Solving the bonus problem with big data

Solving the bonus problem with big data

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Real-time analytics can help with targeting

Twice in the space of a month Ladbrokes has found itself dragged over the coals by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for email marketing campaigns that the watchdog deemed misled consumers in relation to bonuses and offers.

It is a contentious area. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently announced a probe into whether gambling operators were treating consumers fairly with their advertised promotional offers.

The Ladbrokes cases both appear to fall into that category. The first decision in late September found the company had erroneously sent an offer email to a player who was no longer eligible for such promotions. The second just last week found the company had omitted key relevant terms and conditions from a promotional bonus offer.

Neither finding is particularly egregious but they do illustrate the difficulties marketers are encountering with their promotional efforts, particularly with regard to what would appear to be a lack of targeting.

Referring to the first case in particular, Mark Robinson, chief executive of real-time data personalisation company DeltaDNA, tells that the findings of the ASA suggest emails personalised on a Monday morning were “maybe not personalised by the time they are sent out three days later.”

Game-play occurs continuously and that the danger is the marketing teams will originate campaigns without necessarily having information to hand about player behaviour or recent activity. “That’s why these emails tend to be big generic activities and very broadly targeted,” Robinson adds.

Gaining a better idea of the customer and understanding their behaviour is the goal of Kris Marshall, the head of business intelligence and analytics at BetVictor, who says he is hoping to get a 360° customer view. “The idea is getting a clear understanding of our customers’ costs, their interaction with us and their behaviour across all channels,” he tells “With this insight, we can tailor all new product efforts around what the customer wants.”

Marshall makes it all sound quite obvious, but Robinson points out that the advances being made across the industry are patchy. In particular, he points out that BetVictor’s joined-up approach to data and its application in real-time is a beacon for others in the industry to follow.

“I think, in gaming, we are still in transition,” Robinson says. “One of the things we talk to our clients about is the culture; about how the business insight guys and the marketing guys interact. They need to share. One of the most valuable things for any business to do is to let the business insight guys let the marketing guys know what they know.”

Robinson says the DeltaDNA approach is to work with operators to adopt a staged approach, taking small steps such as focusing on in-game behaviour first before adding in other data elements such as deposit information, CRM statistics and other lobby data.

This counts when it comes to the issue of bonusing. “It’s about doing simple and effective things well,” says Robinson. “We talk a lot to clients about their acquisition strategy and bonusing and making the onboarding interventions relevant and responsive to the players.”

Robinson’s point is profound. As it stands, the wording around the bonus offers is designed to protect operators against potentially fraudulent behaviour. Hence the barriers new customers face when trying to trigger their offers and the criticism (and regulatory scrutiny) that comes with it. In effect, bonus offers that aren’t really offers at all are turning off the very customers they are supposedly designed to recruit. “The first interaction with a new player from an operator is generally a lie,” says Robinson. “‘We’ll give you £50 of free bets’ - but actually you have to jump through all these hoops. They ensure you it is virtually impossible to get that £50.”

This is the complaint voiced by Nisha Arora, the senior director for consumer enforcement at the CMA, who when she announced the probe said that gambling “inevitably involves taking a risk, but it shouldn’t be a con.”

The scrutiny from the CMA might be in the industry’s best interests, says Paul Leyland, partner at gambling consultancy Regulus Partners. He points to statistics released by the Gambling Commission regarding industry participation earlier this year that showed just 39% of all respondents said the gambling industry could be trusted, and this fell to 27% among those who didn’t gamble. This compares with figures of 49% and 39% respectively in 2008. “Trust in gambling companies has been declining precipitously in recent years,” says Leyland.

It’s a trend that can be reversed utilising real-time analytics, says Robinson. “Real-time personalisation has got a big part to play in being responsive to players in that first phase, particularly if they’re novice players, and uncertain of the environment and they are not entirely sure of what the rules are, and they feel a bit anxious,” he says.

Marshall at BetVictor concurs. “The opportunities are limitless,” he says, pointing out that the technology is now in place to “do things we couldn’t do before” such as real-time data analytics. Big data enables egaming companies to understand their customers’ through analysing interactions and behaviour across all channels. “Through this understanding, operators can tailor their segments and marketing campaigns to meet the individual needs of the customer,” he adds.

Totally Gaming says: The more forward-thinking operators, such as BetVictor, are already clearly moving to a situation where the better utilisation of data is helping their business to not only better understand their own customers, but also enables them to provide a better service. If better targeting was employed across the sector, then regulators such as the CMA would find no grounds for future probes and enquiries. That it deems it necessary now proves, perhaps, the distance the industry needs to travel to catch up with online industry bets practice.


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