Jim Mullen describing the Ladbrokes retail network as “the biggest affiliate” it has is one of the smartest things I’ve heard this year. Ladbrokes in their quarterly report have attributed 35,000 additional active customers to their retail charm offensive where they are actively encouraging retail customers to also use an online account. Ladbrokes also announced that these multi-channel customers are worth more than customers who just gamble via Ladbrokes.com.
It’s not often any operator can find so many incremental customers and the reason I am so excited is that this proves that the trends seen in eCommerce are transferable to the gaming industry.
When we look at the general eCommerce industry we are seeing a growing trend that pureplay eCommerce is dead and that eCommerce retailers need to adopt a multi-channel approach in order to survive. Unique to online retail which eGaming does not need to worry about is the overhead of deliveries and returns which investment in retail stores can overcome.
When we look at the wider trends in retail and in-store experiences there are a huge amount of things eGaming operators could try in order to accelerate the bricks to clicks migration.
For the sake of this article I’ll assume no legal or licensing restrictions.
First thing operators should look at is creating a true flagship experience store where customers can immerse themselves in the brand. The obvious flagship store example is Apple but I’d actually suggest visiting the Burberry Store on Regents Street in London instead. This to me is easily the pinnacle of flagship stores where they have created a seamless experience between the physical and digital. Their approach was to make “walking through the door … just like walking into our website” and it is more an experience than retail (which helps when being asked to pay a small fortune for a coat).
Another example is Bonobos the US Men’s online fashion retailer who have opened a series of “guide shops” where you can have a 1 on 1 meeting with a specialist, find your right fit and browse the range. The guide shops also hold special events such as wedding fitting parties and shopping nights. While this feels high touch, it actually helped Bonobos drive down online customer acquisition costs by 21% and increase direct traffic to their website by 44%
Closer to home and from an operators perspective I’d suggest looking at how PokerStars have integrated themselves into the Hippodrome Casino in London, which to me is a fantastic way of bringing brand offline in a beautiful flagship setting.
The second retail experience that operators should look at is the “pop-up” store trend. The likes of Rapha the high-end bike clothing retailer uses a “broom wagon” to set-up their stall at cycling events. Warby Parker the on-trend glasses retail has fitted out a Yellow School bus and toured the US to bring their online experience direct to their customers.
From a sportsbook perspective this one feels like a no-brainer where every and any sporting event creates a fantastic pop-up store style opportunity. Brands have the ability to trickle down the VIP treatment to the average punters. For example a place to charge your phone, betting previews from experts, free wifi and a physical expression of the brand. Personally the most impressive example of this I have seen in the eGaming space was the modern two storey Betfair hospitality tent at the Cheltenham Festival which had among other things an array of free to use iPads for placing bets. Scaling such a pop-up venue to more events can really connect an online brand to users and create a brand loyalty that transcends free bet offers.
While I have taken the overlap between retail and eGaming to an extreme, I do strongly believe operators who leverage their offline presence the best will become long term winners. As Ladbrokes have shown, if just being nice to customers and doing a few small things to encourage them to use the website can unlock 35,000 incremental customers, imagine how much growth can still be unlocked.