“Customer experience must be constantly developed and maintained”
We had the privilege of speaking with Jari Vähänen, a respected figure in the gambling industry and a Partner at The Finnish Gambling Consultants Oy. With extensive knowledge and experience in this field, Mr. Vähänen offers valuable insights into the evolving landscape of gambling, particularly focusing on the concept of omnichannel and its impact on customer experience.
Can you explain the concept of omnichannel in the gambling industry and how it enhances the customer experience?
Most gambling companies that have started their operations in the retail channel have expanded their business to digital channels. In many, almost all, cases, the sales channels are separated from each other so that there are differences in the games sold, and the customer experience is entirely different. Such a model is multi-channel, where games are sold in different channels, but the customer experience is not the same.
A requirement for the realization of a customer-oriented business is omnichannel, where the customer can decide how, when, and where he buys gambling products. From the customer’s point of view, it does not matter which sales channel it is because he receives the same service and games regardless of the channel.
Gambling companies get a comprehensive understanding of their customers and their behavior, which can be used to improve business content and efficiency in both the digital and retail channels. A personalized customer experience feels like a better service to the customer and not an overly active sales job.
What are the specific challenges that lotteries face in implementing omnichannel solutions, and how can they be overcome?
The first challenge is to understand what steamless customer experience really means. When a lottery or any other gambling operator understands the importance of customer orientation, they can think about effective processes to improve the customer experience.
Even if lotteries understand what omnichannel means and requires, significant challenges are still ahead. One question to be resolved is how sales based on agent commissions and the use of digital services are combined. The operating models of sales channels are so different that the best solution is to develop an entirely new cooperation model with retailers.
Another big challenge is technology. Almost all lotteries use the systems of one of the big lottery technology suppliers, built for one or the other sales channel. Although technology suppliers talk about omnichannel, in practice, they mean multichannel. Unfortunately, there are still few ready-made technological systems available.
In your view, how important is a customer-centric approach in developing gambling business models, particularly in an omnichannel context?
The competition in the gambling market is fierce. In addition, the gambling companies offer the same games and use the same technologies. Because of this, it seems that the companies with the most money for marketing succeed in the market.
Fortunately, this is not the only option. Ultimately, however, customers decide which company’s products they buy. Because of this, gambling companies must understand why customers usually play games and which factors influence the choice of gambling companies. A customer-focused business strategy is the only chance for at least small and medium-sized gambling companies to succeed in the ever-increasing competition.
Omnichannel is one significant business model in which a gambling company utilizes customer information/data and strives to improve the customer experience. The basic idea is that the customer is king (or queen)!
How does omnichannel contribute to increasing customer engagement and loyalty in the gambling industry?
Omnichannel is an operating model in which the company offers its customers the opportunity to play the games on the devices that the customer wants, regardless of location. When the customer receives good service, his satisfaction with the gambling company increases. Increased customer satisfaction naturally increases commitment and leads to a loyal customer relationship.
However, it is crucial to understand that the customer experience must be constantly developed and maintained. One-off solutions will not go far.
How has the shift towards digital sales channels impacted the gambling industry, and what role does mobile play in this transition?
The development of digital sales has changed the entire gambling industry. Back in the 20th century, all gambling companies operated in physical sales locations. Digital sales of gambling started to develop in the 1990s when new gambling companies operating only in digital channels began to enter the market.
For traditional gambling companies, including lotteries, it was initially challenging and perhaps even scary to introduce new modern technologies because the companies were afraid of negative reactions from their agents. At least partly due to this, lotteries have lost their market share significantly in many countries. The increase in the share of digital sales has brought new large international companies to the gambling market, whose services have met customers’ needs better than traditional companies’ offerings.
People use mobile devices to do all sorts of things. Mobile devices are top-rated when people want to entertain themselves. Gambling is one part of the entertainment and leisure product range, so the entertaining availability of gambling on mobile devices is critical if gambling companies want new customers. It is easy to say that without working mobile solutions, gambling companies will no longer be able to do decent business in the future.
Considering the current legislative environment, what is the future of the gambling industry, especially lotteries?
If I think about the development of gambling legislation in Europe, it is easy to say that the time of monopolies is coming to an end. Almost all European countries have moved to license-based legislation, except lottery games. I predict that at some point, this model will also spread to lottery operations by the UK and Ireland models. In any case, the change in legislation has opened up the gambling business to more and more gambling companies. This has further increased the number of options available to customers, which in turn emphasizes the importance of a customer-centric business strategy.
However, increased supply is not only a good thing. The increased gambling options have also increased the amount of gambling and, unfortunately, the problems caused by gambling. This, together with the increasingly responsible thinking in society, will tighten the regulation related to gambling. We already have good examples of this in the Nordic countries, where gambling is only possible for identified customers. In addition, customers are set limits on how much they can play or lose in gambling. So, society will once again tighten its grip on the regulation of gambling.