Matt Howard of Sportsbook Solutions breaks down the reasons why quality over quantity is crucial for sportsbooks when it comes to maximising levels of engagement with users

I’ll open with a question:

At 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, who is coming to your site to bet on a Hungarian U15 Division 3 soccer match?

I think, if we’re all being totally honest, the answer is nobody. This being the case, why is it taking up load capacity and space on your site? Multiply this by the number of events and markets we have now which have never, and likely will never, see any action and why are they there? This is a fairly inflammatory start to the piece, but I think it’s a question few are asking and perhaps really should be, for a number of reasons. 

I understand the start of this process of mass content, I’ve seen the sports betting industry develop in 15 years to online from a previously majority retail position. The original basis of extra content was a 24/7 experience where there’s always live events for players to bet on. This process has now moved way beyond that, to having hundreds of events at the same time and the questions this now raises.

There’s been a long-standing and continuing industry-wide issue with sites not being able to cope performance-wise with what they are being asked to do. The two major strains on most systems are parsing the data into the system (mostly constantly changing live odds across multiple events at once) and also coping with the bet placement processes.

If we consider that at any one time there’s likely to be live events which you’d expect to not take a single bet on, why are we not removing the performance risk of taking the data into the system? A review of your active clients and their betting habits, what you know of your market and sensible predictions should allow you to remove a significant amount of events.

The second part of this is the markets within the events themselves, both Pre-Match and Live. There’s a marketing angle of saying how many markets you know offer, but are they actually doing anything for your business? Even if they are for the top tier events, are you taking or expecting bets on the same markets in extremely low tier events? Again, a review and sweep of this would likely do absolutely no damage at all for a considerable benefit.

If we now consider the player perspective on the front-end, I think there are even more reasons to review this. I’ll preface all of this by saying that the world is going mobile and that it’s not turning back to desktop for player preferred experience.

A mobile screen is a small area and therefore what the player sees and can reach quickly is absolutely imperative in decision making. If a player has to battle through hundreds of superfluous events and markets within events to find what they want, that’s a bad experience. With ever more competitors in every market, can you afford to give a player this experience?

If they find it easier on your competitors site, they will not come back without both a serious incentive and cost to you. There’s further discussion here on good content management also. You can still offer a lot of events and markets and put them in front of players early in their journey, but it’s made harder when there are so many events and markets to manage properly. Another consideration should be that for new players and very recreational users, the sheer volume of content can be intimidating.

If you can show them something that appeals to them straight away, that good experience stays with them. To take this to extremes, is there even the possibility a hyper-focused bookmaker could hone in on very few sports and competitions and gain loyalty for doing these better due to the increased time they could spend perfecting these areas? To an extent, esports betting is exploring this, but there’s a discussion to be had, I think, on traditional sports too.

This is also not considering the risk (to bookmaker, player and competitors) and regulatory considerations of offering very low tiered events for betting. These should also be factored into decisions and future plans. The industry should take responsibility and will be forced too, forward-looking bookmakers will want to be ahead of this.

All of these considerations and decisions lead me nicely on to customised front-end and delivering player specific experiences. The industry is taking small steps here, but these basic content decisions are all leading to, at best, ‘hiding’ irrelevant content, or complete removal of it. If you look outside the industry the user experience is simplified and personalised.

There’s also an undercurrent of discussion of AI and ML and how these will solve these issues. But, these concepts do not just plugin and start working. They have to learn and be taught how to work and then they can begin to takeover and enhance your site. However, there has to be analysis and decisions made on where to begin and how you wish to make decisions to best serve your players.