are fundamental to the customer experience where improvements have been limited through the last five to 10 years. 

Rather than creating isolated innovation teams, at LiveScore Group, we try to ensure that innovation is deeply embedded within all areas of the business, whether that is product development, marketing, customer operations, or internal teams.

Steven Salz: The term innovation and what it means likely varies from person to person.

The way we look at innovation at Rivalry is creating a radically original product or experience that’s proprietary to us. What we see in betting are these unique ingredients–such as same-game parlays–which are often easily replicated by other companies. So for us it’s really about building something that’s not only unique in the space, but is also exclusive to Rivalry. 

Our competitive advantage is having a deeply intimate understanding of Millennials and Gen Z, their interests, and so on which we can use to tailor our products and entertainment to their expectations.

Same game combos, our industry-first same-game parlay product for esports, takes one of the most popular bets on the board and adapts it for an audience born on the internet with custom branding and animations to play up the entertainment value. 

That included using the popular “galaxy brain” internet meme to not only resonate with our audience but add a layer of storytelling to the experience in terms of the complexity and smarts needed to hit a multi-leg bet.

There are a ton of different examples on Rivalry where we either create a new product from scratch, like our original casino games, or are simply customising a standard feature like ‘cash out’ and wrapping it in entertainment to differentiate ourselves in the space and add value to the experience beyond the bet.

SBC: What role does client feedback and demands play in your company’s innovation process, and can you give an example of how customer insights have led to a new product or feature? 

MP: All new approaches and methods are being implemented mostly based on the clients’ feedback and insights. The best example is our ability, thanks to our technical partner, to provide specific customers with specific outcomes per their demand, which basically brings up betting to a new, extra-personalised level, when the client can come to the company and say: “Listen, I know that’s weird, but can I bet on this?”, and the company says: “YES”. This innovation and extraordinary approach make every client feel super special.

ST: Customer research and insight play a pivotal role in defining our strategy. We are constantly speaking to our customers and analysing our customer data to ensure that when we do invest in innovative new ideas, it is to address a real customer problem or opportunity area. 

This is of particular importance at LiveScore Group as we aim to build out our world-leading sports ecosystem. There have been numerous examples of us taking the learnings from our customers to develop unique features within our LiveScore app, focused on creating a seamless user journey between LiveScore and LiveScore Bet.

SS: Rivalry is built for an under-30 demographic of customers whose interests and demands dictate everything from our product and design philosophy to our brand and marketing.

This has manifested in so many ways across the company and its work. The foremost example is leading with an esports and gaming-focused product and brand, which is the dominant form of entertainment for our target audience of Millennials and Gen Z, and has allowed us to carve out a leadership position among this customer base that can then be cross-sold into sports and casino.

More recently, we released a first-party casino game in September, Cash & Dash, which we designed to bridge the gap between betting, entertainment, and gaming. The inspiration for Cash & Dash, as well as other original games we have in development, is our audience and their discreet consumption habits. 

This is a digitally native customer that’s deeply acclimated to real-time, interactive products as well as the depth and entertainment of video games. What we’re doing with our original games, and across Rivalry’s broader product suite, is consistently trying to meet this audience on its entertainment level.

EB: Client feedback is crucial in our process, but it’s important to note that it mostly highlights current pain points, margin improvements, and other practical aspects, rather than groundbreaking innovations. 

Often, the clients bring ideas they’ve seen elsewhere and want something similar for themselves. This input can certainly lead to the development of new features, but these are typically more evolutionary than revolutionary in nature. The enhancements, introduced in response to client requests, while not brand-new inventions, are vital iterations that keep our offerings at the forefront of the industry.

SBC: Do you feel the term ‘innovation’ is sometimes overused as a marketing strategy within the igaming industry, or do you believe that there has been innovation within the sector this year?

ST: I think it is easy to obsess about becoming innovation leaders, and as a result, lose focus on what we are all trying to achieve, which is delivering a world-class experience for our customers. 

Innovation, at its best, is built into the culture of the company and is part of everyone’s everyday thinking. I think there have been some good examples of innovative new features and promotions in the past 12 months, but we are still waiting for the next ‘Cash Out’ moment. 

SS: The betting industry has grown substantially over the last handful of years and we sense that for most operators, there’s little incentive to tamper with a proven product experience showing no signs of slowing down.

The big challenge that we see on the horizon is adapting the betting experience to engage this next generation of customers coming into the fold with an entirely different set of consumption habits and entertainment preferences. Gen Z is coming of legal betting age, but they aren’t engaging with traditional sports or media in the same way as Millennials, Boomers, and Gen Xers.

That has a lot of downstream implications on acquisition and engagement channels alone, but from a product perspective, speed and functionality is really the bare minimum for an under-30 demographic that grew up on the internet with deeply engaging and real-time products at their fingertips. 

We see the true denomination for success among this demographic to be how well you can insert entertainment into the experience as a whole versus just being one of many places they can place a bet.

EB: I think the answer would be different for B2B and B2C industries. In B2B, the term is indeed overused, having become more of a buzzword almost everyone uses as a marketing tactic. The real innovation goes beyond just throwing around trendy terms like AI. It’s about the practical application of these tools. 

For instance, at GR8 Tech, we’ve developed our own in-house generative AI for text and visual content. This isn’t just for show – we actively use and evolve this technology to streamline our processes and save resources. This is where true innovation lies – in the practical and effective use of advanced tools to enhance our operations and further enhance the capabilities of our high-performance platform.

MP: No, I don’t. Innovation as a process and as a term cannot be overused, as the pursuit towards constant innovation is the fuel for the industry and this fuel brings healthy competition; without innovations we would have a couple of boring companies with zero fun, just spins, odds, margin and that’s it. 

However, it’s true that real innovations are rare: it’s a push with a new breakthrough technology, new interesting mechanic, after which everyone starts to use and improve it, adding something of their own, until a new game-changer comes along and shakes up the scene. 

SBC: Are there lessons that the igaming sector can learn from other sectors when it comes to innovation? Are we, as an industry, perhaps slightly behind the curve when it comes to new technologies?

SS: The betting industry is often looking inward at other successful companies in the space and finding ways to either replicate that success or build off those ideas. While we’ve seen some forms of innovation in the space over the last few years, traditional lines of thinking regarding what betting needs to look and feel like are perhaps holding the industry back in that aspect.

At Rivalry, we often find ourselves looking at other great consumer products from other sectors [like Red Bull, Robinhood, or CashApp] who have built something truly great that we can pull inspiration from and incorporate into our own strategy. 

For us and what we’re trying to achieve, video games are a great starting point. Gaming is the most popular entertainment category for an under-30 customer, and more importantly, they are fundamentally engaging. When we think about innovation in betting, or even just adapting standard features, we try to think about how we can position a product to feel more like entertainment than gambling. 

We believe that not only can an intrinsically entertaining product keep people engaged and create value for the customer, but that original and novel products can drive organic growth and interest.

EB: Absolutely, the igaming sector can learn a great deal from other industries in terms of innovation. For example, we can take cues from how user flows are organised in industries like booking services and mobile devices. The UI/UX design in these sectors are outstanding, very simple and intuitive – something that igaming platforms often lack. 

Additionally, the offline retail sector offers insights into a data-based understanding of user behaviour and decision-making, demonstrating advanced strategies for managing customer interactions and leveraging data for business decisions. The igaming B2B industry, while also data-driven in theory, falls behind in access to relevant material, because providers rarely have stable and continuous access to vast amounts of user insights operators possess. 

It’s where GR8 Tech actually has a lot of competitive edge, having grown from an in-house development team and thus building our sportsbook and igaming platforms on real-life, real-time, multi-geo B2C-side data. 

MP: Looking at how other industries innovate and develop and drawing some lessons from that, it’s important to remember that in igaming the best is the enemy of the good. We shouldn’t make things too complicated, as the industry sometimes does. 

ST: The igaming industry would benefit from taking learnings from other sectors. For example, I think there has been far more innovation in the FinTech sector in recent times than in the igaming sector. 

As an industry, we are very insular, and we could certainly benefit from bringing more people into our sector from other industries. That is something we really focus on here at LiveScore Group, ensuring we focus on building a diverse group of talented people from a range of industries and backgrounds. 

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