"Personalization is the ultimate challenge." Interview with Tom Baker, Boylesports

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This week I caught up with Tom Baker, Head of Acquisition & Conversion Optimization at BoyleSports to chat about all things optimization, customer experience, and digital marketing. Tom shared with me his experiences as a marketer in the eGaming industry.
Tom has worked in the eGaming industry for over 7 years. Originally at Bwin.Party before moving to head up SEO at Ladbrokes. He then moved on to his latest challenge at BoyleSports where his main focus was SEO and Content Marketing, but he also led paid media campaigns - which is where he really dived into conversion rate optimization.



Unlike the retail industry, personalization and customer experience optimization haven’t completely hit the eGaming by storm. Instead, many companies are still focused on acquisition strategies. When asked about his thoughts on these trends in the eGaming industry, Tom told me that the picture is very mixed.

"Most operators are doing some level of conversion optimization but I wouldn’t say that anyone has truly understood and surmounted the challenges of delivering a totally personalized user experience. There is a clear trend of increasing focus and budgetary backing for conversion rate optimization (CRO) but most operators are still focused on acquisition user journey optimization (landing pages and registration forms) to the detriment of potentially more fruitful testing approaches of the loyal, existing customer user base."

In eGaming, what are the biggest challenges to driving conversion uplift, and improving the customer experience? According to Tom, they are technical.

"A lot of game play is via third party providers meaning the user goes outside of the operators infrastructure and outside of any control that a standard web personalization tool can achieve. The ability to unify data sets, surface the meaningful behavioural trends and outcomes and then deliver a personalized experience based on that data is the ultimate challenge. Although in many ways the eGaming user-model makes it easier to understand behaviour (login across devices/products & many data points) the difficulty is in knowing whether a conversion test has actually delivered a net revenue uplift as opposed to merely increasing registrations or bet volumes."

We discussed the personalization roadmap at BoyleSports, and Tom gave a great piece of advice to anyone embarking on this journey - focus on quick wins, and celebrate them across the business.

"At BoyleSports, personalization has always been the long term goal, while also focusing on the low hanging fruit that starts to appear as a result of implementing conversion rate optimization strategies. The reason we first ventured into conversion testing was because we knew that there were significant, yet relatively simple to fix, issues with new customer user journeys. Once we’d identified those issues, Qubit were quickly able to suggest improvements and launch the initial tests. All of which have proved to be successful. One tip that I would give to anyone starting out on a similar project but is struggling against internal opposition is to find these quick wins and make sure you communicate the successes to everyone concerned." 

Today, Tom’s team tackles customer experience with a testing approach - with Qubit technology the team can be sure that changes are going to have a positive response before making them permanent. The business has been empowered to set up a dedicated optimization team that ensures product development is linked directly to customer experience.

"The biggest change has come in how we approach product development. Previously, any new features were launched through a process of research and industry analysis and then monitored for any negative consequences (site performance, customer feedback etc.). Today, we’re using Qubit to test major product changes and measure the positive and negative effects of those new features.  We’re much more responsive to the early signals and have a much greater understanding on where we need to focus our attention."

"An additional benefit has been using Qubit almost as a CMS add-on allowing us to release many new features during key sporting events.  The flexibility of the Qubit platform has taken the load off our development team during these peak periods."

Ultimately, customer experience is now at the heart of all product development. So much so that we have now built a dedicated in-house team solely focused on this area. When looking for a technology partner, managed services were critical as Tom’s digital team was small. However, looking to the future Tom knew he needed a technology that could scale with the expected growth of their digital channel.

"As a relatively small digital team we just didn’t have the luxury of being able to wholly manage all of our conversion tests. When I started the search for conversion technologies it soon became clear that although there are many great tools and services out there the only way that I would be able to achieve the scale and velocity of testing was to find a fully managed service that we could partner with for the long term."

"I think this last point is often underestimated.  Even for the sake of simplifying the marketing technology stack it made sense for us to integrate one tool. eGaming websites are often very complex. Adding multiple technologies contributes to this complexity and impedes progress. But the main benefit of a long term partnership is that the technology/consultancy vendor, in this case the good people at Qubit, had the opportunity to understand BoyleSports as a business, understand our priorities and contribute to integral improvements we have made to our digital operation."

He told me that once he really understood Qubit’s Universal Variable, and the power of what could be done with it, his choice was made.

"As a sportsbook we’re blessed with a huge amount of data. Whether that’s customer-specific or the array of betting choices (the events and markets that people can bet on) that we offer to our customers. That opens up almost endless opportunities to customize. That’s the ideal but looking at the industry I couldn’t see anyone taking advantage of this reality. It wasn’t through want of trying, I just believed that no one had found the right solution. Through the procurement process I looked at many conversion vendors but felt dissatisfied with what was on offer. Testing landing pages and registration forms is all well and good but I wanted to go further to deliver customized betting experiences." 

"It was only once I had spoke to Qubit and understood the potential of their Universal Variable (UV) data layer that I finally knew that I had found the right solution. The ability to leverage multiple data points, in real-time and across device is really what every conversion optimization professional should be striving to achieve. The UV was implemented with little hassle and immediately started to open my eyes to the many ways that we could manipulate that data to deliver sophisticated tests that matched with our wider business objectives."

Qubit technology has empowered Tom and his team, providing insights into their user behaviour and enabling truly data-driven decision making. This has resulted in impactful uplifts, a 6% increase in new account creation for example.

"Before Qubit we had very little understanding of our acquisition conversion rates and more importantly how new features or tweaks to our websites impacted the user experience and ultimately the impact those changes had on our revenue targets. The first benefit of Qubit’s products has been educational - giving the business an appreciation of data-driven decision making and how it can improve product development."

"As an acquisition marketer I’m very pleased to say that Qubit have helped us to improve new visit to registration rates by over 6%. That was an early quick win which allowed us to move on to more sophisticated testing. We’ve been able to use the UV to leverage the vast array of betting events and data points that are available at any one time to deliver tests that get to the heart of what really drives business performance; namely event-based personalization, cross-sell into other product verticals and increasing margin on our sportsbook."

According to Tom, the next big trend in eGaming will be fully-functional and meaningful cross-device personalization, and Qubit will be integral to achieving this goal.

"We’ve started this journey with Qubit and taken some small steps to launching those test concepts but there’s still a long way to go until we get to that ultimate goal. What I will say is that personalization in eGaming is definitely achievable. eGaming customers are creatures of habit. Qubit have begun to model this behaviour for us with the mid-term aim of delivering personalized entry messaging but the opportunity is much larger. Those operators that can crack the personalization challenge will reap the benefits for a long time to come."

Want to learn more? Check out our webinar series where we team up with customer Vitality, and partner Conversion.com to tackle key challenges like retention, form optimization, and attribution.


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