The online gambling industry is touted, particularly by those inside it, as one of the most innovative industries around.
Being based entirely online where new technology is constantly appearing it goes without saying that online gambling products should be at the cutting edge of technology.
On the whole, this is the case with mobile and online products regularly providing new gambling experiences to players. However, innovation has failed to spread to all parts of the industry, particularly affiliates.
This huge group of sites that account for a sizeable amount of industry traffic appear to be a few steps behind when it comes to being innovative. Granted, they can’t impress with expensive technology in the way that operators do but very few even attempt to do anything slightly different with their sites – preferring to focus on SEO and negotiating the best affiliate deals instead.
Pierluigi Buccioli is founder of Bookmakers Review which has been running for twelve years. In that time, Buccioli has seen the industry flourish but is now facing up to the fact that life for iGaming affiliates is about to get much tougher.
He says: “With the move from a dotcom market to the dotcountry markets, affiliate marketing as we know it will be extinct in five years, so it’s imperative that online gambling affiliates renovate themselves.
“Whether they will be able to do so is another matter and personally I don’t think the average affiliate site will be able to survive in a dotcountry market where competition includes traditional media.”
Maintaining the Status Quo
It’s certainly easy to see why some affiliates have allowed themselves to be shortsighted when it comes to their site’s features.
Those that are successful are unlikely to focus considerable time and effort on creating new features for their sites when there’s no immediate need to do so. This is time that could be spend negotiating new deals, tweaking content, adding new brands to their sites and other tasks where a correlation between effort and income can be seen much more immediately.
Add to this the fact that few other affiliates have taken it upon themselves to reinvent the wheel and you begin to see why the case for simply maintaining sites is strong in the eyes of affiliates.
But in an increasingly crowded marketplace it’s becoming more important than ever to affiliate webmasters identify their USP and highlight that feature or aspect of the site. The problem for the majority of iGaming affiliates with this will be that they have no USP.
Buccioli adds: “I suppose that in the past it was ‘easy’ to make money with affiliate marketing and very few affiliates had original ideas anyway.
“The affiliate masses all went for what they perceive to be a trend: tips, industry news, SEO, social networks. But the affiliates that are successful in creating sites that are well known and respected as a brand are the ones that are passionate about what they do.”
Being passionate about the subject may well prove to be crucial to the future success of affiliates. However it hasn’t always been quite so clear cut. On one hand there are affiliates such as Ian Simkins who have a genuine passion for what they write about and have been very successful in doing so.
On the other hand there is affiliates like Bryan Bailey, who works closely with Simkins. He admitted that he simply fell into the online casino industry having previously had little interest in the area.
But regardless of your passion for the subject matter, the user experience that is provided to users is ultimately what will make or break a site.
Many iGaming sites provide reviews, beginner’s guides, game guides, match previews and other content depending on their sector. Many may feel that this is where a glass ceiling exists as there are only so many different aspects of a product like casinos or bingo that will attract interest.
Here is where the relatively recent idea of content marketing could come to the fore as it works on the basis that sites create content that is of interest to their users, regardless of if it directly relates to the principle topic. Avoiding fraud on the internet, for example, may be a topic of interest to people who are looking to deposit their hard earned cash online.
Another way of providing some extra value to your users is by personalising the site to them. After all, a user is going to be much more inclined to return to a site where they know things are set out specifically for them as opposed to one which may not even hold the information they require.
Co-founder of Optimus Performance Marketing Bruce Clayton had his say on personalisation in the affiliate space in Figaro Digital magazine. Here he explained his belief that personalisation is very much underused by affiliates and and that it can be a valuable tool in standing out from the crowd.
He explained: “The value to publishers that employ personalisation is clear: enhanced revenues and loyalty by owning more of the relationship with the consumer.”
For iGaming affiliates, it’s loyalty which is key. Should a casino player have already used an affiliate site to find an online casino, counting on them to return to the same affiliate site in order to find a new casino should they need one would be a huge win for affiliates.
It raises the issue of repeat business, something which is underrated as a metric when it comes to gambling sites.
Ways of encouraging this repeat business through personalisation vary with examples needing to be taken from industries other than online gambling. Daily deal companies tend to be the innovators in this sector and iGaming affiliates would do well to learn from the way in which these sites forge relationships with their users.
But examples of being innovative can also be found closer to home. Cast a look at NetEnt, who judging by their recent collection awards are the current leaders in iGaming innovation. Without doing anything radical they managed to increase their market share exponentially in recent times. The reason for this surge in popularity is just good design – a simple idea but, judging by the appearance of many affiliate sites, one that isn’t deemed worthy of much effort.
These are just a few possible areas in which affiliates could delve into the depths of innovation. Unfortunately though, as with most things in life there is no blueprint. Its very much a case of finding the best fit for your needs, or more importantly, your users’ needs.
Buccioli concludes: “These days you need to know what the customers want. And for an affiliate, the customers are the players, not the operators as many seem to think.
“Get to know your players and stop following trends. That’s my solution to remain in an increasingly competitive market.”