What will players look for in five or 10 years’ time? And how can we be sure the industry delivers it? Interview by Ramona Depares.
Dan Phillips’ is a known and respected name in the online gambling industry and, even from our first ‘hello’ on Skype I can see why. Besides running NEL Advisory consultancy services, he has held C-level roles with Playtech and the former Gala Coral Eurobet (today better known as Entain).
But, quite apart from a wealth of knowledge and expertise, he brings to the table something that is equally valuable – passion.
His love and enthusiasm for the industry resonate instantly and, during the 30 odd minutes that we chat, he touches upon everything that gets him excited about online casinos and sports betting. From outsourcing content to future-proofing the industry, we touch upon it all and I have to say, by the time we hang up he has me firmly convinced of his strategy. I start out by quizzing him about a bugbear of mine – outsourced content.
My approach is that this is a necessary evil, necessitated by the practicalities of the industry. After all, few operators are in a position to create their own content from scratch, and think of all the game franchises players don’t want to miss out on.
Dan’s approach is different and clearly the result of years of experience researching players and operators.
“We’ve had a mix of in-sourcing and outsourcing of content through the history of the industry. Bet365 and Entain, for example, have their own development studios and produce their own content. But outsourcing helps the industry as there are many excellent game studios offering great content to start-ups that can’t afford to create their own. The ideal situation for an operator would be to find the optimal mix, of course,” Dan says.
Does this dilute brand identity? Dan believes that identity is more about the platform, mobile application and how UI/UX are applied, rather than the content itself.
“Are you using AI to understand your users. If I come in for the first time, in theory I should be offered something quite generic, because the operator has not idea about where I’ll go next. The next step would be to analyse my deposit and play patterns and customise the mix. Nowadays, your typical operator will offer 1000s of games, especially if using an aggregation platform,” he replies, adding that this doesn’t mean he should be presented with the entire portfolio. Rather, games should be filtered according to the offering he is most likely to enjoy.
How strong a role does localisation play, in terms of refining the player profile? For Dan, it goes beyond the obvious – thus, using the local language is not enough. The language also needs to look and feel right. Localised payment solutions, local partners and media, the use of local celebrities and influencers… all these, he believes, are a must in terms of offering a truly localised experienced to the player.
“The ones that localise their offering properly are the ones that succeed.Don’t give me 10 payment methods that I will never use in my country. You need to investigate your market and know your consumer. You have to cater for the lowest common denominator,” Dan says.
For him, it actually becomes about one-to-one CRM and, while aware that very few operators get to this level, he refers to it as the “utopia to aim for”.
With his considerable experience in the sector, Dan would certainly know what’s likely to work and what doesn’t. He held VP, director and C-level roles with some big guns, including Playtech, where he ran UK operations for six years. As Digital Gaming Director he was also responsible for driving a £60m PnL at the former Gala Coral Eurobet, which today we know as the giant that is Entain.
Currently, as the founder of boutique advisory firm NEL Advisory, he advises organisations across Europe, the Americas and Africa, specialising in a range of betting and gaming disciplines that include new market entry, operations, competitor analysis, product strategy and eSport, among other areas. As reader, you might also know him from the Big Betting Balagan podcast.
So what’s the next big thing according to Dan? The online gambling industry, he tells me, is no different to any other e-commerce industry – although it does end up playing catch up to other industries.
“This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives us time to process, test and implement. But sometimes the gaps become a bit too big, in part due to the weight of delivering regulatory requirements, which other e-commerce industries don’t have to contend with.”
It becomes an issue, he says, when the industry is wholly focused on developing these requirements but omits to also focus on delivering what the next generation of users will want. “What will future users looks for? Video games? A whole different expectation of entertainment? To future proof the industry we need to talk to people, do research, talk to customers, talk to next generations. What we’ve seen around esports can be applied across the board to the gambling industry,” he explains.
He delves into the approach being taken in the US, especially with respect to NFL championships and sponsorship of eSports teams, the novel way they are getting the brand across. Snackable content is another aspect to keep in mind, he says – when users have 10 minutes of free time, they don’t want to waste time waiting for the next match to begin.
“Content needs to always be readily-available. Users don’t want to wait for the event to start, or the jackpot, and this is also one reason why virtual sport has grown so much in strength. It’s always there.”
The take away?
“Give people what they want as quickly as possible,” Dan concludes.
Afternoon networking event for Women in Gaming – Amsterdam
In partnership with iGB, SiGMA will hold a 2-day afternoon networking event to celebrate Women in Gaming, an online group dedicated to connecting and supporting women across the gaming industry. This event will take place on the 29th and the 30th of September, with networking drinks and hors d’oeuvres served between 1 and 3 pm at the StrandZuid in Amsterdam. Join us!