Shape Games at Kambi's Festival of Sportsbook

Morten Tonnesen: Shaping the future of sportsbook app UX

The next generation of sportsbook apps will be personalised, sociable and of the quality level that the Netflix generation has come to expect, according to Morten Tonnesen, CCO of front end technology specialist Shape Games.

Speaking at Kambi’s Festival of Sportsbook, Tonnesen said that while the industry had adapted well to the mobile-first world in terms of its ability to deliver a “solid betting experience”, it still had some way to go to meet the expectations of consumers in terms of app design and usability. 

“Overall, the betting category does not only compete against other betting companies for the share of time of the consumers, they compete in general across all entertainment products,” he said. 

“The standard that is set in other entertainment categories – everything from Netflix to Instagram, through to Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and so on, which are the ones that take a lot of the time of the consumers and also in some ways some share of the wallet, as well as shopping online in general – is that the quality of product is exponentially improving in terms of the consumer experience, the accessibility, the personalisation, and everything else.”

In order to help operators compete against major media brands for a larger share of consumer spend, Kambi-owned Shape Games is developing a new offering capable of creating apps that act as an “entertainment destination product”.

Key to this will be a move away from a one-size fits all approach and towards a personalised and social product that utilises the latest technology to improve user experience and help deliver improved results for operators. To explain how Shape will do this, Tonnesen provided a breakdown of the product enhancements the company will bring to market in the coming months. 

Getting personal for onboarding and beyond

Shape Games at Kambi's Festival of Sportsbook

One of the key elements will be personalised onboarding for new customers. Once they have downloaded a current sportsbook app and completed the mandatory KYC checks, players typically arrive at a home screen and are left to find the sports and markets they are interested in themselves. 

In Shape’s new onboarding process, players would finish the mandatory checks and then be offered the chance to select their favourite sports, leagues, teams and athletes, with this information used to create a personalised home screen and navigation bar. Players will also have the option to update their preferences in order to change the navigation so that it prioritises the events they are most interested in at that time.

Tonnesen described this development as “intuitively logical”, but said that no-one is currently offering the option due to the way products are built. However, that will soon change as “Shape Games’ technology is built flexible and ensures that we capture the data in a manner that enables us to be able to do this on the fly”.

He added: “We believe this will be well received both by our operators as well as our consumers themselves, because it will give a much better initial experience. Then, when you then get into the product and you have gotten everything up and running, there will continue to be a way for you to personalise – so you’ll have an ability to go in and take the top navigation of the product and tailor that to fit your specific needs.”

Consumers will also have the opportunity to customise the bottom navigation of the new generation of sportsbook apps to give them quick access to their favourite features, such as live streaming, bet history or challenges.

One other customisable step in the new onboarding process will be the availability of ‘How to Bet’ guides tailored to whether the player views themselves as a beginner, intermediate bettor or expert. 

Tonnesen explained that educating customers in how to play would enable them to “perform better, not lose their money as quickly, understand what they’re doing and ensure that they get a better overall consumer experience, leading to a much longer prosperous relationship between the operator and the consumer”.  

Giving customers what they want… and letting them know about it

Recommendations will also be a crucial part of Shape Games’ next generation app technology, in order to help operators maximise consumer engagement and present new betting opportunities to players in an effective manner. 

The data gathered during onboarding and the personalisation process, together with the user’s betting activity, will be used by the app’s AI-driven recommendation engine. Operators will then have the flexibility to decide how these recommendations are presented to customers. 

“In order to do proper personalisation of the experience as an operator, you need to have control and have a front end where you have the ability to lay out the product in a personalised manner. Not only within a module, but across everything in terms of changing the navigation, changing the experience overall [and] moving around modules,” said Tonnesen.

“Even to the point, which we will be dabbling in as well, of mixing what historically have been seen as two very different categories within the industry. [Currently] there’s a sports betting section in the product and there’s a casino section of the product, but over time, what we’re planning to do is see those two merge together into one betting experience.” 

He continued: “There’s a lot of cross pollination in the consumer base, you have very few dedicated sports bettors only and the same on the casino side. There’s a big group in between that actually enjoy both when they are available. 

“We believe that on a product level, there should be the ability to overall put those products together into one consumer experience, instead of where we have historically, in this industry, very much focused on structuring the product so it makes sense more from an internal operator perspective than an external consumer perspective.”

Making betting a more sociable experience

Shape Games is also focused on developing ways to encourage players to stay in a sportsbook app for longer periods, which means new functionality around social interactions, media consumption and gamification.

Tonnesen revealed that his team has plans to enhance the popular in-app share-a-bet function to allow players to share details of their bets with friends on channels such as Facebook and WhatsApp. This is intended to act as a type of ‘refer-a-friend’ scheme to help drive acquisition and retention.

Another vital retention tool will be the “super exciting” news sections, which rather than consisting largely of written and statistical content, will feature videos and podcasts to bring them closer to the “entertainment space” that modern consumers are accustomed to. 

“Overall, I think that adding a feature and modules within the product that ensure that our operators can share videos, podcasts and everything else alongside betting experiences goes to the heart of what I’ve been talking about in terms of delivering a true entertainment experience,” said Tonnesen. 

The final piece of the engagement jigsaw is an improved trophy offering. Shape Games has been running this gamification feature for some time but, while it has delivered positive results for partners, Tonnesen admitted it had been “not as visible and not as engaging as we believe it could be”. 

The new iteration of trophies will be opt-in for consumers, part of the app’s top navigation and shareable in social feeds. “The version 2.0 trophies will ensure that there’s even more excitement for consumers to be chasing on top of, of course, chasing winnings from bets,” he said.

This combination of features is particularly well suited to markets such as the US, where acquisition costs are high and retention is a key focus, Tonnesen continued, as the “rich experience” created by the content and engagement tools can help to reduce the reliance on margin-eroding bonusing as a retention strategy. 

Tonnesen concluded by predicting that the overall package of enhancements that Shape Games is planning would “not only take us to the next level, but keep our competitive advantage of driving significant revenue improvements for our partners within the space”.

Watch the whole of Morten Tonnesen’s session, ‘Reimagining the UX: From Sports Betting Product to Entertainment Destination Product’ at Kambi’s Festival of Sportsbook website.

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