iGaming: Preparing for the next generation of players with analytics

By: Louis Teoh, Senior Analytics Technology Consultant, SAS Canada

Globally, online gambling is an estimated $20 billion a year industry. An estimated $400 million is estimated to be played annually in Ontario alone[i]. Considering that only a few years ago Canada was considered inexperienced in the iGaming scene, and that traditional gaming revenues remain stagnant (for the most part) while iGaming revenues soar, there is no denying demand for online gaming is on the rise.

Part of this growing popularity can be attributed to the fact that digital is transforming nearly every aspect of how people work and play, all over the world. Just as online retailing and online banking have become the norm, consumers have come to expect online services for just about everything, and you can bet the gaming industry will see the same digital demand. In the not too distant future, the novelty of iGaming will likely wear off as it too becomes the norm; for the next generation of gamers, digital is already ingrained into their very way of life. The next generation of gamers expect services delivered through a single swipe – whether it’s arranging car service via Uber or booking a vacation spot through Airbnb – it’s got to be fast, efficient and available across devices.

In a big data world, the insights to be garnered and leveraged to truly drive the popularity of iGaming are endless. Traditionally, the industry has used rudimentary analytics, but if it is to have an impact, today’s analytics must go beyond business intelligence and reporting to include prediction, forecasting and optimization. Here’s a look at how the iGaming industry can put analytics to work to their advantage.

Player profiling

Predicting the future worth of gamblers is the ultimate goal of analytics in the casino industry. The gaming industry is inherently suited to advanced analytics due to the vast amount of data and information they can collect. iGaming is no different, offering even more data points and player insights than other forms of gaming.

Right from the start, players are legally required to register before they are allowed access to a game, creating an abundance of immediate data points, including gender, age, location, and others. As the player continues gaming there is even more data to collect such as online usage – games played, what happened in the game, and win/loss ratios, just to mention a few. Now combine all those data points with what they might already know about the player and you have an in-depth profile that will help to ensure that your marketing time, dollars and efforts are that much more effective. With real-time information, you can deliver the right offer at the right time to the right person, maximizing the chances of engagement.

Supplier/Game Analytics:

Keeping players engaged also rests heavily on the game itself. Are there particular games that perform better than others? Is there a game that a specific customer segment is interested in? Which games drive the most profitability? Do certain game types (slots, card, etc.) appeal to certain customer segments? These are all questions that can be answered when analytics are applied at the game level.

Increasingly game suppliers are using analytics to drive and refine game development. Just as the industry is looking to market effectively to customers via player profiling the same concept applies to identifying which games will best be suited to particular customer segments. It has truly never been more about personalization and appealing to an individual’s preferences. Gone are the days of guess-work, analytics has taken the driver’s seat in guiding game suppliers and the industry in producing and serving the right type of content to the right individual.

Recommendations: cross sell and upsell capabilities

Most next-best action strategies focus on the upsell, cross-sell side of marketing, and have yet to incorporate the broader customer experience. As with other industries, the gaming industry needs to be mindful of marketing fatigue: if your customers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages and offers, even ones that are relevant to them, they’re more likely to opt-out or leave. The challenge for the gaming industry is to find the right blend of marketing, service, and support. To get this right, the industry needs to understand and anticipate what it is that customers want and need. That’s where next-best offers and analytics come in. For example, using automated recommendation engines like Amazon (e.g. customers like you selected ABC or XYZ), gets information to customers faster.

Analytics drive the deep understanding of customers, uncovering meaningful interactions and offers that will ultimately drive profitable growth. Customers’ digital footprints are growing with increased use of mobile devices, social media, and the transactional breadcrumbs they leave behind. Customers are expecting this data will be used to their benefit. In iGaming it’s truly about motivating the player to play the next game. And while iGaming offers quick insights via real-time, the window of opportunity is only open when the player is in session. Leveraging all of these insights and data points to ensure you are anticipating demand and serving up the next best game will keep players engaged and ultimately drive player profitability.

Forecasting: Oh the possibilities!

With today’s advances in big data analytics, the ability to accurately predict user behavior with a fairly high degree of certainty is a reality. In the gaming industry, this means predicting player actions and using that information to inform strategy, improve product, retain key players, and increase monetization opportunities.

Forecasting can also help predict future profitability by looking at factors such as a player’s average number of wagers placed over a period of time, or by calculating their average worth. By identifying who the most valuable players are, the industry can ensure they are driving the right offers that will keep the right players engaged.

On the other hand, analytics are also proving to be a worthwhile tool to help identify problematic gamblers. Using predictive analytics software to understand player behaviour, an alert can be triggered when operators see an individual’s behavior becoming more risky. At that point, an intervention such as a pop-up can ask them to assess the amount spent, or an offer that triggers the player to cease gaming can be made. While there is much work to be done in this area, many casinos are taking steps in the right direction with analytics proving to be a promising tool to fight addiction.

The industry is also looking at qualitative data such as weather and traffic conditions and how it may impact revenues/traffic. For example, do rainy days drive igaming usage while decreasing visits to land-based casinos? Can the industry entice the online gamer with an offer to get them to the land-based casino? Data truly is the future of gaming. The insights it can offer will increase profitability by quickly providing actionable results that can drive offers in real time, building a stronger relationship between provider and patron.

iGaming: the sure bet

The online gaming market is without a doubt growing in popularity. Morgan Stanley predicts that online gambling will be worth $9.3 billion in the U.S. alone by the year 2020. The popularity of iGaming in Canada is also clear, as nearly every province has made moves to legalize it. Future gamers want this capability and will look to offshore gaming options if governments don’t deliver homegrown options.

In Canada we already see how casinos are adapting to appeal to this new generation of gamers. One of the most innovative examples is Montreal’s the ZONE, which offers a multigame space with live hosts and interactive terminals to play alone or in a group. In what could be described as a nightclub casino experience it is one example of this evolution. Many casinos are already starting to think about how they can use the iGaming experience to drive patrons back to land-based casinos. As the industry continues to makes moves to market to the new generation of digitally savvy players, casinos should place their bets on the enormous potential analytics can deliver.

[i] http://www.canadiangamingbusiness.com/iGamingRoundtable.aspx

Louis Teoh is a Senior Analytics Technology Consultant at SAS Institute Inc. He is a graduate of the National University of Singapore with a BSc in Computer Science and a specialization in International Business Management. Today, Louis is an evangelist for SAS’ Predictive Analytics and focuses his time between theTelecommunications, Hospitality & Gaming and Energy sectors across Canada.

A global citizen, Louis follows the Hospitality and Gaming space very closely given his roles with SAS in the Asia Pacific (Singapore) and North America (Canada). Before SAS, Louis held regional roles with Accenture in the strategy consulting space. Louis is currently based in Toronto, Canada.