Tom Baker has worked as a consultant with the world's largest gaming brands within a CX, UX, and behavioral technology capacity for over 10 years. At UserZoom, he heads up the Gaming Sector team, that is why he knows much about the importance of building a positive user experience in the gambling sphere.
Here you can find more news and insights into the current state of the gambling industry.
Tom, it goes without saying that UX is important to any industry with a digital product. When considering the gambling industry in particular, why is it essential to use UX principles while creating a gaming product?
Online gamblers have firm ideas about what constitutes a delightful user experience. Unfortunately, many of them feel that their expectations are not being met.
Poor UX may have been forgiven in the past, but with increasingly high user expectations driven from more advanced digital sectors, customers are now far less likely to accept poor user experiences. They will abandon their interaction and switch to other offers when they face poor usability. With regulatory pressures already impacting revenues, this is disastrous in a fiercely competitive industry such as online gambling.
And while many gaming and gambling companies say that they know how important UX is, only a small number of them actively leverage user experience as a strategy to differentiate themselves from other offerings. These prescient innovators rigorously test and measure throughout the product development lifecycle, and benchmark their product against competitors with sophisticated, robust data.
By building in data-driven design decisions and the prioritization of new feature development with user insight data, operators and developers predict what is going to work long before it’s development. It allows them to avoid costly rework and marketing/performance costs, which naturally leads to improved customer retention. A bonus effect of gathering unbiased data from customers and users is that internal debates about product development and the “I think competitor XYZ’s product/journey is better than ours” discussions are neutralized.
What can you say about the current state of UX in the online gambling industry? Do the majority of operators apply its main fundamentals to their services?
We see the gambling sector as being comparable to where banking and finance were two or three years ago, and the travel and retail sectors before that. There are still a lot of companies that don't speak to their target audience with any degree of the scale.
Many gambling and gaming companies still rely heavily on the expertise of a small number of biased employees when making important product decisions. If there’s one thing to remember it’s this – your target audience is definitely not people that currently work for your company. Using colleagues for functional testing is sometimes okay, but for formative research and UX testing, your colleagues will not provide good data that allow you to make informed decisions about what your users need.
When you consider the amount of money and effort that goes into developing innovative games and services, and the highly competitive and expensive nature of customer acquisition, it's slightly crazy that so many gaming companies are not testing with their users. Especially given that remote UX research and testing are so fast, scalable, and accessible these days.
For the few that are ahead of the curve when it comes to UX testing, the rewards are clear. Data-driven product and design decisions drive effortless user journeys that improve the bottom line. If you use data right at the start of your design cycles, you won't design blind, and you’ll spot the issues and fix them long before you get into the development process.
Do you agree with the statement that user experience can be among the main boosters that will help gambling businesses to increase their revenue after the lockdown? Can it help them to retain users if they have faced an increase in traffic during the quarantine?
Absolutely, the gaming sector has been ripe for disruption for years. What we are seeing across all sectors is that behaviors are changing, personas are shifting, long term customers are doing new things. There's a large segment of new retail customers who are coming to digital and have completely untested needs.
The current needs and concerns of your customers are not the same as they were before. This is uncharted territory, and some companies will emerge outperforming competitors and increasing market share just like in the last downturn. UX research and testing are core to the success of decision making today and for tomorrow.
We also see that our customer behaviors are changing. For example, we see an increase in more "edge" use cases, like testing PPC content to reduce wasted Google spend, as well as increased formative/discovery work around the virus and people's attitudes and behaviors. This is alongside the continued emphasis on measuring UX metrics for informed decisions around prioritization and optimization.
Some experts say that UX best practice starts with registration forms and that the sign-up process has a great impact on user acquisition and more user-friendly forms often mean more users registered on a website. Can you say that this factor really has great significance?
Without a doubt – there are so many questions to get right with any registration flow and our experts recommend starting with a research-led needs assessment well before you start designing in earnest. Every step in the customer journey, especially one as important as registering users, should be rigorously tested as any incremental gains in the customer journey drive bottom-line revenue.
Even in 2020, we still hear about large brands that design just on the internal debate, or gut feelings of a head of the department, and hope that the conversion rate on registration will be okay. Often they’ll use A/B testing strategies to work backward to solve problems after they encounter them. A/B testing with live products is an essential improvement mechanism, however, it's slow, hard to drive regular insights, and doesn’t explain why one is better than the other. This is why many A/B tests are inconclusive in terms of performance between variants. So, this “re-work” approach is littered with inefficiencies and should be reserved for the most relevant decisions. This is incredibly risky when CPAs are so high, and is a completely unnecessary way of doing things.
The smarter and more cost-effective alternative is that you conduct user experience testing on your early-stage registration designs, but with user experience methods instead of analytics. This enables companies to test and measure registration flows and usability at scale with real gambling participant profiles and without investing in any development work. The results will reveal problems with your early-stage designs when they’re cheaper, faster, and easier to fix.
If you have a competitor that you think is doing a great job of registration, try running a quantitative benchmark study and measure it and pinpoint what’s performing well and why. Ask users to tell you at scale: What needs improving? What would they like to see? What didn't they like? Ask them if they were confident if they succeeded and why. All of these highly actionable results will enable you to create a successful registration form.
Since the mobile-first approach has gained popularity, mobile UX design has become a matter of priority for gambling and gaming companies. What features of mobile UX for gambling you consider to be the most important?
Mobile adoption shows no signs of slowing down. Companies need to ensure that their mobile users have the same great experiences that their desktop users have. If anything, people have even more stringent concepts of what constitutes a good mobile experience and are less likely to suffer through a bad experience on a mobile device than on a desktop or other device.
That said, the never-ending feature war for both mobile and desktop is a fascinating element of the gaming industry. One company offers something new and everyone rushes to copy it without really knowing if it drives revenue or is something users are asking for. Due to the lack of testing, very few new features “stick,” and after an initial spike in interest from users, many are given low real estate priority.
Our view is that a user should be used in the product development/feature roadmap. With today's technology it's so easy to list twenty or so new feature ideas, with designs and a short description, and have your customers prioritize them for you at scale. Ask them what they think about each feature, and strive to collect behavioral data from early-stage designs and prototypes as well. All this will help to ensure that companies don’t waste vital time and energy developing a feature that no one actually wants or that won’t drive revenue.
Read more: The gambling industry in the USA: perspectives and difficulties
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