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Quantum Metric: Same, same… but different?

By - 28 October 2021

Finding differentiation in one of the world’s most mature digital industries is proving tricky. Alex Thomson, VP EMEA at Quantum Metric, discusses the problem of ‘sameness.’

Like most mature industries, online gaming has stumbled on a challenge, although it is both less discussed and more obvious than in many others. It’s the problem of ‘sameness’.

Sameness is a striking issue when you start discussing it. Those in the industry nod their heads sagely, a clear note of recognition, before moving on to the next topic (most likely regulators). Those not in the industry might raise an eyebrow and give it some thought before agreeing that they probably can’t tell one operator from another without branding to clarify.

Both reactions are understandable, but the one that raises the biggest question mark comes from the industry players – at all levels. They know the issue only too well, but simply don’t have an answer to it.

Gaming is well ahead of the curve on digital transformation, possibly lagging behind only adult content for operational ability. Operators themselves are working hard to improve player protection measures, and all participants are constantly looking to see how they can beat their competition.

Furthermore, over the past 18 months, gaming companies have shown how agile they can be, switching entire sports revenues to provide players with something that allows them to continue their businesses. On the whole, the industry should be patting itself on the back for having weathered the pandemic storm relatively well.

So why is sameness still an issue, and is there any way to fix it?

All too often, gaming operators find themselves having to resort to the age-old marketing exercise of ‘Best Offer’. Adverts crying out that £100,000 is won every minute; 100 free spins; paying out on top 10 placements, and so on.

The problem with Best Offer, is that it doesn’t have longevity and doesn’t engender loyalty. Each offer only lasts as long as it’s new. When someone else tops it, then it’s dropped/ignored before moving on to the next one. There’s little room here to create the brand loyalty that other – non-gaming brands might create through values, quality or originality.

So how can companies stand out and differentiate? Perhaps some of the great consumer brands of our age can shed some light:

Apple – gave people what they didn’t know they needed.

Amazon – makes things so simple that there’s hardly any time to think before pressing ‘buy’.

Netflix – gives access to programmes viewers didn’t know about before, yet know they want to watch.

Nike – gives people something to aspire to.

The list could go on, but there is one constant line running through these and many other successful brands – it’s all about the consumer experience. Consumer brands have realised this but, perhaps because gaming was so early on the digital curve, it doesn’t seem to have sorted this yet. This might be even more ironic considering that the world’s gambling capital, Las Vegas, is nothing if not about the experience!

So perhaps this is the answer to standing out in gaming. Best Offer marketing does not necessarily equate to best experience. To buy something on Amazon takes as little as one click. In gaming, how many steps does a player have to go through to place one bet? Regulation and international expansion only increases the level of friction in this process.

But the rhetoric is all very well and good. Gaming is a data driven business, and data doesn’t like rhetoric very much.

So why isn’t data driving these changes already?

Some may argue that it is. Developers and operators alike would agree that most decisions about their product development aren’t made without some kind of evidence to back them up.

But in gaming in particular all too often that evidence comes from competitors and their success. Where one thing works well for an operator, it’s all too frequently jumped upon by other operators and copied. It’s therefore hardly surprising that sameness has become an issue.

Nor does such a situation promote innovation in the industry. Why invest in innovation when you can just copy those who spend that money and get the same result? Perhaps more to the point, why change the status quo at all, when things are working so well already?

There’s an appropriate quote that has multiple attributions for this situation. It’s slightly trite, but valuable nonetheless, “Winners focus on winning, losers focus on the winners.” If operators continue to be so focused on the competition, they’ll fail to notice the opportunities to improve themselves when they come around.

We can once again look at what’s happened in ecommerce for a reflection of what this can lead to. The biggest player in online retail by an almost strangulating distance is Amazon. When Amazon came on the scene and started eating everyone else’s lunch in online sales, companies scrambled to sort their own offerings as quickly as possible.

But they’ve never quite caught up. There are plenty of possible reasons for this, but in part it’s down to the fact that Amazon innovates, all the time, and in very small ways rarely visible to customers. Every week, the company has thousands of small product update releases.

It iterates and experiments, tries and fails, tries again and succeeds. It uses data to drive constant evolution to provide the single most engaging and irresistible digital buying experience available, all based on real- time direct and indirect customer feedback.

Such resources almost certainly feel beyond the capacities of gaming operators, so how can they reproduce such a staggering situation?

Agility in response to changing market conditions is also something that can’t be ignored in the discussion. There are many currently waiting to see what new regulations will come out from the government in the next month, after what must be an exhaustive round of consultations.

Being genuinely customer centric is certainly part of the answer. Companies that already provide what customers want or need, such as sustainability- based player-protection measures, are well situated to be able to fit into regulation rather than having to adapt too much to adhere. But, when combined with the growing threat of international competition, the need to be agile is all the more important.

One solution is offered by Continuous Product Design (CPD), a methodology that takes agile development to its next level of evolution. Using real-time player signals from real customer sessions, companies can see how players are behaving on-site, and where they are struggling.

By monitoring 100 per cent of site or app experiences, any friction points and bad experiences can be spotted and raised for a fix. By extrapolating similar friction points across the entire product’s traffic, the potential value of a problem to the operator can be quantified.

Giving a monetary value to each potential fix and allowing for iterative changes that directly impact bottom line also tends to stop internal data-tribe based arguments and helps everyone align on agreed goals.

Furthermore, the real-time aspect of feedback gives opportunities for AB testing that can last for minutes or hours, with final design fixes decided upon within less than a day.

Although gaming operators have reaped hefty rewards by ‘focusing on winning’ and mirroring the competition, it only takes one disruptor to take over the market. This can come in the form of a new industry upstart, or an existing participant.

Those that want to retain a leading position in the market must dare to be different to give the customer the irresistible experience they can already expect across other digital platforms and services.

Find out more at Metric’s upcoming event, LEAP into Gaming, examining the key aspects of gaming that can help with the player experience; player-centricity, innovation and experimentation and player protection.

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