Before penning my thoughts on some opportunities in Mobile Gambling, I thought I’d take a look at the latest offerings of the main UK bookmakers to get some context on what the latest trends are, what the main mobile offerings look like and if there are any mobile opportunities that are not yet being exploited by companies in this space. So, I looked at the mobile-accessible services available from Ladbrokes, William Hill, Betfred and Bet365 – as advertised and discoverable online. I also looked at the service of a betting company I’d deem a mobile betting specialist – mFortune.
I’ve listed below the main areas I was interested in, against the companies whose offerings I looked at. Some results came as a surprise, whilst others confirmed what I already thought. In both cases, I think significant opportunities exist for incumbents and less well known companies with interests in this sector.
|Ladbrokes||Will Hill||Bet Fred||Bet365||mFortune|
|Focus - Mobile Internet or Application||50-50: Sports App for iOS, Mobile Internet for other operating systems||Mobile Internet||Mobile Internet||Mobile Internet||Application|
|Mobile optimised site?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||n/a|
|Mobile number capture?||Optional - provide MSISDN to get link to Mobile Site, or go direct||Optional - provide MSISDN to get link to Mobile Site, or go direct||Optional - provide MSISDN to get link to Mobile Site, or go direct||No||Yes|
|Prompt to bookmark Mobile Internet site?||No||No||No||No||n/a|
|Support for non credit/ debit card account funding.||No||No||No||No||Yes|
The above findings are a combination of fact and subjective interpretation. I’ll provide some further substance and context as well as my thoughts on what functionality an optimally-designed mobile gambling service incorporates:
Focus – Mobile Internet or Application
It comes as a surprise to me that given the hype of late around mobile applications, mobile Internet sites seem to hold greater appeal for the main gambling companies. I wonder if that reflects a general resurgence in the popularity of mobile Internet sites amongst merchants, versus mobile apps, or if it’s a trend specific to gambling. Some of the betting companies I looked at have mobile applications for sub-sets of their supported products and markets, however overall, they definitely favour mobile Internet.
I don’t have any personal preference for apps over mobile sites or vice versa as I think it depends on the circumstances, however where going for the mobile site approach, I think a few other considerations and product features should accompany it, to maximise return usage by consumers and the effectiveness of marketing spend. More on that below.
Mobile optimised site?
The most consistent feature is that all sites are perfectly usable on my mobile, although I’d suggest that of the main bookmaker sites, the Bet365 site was the least well-optimised for mobile. This was a surprise given they have struck me as having generally raised the bar with their contextual advertising, slick website and general market coverage in the last 12 months or so.
Mobile Number Capture
The cost per acquisition of a gambling user is high. If you are interacting with a new consumer who you know to be interested in your product, why not take the opportunity to capture their mobile number to enable more targeted advertising spend on those users in future?
A required or promoted SMS to a short code, QR or input of MSISDN on the main website, as means of being sent the mobile internet link, are all good mechanisms for achieving this.
Whilst Betfred faired reasonably in this regard by promoting (on their website) a short code to send an SMS and receive a mobile site link in return, the fact that they use an 89 adult range short code means the SMS was blocked by Vodafone (as I am not opted in to 18+ services). Given general acceptance that gambling company “Know Your Customer” procedures are robust, use of an 89-range short code and therefore mobile network Age Verification procedures, seems either an oversight or an unnecessarily conservative approach, in my opinion.
* Optimised CRM
I asterisked this on the table as this area is more subjective than some of the other categories. My definition of optimised CRM would entail a) capturing the MSISDN as detailed above, then b) undertaking an optimised SMS marketing campaign in the event that I had not gambled through the mobile site where c) an optimised SMS marketing campaign would involve initially contacting the user within a short space of time following use of the Mobile Internet site. Effectively, this is an issue of minimising basket abandonment, or new user drop-off.
I recently came across an interesting White Paper from the Email and Marketing specialist SilverPop, who provide a range of suggestions in this area and generally advocate the mantra of acting fast with follow-up marketing, in order to maximise the chances of converting a user who has browsed but not bought, into a paying customer. This contrasts with my experience on the sites above, where, in the instances where I could provide my mobile number, I have not received any promotional messages or incentives to go back to the site, several hours later.
Prompt to bookmark mobile Internet site
None of the bookmakers with mobile Internet sites provided me with the option, whether straight away (optimally) or at any stage afterwards, to bookmark the site and set up a short-cut icon to it, on my device home screen. This seems to me to overlook one of the key benefits that mobile apps have – that re-discovery is simple through the home screen on my device. In the absence of that bookmark, I will need to re-Google or trawl through my SMS inbox for the relevant link, neither of which act to reduce the friction and likelihood of returning to the site.
Support for non credit/ debit card account funding
Where mobile is being used as a means of expanding a customer base rather than just increasing the spend of existing customers by providing more channels for interaction, it strikes me as good sense to support a variety of payment methods as a greater range of supported payment methods equals a larger number of payments being made.
In particular, I believe that providing the consumer with a means to credit their account with a payment charged to their mobile phone bill, is perfectly suited to mobile gambling as:
a) A new consumer does not face the onerous task of having to provide bank details to test out a service. More key strokes equals higher drop off rates. The consumer can gamble for real with less of a barrier to entry.
b) In contrast to credit/ debit card funding, charging to the mobile benefits from the capability to automatically identify the user on a Mobile Internet session, without them having to provide any information (assuming a 3G and not a Wifi session). All they need to do is confirm acceptance of the charge. They can therefore credit their new account by simply clicking two buttons (select funding amount, confirm funding amount).
Whilst the rates charged by banks for funds processing are lower than those charged by mobile networks, crediting a gambling account via the latter can act as a much easier means of on-boarding the consumer, after which they can be upgraded and incentivised to also provide debit or credit card details.
Of the services I looked at, the least well-known (mFortune) was in many ways my idea of the most effective and one which incorporates many features I would expect to see in an optimised mobile gambling offering:
- My mobile number was captured during sign up.
- It was immediately incorporated as part of a CRM campaign to maximise the chance of converting me into a paying customer.
- I was provided with free credit to enable me to test the games without needing to provide any credit/ debit card information first.
- I can find the service again, easily, as it’s accessible via my device home screen.
- It supports multiple sources of funding including charging to my mobile phone account.
Whilst mobile gambling is capturing headlines as a means through which gambling revenues are increasing, I think there clearly remains significant scope for considerable further optimisation and improvement to fully realise its potential.