SBC begins the month of June by speaking to Qubit CEO & Co Founder Graham Cooke on creating effective, team led data competencies for sports betting and igaming operators.
A former Google Product Strategist, Cooke has led Qubit to become a leading business technology in web personalisation and digital insights. Qubit currently is one of the fastest growing digital businesses in Europe, helping optimise marketing performance and customer engagement for retailers such as TopShop, Office and Shop Direct.
Cooke gives insight into how creating effective data processes can help bridge team skills/knowledge gaps, drive customer loyalty and help operators gain further product and operational independence.
SBC: Hi Graham, pleasure to interview you. The Qubit team has been effective in turning Big Data complexities into effective client applications. Can you summarise your company’s unique approach to Big Data and the business challenges it presents?
GC: As technology terms go, ‘Big Data’ is definitely more widely used and talked about than it is understood. The initial buzz around the emerging technologies, primarily from the Hadoop framework, was huge. This quickly subsided though as most companies didn’t quite know what to use the technologies for (not everybody has a data set like Google or Facebook). As a result many early projects were experimental in nature, not to mention expensive and time-consuming with every organisation finding its own place on the new technology learning curve.
Along with my fellow Qubit founders I had been working day in, day out with Big Data technologies at Google and knew that they could have a very real application in the world of ecommerce.
The Qubit platform allows companies to improve customer experience by collecting data on every single visit to their site and storing this in our Visitor Cloud. This builds up a unique visitor profile which is used for two primary purposes, firstly to analyse which parts of the site are not being received well, by which segments and why, and secondly to personalise the user’s onsite experience accordingly.
This last step of putting the data to action is the most difficult part of any Big Data project. Enabling companies to surmount this challenge and deliver their big ideas is the unique value that Qubit brings.
SBC: Your team places a high emphasis on bridging skills and knowledge gaps between operational, marketing and data teams. How does Qubit create this framework for its clients and what benefits have your clients witnessed?
GC: Organisational silos with knowledge gaps between teams are to some extent unavoidable in medium to large sized businesses. When you really dig into why these silos create such problems, it isn’t because teams don’t like, trust, talk to or agree with each other, but rather the lack of integration in the data and tools that they use and the strain this places on project workflows. What tends to happen is that data workflows stop at the edge of every team or department and a completely different one starts in the next department along the corridor. This means valuable customer insights get stuck in data dead-ends. We help customers unblock the workflow to allow everybody across the organisation access to the same actionable data workflow.
Forrester recently published a report on Digital CX platforms and within it highlighted that “Integration is the litmus test of the digital CX platform”. Using our Visitor Cloud as a central data hub with role specific applications around this, means that organisations can go from data collection, to finding an insight, to actually doing something about it in days rather than months.
We proved this recently with an operator that was trying to improve the amount of cross-selling activity on their site. Working with both the cross-selling and sportsbook teams we designed a test in which existing messaging and offers were designed to hit the right gamers at the right point in their customer journey. This targeted test focused on a specific segment of users and resulted in a ten fold increase in their cross-sell activity.
SBC: In terms of the igaming and sports betting sectors, how do you see your applications and methods being effective for operators and their value chains?
GC: We’re seeing a huge period of change in the industry. A combination of the POC tax legislation, continued market saturation, fractured value chains and a relatively stagnant player population is putting more pressure on profitability than ever before.
Consequently, I am seeing a marked shift from a narrow focus on acquisition and new account creation, to a strategy which also focuses on increasing the net gaming revenue and profitability of the existing user base.
Since a typical UK user has accounts with more than 3 or 4 betting operators, you’re competing to increase your wallet share of their gambling budget. You want to create a loyalty so great that they become immune to offers or even better odds elsewhere. In sports betting, product enhancements such as ‘cash out’ or ‘multiple creators’ that engage your users can be extremely valuable. Our solution allows clients to highlight these new features in more interactive ways whilst also testing the uplifts they’re giving.
A second way to breed loyalty is by truly understanding your customer’s likes, wants, and needs, and then tailoring the experience for them. If you know which sport or even team they like to bet on, which games they play or even what kind of risk appetite they have, then why wouldn’t you use that information when they visit your site?
In iGaming, even if you are not in complete control of the game itself you can still infer interests and habits from browsing data on your web site and tailor their experience to suit their behaviour.
Our team also sees a huge potential to optimise in-play betting volumes by designing targeted experiences in the run up and during big wagering markets such as Manchester Utd Vs Liverpool. This type of task is very similar to the work we already do with our major retail clients like TopShop, Shop Direct and Harvey Nichols, helping them during highly important sales periods such as Christmas, Black Friday etc….
SBC: Product independence and marketing individuality are becoming key subject matters in igaming/sports betting. Can Big Data mechanisms and processes help operators become more self-sufficient?
GC: There is no doubt that it’s difficult to differentiate your product if components of that product are outsourced to somebody else. However, If we take a look at some other industries where this is also the case, we find some pretty phenomenal examples of this being overcome.
Apple is an overused case study, but then becoming the most successful company in corporate history is bound to get you a certain amount of attention. Apple does not design the CPUs, memory, hard drives or screens in its devices. Dozens of other manufacturers buy the same commodity components and assemble them for the same purpose. What Apple does own is the interaction between the human and their device. This is where it differentiates itself and this is why it wins.
Operators may have outsourced their Sportsbooks and/or their Casino games to a third party, but they still own the relationship with their users. Big Data can be used to improve this aspect, creating a more human link between the gamer and the operator.
SBC: We are seeing more companies engaging in big data and analysis methodologies for their enterprises. Do you feel that we may see a uniformity in the way companies and sectors treat their data? Should business leaders be concerned at this?
GC: In theory, any practices that are proven to deliver business uplifts will filter through the sports betting/iGaming industry. In practice though, there are always differences in how companies operate.
Early adopters will try out new ideas to put their customer data to use. Not every idea will work but then as long as a rigorous testing methodologies are in place this can be verified quickly. If they do work, then inevitably other companies will copy these ideas. The rate at which these practices permeate an industry is glacial when compared to how quickly customer expectations change in our social media savvy, constantly connected world. By the time the laggards get around to copying the innovators, customer expectations will have moved on again.
The operators who innovate and stay ahead of the expectations of their users will be the ones who create that loyal user base. Qubit essentially creates a Data Supply Chain to ensure operators understand exactly what their customers want. Every visit to a site is a data collection opportunity, not just in terms of the links clicked, games played or bets placed but also as an opportunity to ask for feedback. The intersection of quantitative and qualitative feedback should always be the inspiration for the next innovative idea.
SBC: Looking at current digital trends and potential future impacts, in terms of data processes and customer engagement, what should iGaming operators be preparing for?
GC: As already mentioned, I believe that testing and optimisation within this industry has primarily been focused on the acquisition of new customers. Making cosmetic changes to landing pages and experimenting with different sign up offers is still an important exercise, but the uplifts that can be achieved from these types of changes are limited. As Tom Baker from BoyleSports put it in our blog post, you eventually ‘run out of steam’. Moving forward, testing and optimisation practices will move away from ‘one size fits all’ changes to delivering tailored customer experiences within the product itself.
The success of an acquisition campaign shouldn’t solely be judged on the quantity of people signing up but also the quality of those customers. Most operators today are unable to pull together the data on where their new customers came from and join it with the data on how valuable that customer becomes. We are working on this problem using our Decipher Analytics application, allowing clients to understand what sort of visitors campaigns are bringing to the site.
Cross device also poses both a big challenge and a big opportunity moving forward. Having a mobile app and responsive web site are becoming an absolute necessity in iGaming, but it is difficult to provide a consistent and joined up customer experience across all of those channels, especially if you’re relying on data stored in a device cookie to base your personalisation on.
A final interesting trend we have identified is that users are actually happy to give you their information on the understanding it is a value exchange and they will get a better on site experience and more relevant marketing offers from the trade. Self categorisation is hugely powerful when implemented well and this is a big focus for us at the moment.
Graham Cooke CEO & Co-Founder Qubit