Roundtable: CRM and Responsible Gambling

Magdalena Frankowska, CMO at Soft2Bet; Kristiyan Petrov, Head of CRM at Delasport; Adam Rowley, Managing Director of RavenTrack and Yoel Zuckerberg, VP Product at Aspire Global discuss the growth of CRM and its importance within issues such as responsible gambling.

How important is it for companies to have an effective CRM strategy, in comparison to other channels?

Kristiyan Petrov: With acquisition costs rising constantly, the focus on a good CRM is essential. Without a CRM it is nearly impossible to be ROI positive with affiliated traffic. On the other hand, overdoing it in terms of campaigns and offerings will lead to huge bonus costs, which can quite easily eat away the profits.

Magdalena Frankowska: Customer relationship management starts with the first interaction. Converting, retaining, and keeping customers happy is at the heart of our business. It spans through most departments and is crucial to success today. All ‘other channels’ are dependent on the CRM strategy, too. What is an acquisition channel worth if we cannot retain the customers it brings? There are no ‘more’ or ‘less’ relevant channel arguments, but how all of them are integrated and support each other is essential.

Yoel Zuckerberg: Up until relatively recently, the industry in general has adopted the strategy of following up with a player only after they have left a particular site, instead of taking care to optimise and personalise the experience while they are still active. However, many operators now understand that an automated real-time solution is the key to customer engagement and retention. That is not to say that messaging types such as SMS, push notifications, emails and pop-ups don’t have their place in the overall marketing mix, but allowing operators to change their front end in real time according to a customer’s preference is a powerful way of conveying a competitive advantage.

Adam Rowley: As mentioned above, CRM strategies have always been vital, but now more than ever. With acquisition costs continuing to spiral upwards, it’s imperative that a company’s CRM strategy can yield the best return on investment possible. We know that historically, you will gain the most value out of a customer in their first three months of being onboarded, and that means providing them with the most tailored offers and promotions you can, especially with competitors tightening their nets around you!

How has CRM grown within the industry in recent years?

Kristiyan Petrov: In recent years, CRM managers have started to look at other industries for inspiration. And there are a lot of good ideas. These days you will have to dig a lot to find a brand that does not have any sort of gamification or some other loyalty programme incorporated in their CRM strategy. And in the last few months, I am seeing the widespread theme of automated “purchase suggestion” campaigns. Now with the development of the tools the CRM teams have, it is becoming easier to set up a campaign that will target a customer whenever their favourite team is playing.

Magdalena Frankowska: The importance of CRM has grown significantly in recent years. We compete not only for the wallet share with other operators within the iGaming sector, but with the whole entertainment sector. Relevance is a must; consumers have much more choice but less patience and tolerance, compared to a few years ago. To ensure relevance, we need  to maintain a 360 customer view. Accordingly, together with the industry, the technology moved forward to cater to the ‘new’ demanding consumer. CRM systems with heavy data usage allow us to make real-time, data-based decisions, not focusing only on the past behaviours but using predictive analytics, data science, and machine learning. Nowadays, CRM Platforms allow us to set up fully automated customer journeys, with the real-time triggers thoroughly personalised according to customer preference, with compliance and GDPR assurance as to the foundation. For instance, if the customer doesn’t accept emails but prefers SMS, a preferred channel is used, the same relates to product preferences. Therefore, it is safe to say that respect for customer preference and choice is a must.

Yoel Zuckerberg: Increased competition in markets globally, difficulties created by advertising restrictions in certain jurisdictions and a rise in player acquisition costs have combined to make an effective CRM strategy essential in the current climate, rather than an additional bolt-on option. Maintaining effective relationships with existing customers is of paramount importance and we have seen great advances in this regard in recent years. The rise of automation and AI has served to revolutionise CRM in providing operators with a toolset that is appropriate to engage with every player type.

Adam Rowley: CRM has been a vital part of the industry for many years now, but as with anything, advances in technology have meant companies now have unlimited possibilities when it comes to engagement of both new and existing customers. Gone are the days of  blanket marketing and blindly guessing at  which campaign generated the best return. Real-time data and in-depth analysis mean companies are able to spend their marketing budgets more wisely.

How can companies ensure they remain compliant when it comes to CRM?

Kristiyan Petrov: Knowing and following the requirements of regulations is one of the key things for every CRM manager. With Europe getting more and more regulated, it is mandatory to keep track of the markets that you focus on. Investing in good-quality tools will help you implement every new regulation. There are several options available that come out of the box with the possibility to integrate with Spelpaus, OASIS and so on.

Magdalena Frankowska: Training, training, training, and technology. We need to ensure compliance and CRM work hand in hand. That should include quarterly courses and training sessions, especially before entering a new jurisdiction. Highly knowledgeable employees are key; however, we are only humans, and to stamp out any potential human error, we need the support of technology. All the CRM compliance requirements, any updates or changes, should be translated and integrated into CRM systems to protect and support the consumer and the company. Automated checks and blocks are not to be missed, as well as front-end solutions when it comes to specific cases.

Yoel Zuckerberg: It is vital to ensure that a business’ marketing stays compliant by adhering to local operating regulations. Additionally, internal safeguards can help to minimise the risk of marketing materials reaching those who are considered vulnerable. We have seen some high-profile cases of operators falling foul of regulations in marketing to self-excluded players, but at Aspire Global, our compliance team reviews and approves all of the marketing that is issued by our partner brands. We also utilise a marketing scanning tool which monitors our online presence and helps to identify potentially risky ads, including those that have been created by our marketing partners.

Adam Rowley: Compliance needs to be and should have always been the priority when promoting to customers. Recent regulation changes have hit many companies hard; however, we are still seeing plenty of success within the industry. Sending the correct messages and transparent promotions/offers will provide you with the customers your company wants. There is a plethora of information available from the Gambling Commission and the ASA on how to promote responsibly and we always encourage businesses to adhere to these regulations.

Is there a clash between using CRM to promote gambling and responsible gambling?

Kristiyan Petrov: I don’t think that they necessarily clash, even though it may look like they do. CRM efforts are part of the overall operation and should strive to create a sustainable player profile. This wasn’t just a throwaway or a platitude. This is a crucial part of success. A player with gambling problems isn’t good for the business. It’s within the operator and the platform provider’s shared interests, to make sure that players are gambling responsibly and that they aren’t overdoing it. Analysing data allows CRM to run smart campaigns. For example, adding a cool off campaign in the strategy really helps keep the balance and not churn your customers.

Magdalena Frankowska: Nowadays, responsible gambling is a vital cog within marketing promotions in general, so I wouldn’t say there is a clash, quite the opposite. As an entertainment service provider, here at Soft2Bet, we care about our customers, and we want them to play responsibly. Therefore, prior to any CRM incentives being given, all necessary checks must be conducted. At the moment, the technology allows the integration of all requirements into CRM systems. This ensures that the purpose of any engagement trial is pure entertainment, not harm.

Yoel Zuckerberg: With the right systems and processes in place, there doesn’t have to be. At Aspire Global, we have a strong commitment to follow local regulations and protect players from any gambling harm. Sustainability is a core tenet of our corporate culture, and this includes the promotion of a way of doing business that ensures players can enjoy themselves without risking their wellbeing. We always plan to ensure that is the case by marketing in a responsible and balanced manner, offering players all the tools and support needed to be in control of their gambling.

Adam Rowley: The industry has come a long way, particularly in the last five years when it comes to CRM and how we promote to customers. Despite there being positive changes in relation to additional warnings on messages (When The Fun Stops, Stop / Take Time To Think), there are still plenty of possibilities to promote gambling to customers whilst keeping the happy medium of responsible gambling. Back in the days when I was first an affiliate manager, we used to be bombarded with bonus abusers and low player quality due to poor visibility of terms and unrealistic welcome offers. It seems that although this will always exist, in recent times we’re certainly seeing more quality over quantity.

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