A lot has changed in the past six months, particularly in terms of how consumers spend their free time and access entertainment. But George Connors, senior vice president of gaming and sports solutions at Fiserv, told PYMNTS in a recent conversation that interest in online gaming has boomed in a way that has upped the ante on consumer experience.
Connors said gaming enthusiasts are just as open to making wagers online as they are in a casino. With casinos closed, players turned to one of the many online gaming sites that have surged into the U.S. market as regulatory restrictions were lifted in recent years. And when major U.S. professional sports seasons were delayed due to the coronavirus, players turned their interest to non-traditional events.
“I wasn't really aware of Russian table tennis until people started betting on [it], with leagues that are on the other side of the world,” Connors said. “Actually, there are all kinds of different sports from across the world that I had no idea even existed or that people actually played. When some sports weren’t around, the betting population found other sports to focus on."
Connors said online gambling sites also responded to the delay of professional sports, offering options like virtual casinos and eSports betting. But he noted that customers’ expectations when they interact online — particularly in places like virtual casinos – still remains paramount, especially in terms of payment choice, site security, and the payout process when a player is ready to digitally “cash out” their winnings.
“The user experience has to be good,” he said. “If players don't have a good experience online, they're going to go somewhere else.”
Giving Consumers What They Want
As for what makes for a good experience, Connors said it always starts with choice.
For instance, online gaming sites’ payments strategies should give consumers a choice in how to pay — credit card, debit card, mobile wallet or even via a physical location where a customer can use cash. The goal is to make it easy for consumers to enter the digital environment and place a bet with a minimum number of friction points along the way.
“[Companies] want to be sure that when [a new player] comes in, they can say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ to a payment method,” Connors explained, referring to high customer acquisition costs in this competitive market.
He said the major focus must be ensuring that a site has not one or two, but multiple payment solutions easily available. The simple truth is that customers have lots of other options out there, he noted: If one online gambling site doesn’t make it easy to cash in and start playing, customers will head to a rival site that simplifies the process.
Keeping Players Safe
Online gambling sites are an attractive target for fraud, so firms must work hard to keep the bad guys out while making it easy for the good guys to get in.
But Connors noted that consumers do bear some responsibility for protecting their personally identifiable information, or PII. Best practices for doing so include accessing sites from secure Wi-Fi networks and avoiding the use of common or easily hacked passwords.
That’s the case no matter how many millions of dollars the gaming site has spent securing its little segment of the web. Connors said fraudsters want consumers’ data and are looking for the easiest opening available. If that’s not the gaming site itself, it might just be the consumer’s lax security habits.
Digital Casinos Need User-Friendly Payout Options To Retain Players
Once a consumer is on a site, has securely funded their account and begins making wagers, is it “mission accomplished?”
Not quite — because keeping the customer happy isn’t just about making it easy for them to pay in and play.
“Could you imagine getting to go in, having a card accepted, having a great experience, and then at the end of the session [being] told: ‘We really don't have a way to get your money’?” Connors asked. “Or being told: ‘We'll send you a check and you can have it in seven to 10 days.’”
That approach is nearly guaranteed to turn a good online gambling experience into one that the customer will never want to repeat, he said. And while it seems obvious, having a good payout system is an easy thing for online casinos to overlook. That’s because avid gamers don’t often cash out their winnings, preferring to leave them in their accounts so they can come back and continue to play in the future.
But Connors said a good cash-out structure must be in place, because a time will come when players want to get back their funds. And just as is the case with pay-in systems, customers need multiple options for disbursements.
“Whether you disburse through a debit card, a credit card, an ACH, a prepaid card or a gift card, a user-friendly payout process must be in place for the customer,” Connors said. “At the end of the day, our clients’ customers need to know that when they want their money, they can have their money.”