Warren Ashurst, Broadcast Manager at Independent Content Services, says operators are missing a trick by not investing in voice.
The global iGaming industry has long been at the forefront of technology. From the first online casino sites that emerged in the early 1990s, through to the state-of-the-art know your customer systems and artificial intelligence powered game recommendation engines of today, operators and suppliers are constantly innovating.
In most cases, the industry is among the first to embrace new technologies and launch them to players and punters in a meaningful way. Mobile is a great example of this; casino, poker and sportsbook operators were quick to spot that consumers were using smartphones to manage more of their lives and rapidly transitioned into mobile-led businesses.
It is strange, then, that we have yet to see an online gambling operator launch a “voice” product for platforms such as Amazon Alexa and Google Pebble. Some believe voice will be as revolutionary as smartphones and tablets, yet the global iGaming industry has yet to crack the code.
Sure, some operators have experimented with the technology – Paddy Power being the most notable – but no one has yet to bring a finished product to market. This means they are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to be at the vanguard of voice technology and to reap the rewards for being among the first movers.
That said, there are reasons why gambling operators and suppliers are struggling to get to grips with voice. Some are due to the limitations of the technology, or rather the limitations of what the technology can be used for, while others are due to the nature of gambling itself. But all can be overcome.
First, it is important to clearly understand what the main challenges are when it comes to gambling operators using voice and voice assistants to engage players and drive betting activity in a meaningful way.
How the technology can be used is limited:
At present, voice assistants cannot be used as a platform for placing wagers. The technology certainly has the capabilities to facilitate betting activity, but concerns over problem gambling and underage betting have seen platform providers such as Amazon prohibit the development of skills and apps that enable real-money play.
Gambling is a very personal activity:
The other issue is that gambling is a very personal activity. While it is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people across the world, it still has a stigma attached to it and the majority like to keep their play private. Voice assistants, on the other hand, are vocal and don’t fully understand context at this stage.
As a result, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that your voice assistant could suddenly announce the best odds for Chelsea to win their match against Manchester City while your wife’s parents are visiting for lunch.
These two challenges combined have led operators to believe that voice does not present many – if any – upsides at this stage. But just because punters can’t wager doesn’t mean voice is not the future; the platform can be used to engage players, boost brand awareness, strengthen authority and drive long-term loyalty.
Online gambling operators – whether casino, poker, bingo or sportsbook – now understand they must become information powerhouses in order to acquire and retain players in what is a highly competitive market. When it comes to sports betting, for example, most big-name media brands also have their own betting products.
This has led to operators launching content hubs, providing players with access to high-value information in written, audio and visual forms. Again, using the example of an online bookmaker, most now offer news, previews and reviews, as well as live match broadcasts and real-time video blasts.
Voice should be seen as an extension of this, particularly as it is becoming more prevalent in homes across the UK and beyond. Here at ICS we have recently launched an Alexa Skill for our ClubCall brand that can be white-labelled by operators looking to expand their marketing efforts into voice and personal assistants.
It provides news on all English Premier League teams as well as the latest live match updates and reports from all the games that take place during the season. It also offers news for other major sports such as golf, tennis and rugby as well as a daily betting tip.
As we continue to develop our Skill, we plan to increase the scale and scope of its capabilities, including offering premium content such as commentaries and data, as well as different language options.
It is clear, then, that voice is a powerful way of connecting with current and prospective players, providing them with another touchpoint to an operator’s brand. In the highly competitive online gambling sector, this can significantly drive new player sign-ups while also boosting retention rates.
In many ways, voice is similar to mobile. With mobile, however, the iGaming sector saw the opportunity early and adapted, but with voice it is lagging behind somewhat. There is still chance to catch up, but it really is time operators listened to voice.