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It is life as usual for Martin at work; but his heart is throbbing for Barcelona who is facing Bayern Munich at the crucial Champions Semi Finals first leg match. It’s almost impossible for him to move out of his chair and dedicate some money for his team at the nearest Ladbrokes, but he’s not the kind who will give up everything for his work.

Martin immediately picks up his smartphone lying on the table, and taps a few keys with all excitement of a bookie. Done! He’s placed the bet online with all hopes of winning. With fingers crossed, he murmured Good Luck to his favourite team.

Like all other industries, digital transformation has impacted betting industry as well. However, the reality is that digital revolution has not curtailed bookies’ enthusiasm to visit retail booking stores. Thus bookmaker firms today are exploring multi-channel opportunities involving retail, Web, mobile and telephone so that they can serve all types of users. However, integrating information technology into a bookmaker’s strategy involves a number of challenges. Says Mark Grimes, CIO of Ladbrokes, in an interaction with Aditi, a part of Symphony Teleca (now a HARMAN company) in Bangalore, India, “Digital transformation is at the fulcrum of every bookmaker’s strategy and is becoming a big challenge. And the regulatory influence on the industry makes technology adoption an even greater challenge.

Technology: the Stepping Stones

The biggest challenge, according to Grimes, lies in integrating digital elements into a retail infrastructure that follows traditional model of operation. Added to these is the flurry of regulations that often prohibit the growth of the industry. Technology should help create more connected and engaging customer experience without cannibalizing the retail experience, Grimes says. Retail customers still make a majority in industries like gambling. A major part of the revenue of multi-channel operators comes from retail customers, so providers should put their efforts to retain them by offering the same quality of service delivered in the past.

However, living in this digital era, you can’t do without an online presence. As we saw in the introduction, Web and mobile have encroached into every part of life, so digital transformation is essential for all types of businesses; gambling is no exception. Online channels offer immense possibilities to attract customers through new offerings, promotions, in-play betting, etc. Identifying a strategy that perfectly aligns with these trends is very important. Here, technology providers have great role to play as they can help providers devise a digital strategy that will benefit both online and retail customers.

The Integrated Balancing Act

An active player in the bookmarking industry for over a decade, Grimes believes that a single multi-channel offer that provides personalized content and delivers consistent user experience across all channels could be the best strategy for a provider like Ladbrokes. This integrated approach will help simplify the process of registration and betting. For example, a retail customer who regularly performs the transaction over the counter may at one instance want to perform it online. In this scenario, he can use the same offline credentials to place bets over Web or mobile or telephone.

One of the best features of digital transformation in betting is analytics. To enable improved customer experience, betting firms are now turning to big data and analytics to gain insights on the process and help their customers play safe. Technology providers are equipped with data analytics capabilities that can dig deep into customer data and deliver actionable insights to providers. Bookmarking providers can spot customer behaviour, analyze their performance data and improve business by identifying the elements that influence the process. According to Grimes, big data analytics will also help bookmakers achieve the highest level of segmentation, enabling them to convert all useful data from multiple channels into incentives to give back to bettors.

Technology providers, Grimes argues, should be able to create specific and highly targeted service that can deliver proactive solutions to the challenges cropping up at any point of time. With each user having different priorities, devising a uniform strategy to address the customer demands will be futile. The challenge, therefore, lies in developing a technology solution that intelligently analyzes each use case and delivers results based on a set of pre-defined criteria. For example, there may be a case wherein a customer quits after repeated failures. In this scenario, the software can send a promotional offer to that customer matching his status or history of transactions with the provider. This method will not only help improve business but also build customer loyalty.

Now the wallet is in your hand

With smartphones becoming the all-in-one gadget of Gen X, there is no doubt about which device gains popularity in online betting. Smartphone vendors have invested wisely on apps that will appease the “do-on-the-go” customers. The launch of Apple Pay and the successive launch of similar NFC apps from industry leaders prove that more business is in the offing for industries like online betting. In line with this trend, Ladbrokes recently launched single wallet across all digital platforms. The software features both HTML5 and native versions for iOS and Android devices working with Playtech. Of course, companies like Ladbrokes have their hopes high on smart, young mobile users.

Over the past decade, the betting industry has undergone revolutionary transformation. With eCommerce expanding to mobile platforms, Ladbrokes now focuses its investments in these channels, exploring new business opportunities. Latest trends in cloud, mobility and big data will further push the industry upward, forcing service providers like Ladbrokes to seek next level of growth by leveraging these technologies.

Grimes concludes, “Despite being under the leash of regulations and complexity, driving dynamic digital transformation and connecting retail and digital are going to be key to retain and grow the customer base in this industry. The future of betting is going to be data-driven, context specific, all of which are going to reside on the customer’s fingertips.”

Kaushik Banerjee is Senior Vice President, has over 23 years of expertise in consulting and technology services, across telecommunication, financial services, energy, gaming and retail industries in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Kaushik is most excited by working with his high performance team that helps customers drive transformation for technology intensive businesses. Obsessive about customer experience, Kaushik’s current focus areas include Design, Cloud technologies, Analytics, and Mobile. Connect with him on LinkedInConnect with him on LinkedIn.