William Hill moving to fix the UX

William Hill moving to fix the UX

Monday, August 8, 2016
New managing director of online at William Hill, Crispin Nieboer, says their focus is to fix the player funnel and gaming

William Hill’s new managing director of online Crispin Nieboer said he was pleased with the progress being made by the business since he has taken over the reins but warned that there was a way to go before the operation would be firing on all cylinders.

The online business has been suffering a torrid time in the past year or more, as witnessed by the results published today which showed online net revenue down 3% to £277.2m with operating profit tumbling by a third to £43.4m.

Since taking over on an interim basis in January of this year (and being confirmed in the post on a permanent basis in May), Nieboer said the online operation had managed to fix a number of user experience (UX) issues on the mobile sportsbook.

But he added that more work needed to be done elsewhere in the business. Talking to TotallyGaming.com, Nieboer said: “We’re really pleased with the way the sportsbook app redesign has worked out. We’re in a good place with that now. The next things we have to fix are the player funnel and gaming.”

On the gaming side, Niebeor said it was about getting the basics right. “First, like the sportsbook it’s about fixing the UX,” he said. “Previously the cross-sell was not great and we want to fix that. I think previously it was down to cultural barriers among our developers. So we are breaking down those barriers, between sportsbook and gaming.”

He said work would be done on making the various tabs easier to understand. “We need to fix the lobbies and loading times,” he added.

Online sportsbook net revenue fell by 1% in the first half but gaming was off by 6%. The breakdown for gaming showed that while William Hill’s Vegas product suite, the element of the gaming business over which it has more control, saw revenues fall by 1%, the Playtech casino saw revenues fall by 10%, the bingo operation was down by 11% and the poker business fell off a cliff, down by 38% to £3.4m. Both the bingo and the poker back-ends are supplied by Playtech.

William Hill just this week bought gaming technology provider Grand Parade for £13.4m, a move which Nieboer said could be characterised as a “form of mass hiring in a very focused way”. Grand Parade comes with 200-plus developers based in London and Krakow.

The problems with the online business saw the group suffer a decline in operating profit of 16% although pre-tax profit rose 28% to £100.7m. Retail provided some rays of sunshine, with net revenue up 4% to £467.2m helped by a 6% rise in gaming machine net revenue to £242.2m. Operating profit in that business rose 4% to £94.4m.

However, there was more bad news from Australia where net revenue fell 10% to £47.7m and operating profit fell 60% to £3.9m. The company insisted, however, that there were signs of recovery with amounts wagered rising 12% over the first half.

Gavin Kelleher, analyst at Goodbody in Dublin, said: “Overall, this morning’s results do highlight that William Hill is losing market share in certain parts of its business, namely online and retail OTC wagering.”

He noted however the “green shoots of improvement” such as the underlying trends in online and with the gaming machines in the retail business and the rising wagers in Australia.

Totally Gaming says: The element that ties the Grand Parade acquisition to the OpenBet 2 work and everything else that Nieboer is looking to fix in terms of online is about gaming further control of the business. William Hill has been much criticised in recent times, particularly when compared with the recent performances from soon-to-merge rivals Ladbrokes and Coral. But what is sometimes lost in the fog of war is the fact that while Ladbrokes is still fighting its way towards an operational profit online, William Hill online remains a business which continues to churn out profits - £43m this year.

It has the money to fund the turnaround – the question now is whether it will continue to do so as an independent entity of whether it will go forward as a merged entity, either with Rank and 888 or with another business.

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