An omni-channel approach to Africa
In a recent interview, Head of Marketing Maria Bashkevich met with iGaming Future magazine to talk about the African market. Maria discussed the approaches businesses need to take if they wish to effectively benefit the African iGaming market's needs and be successful in this huge and unique betting landscape, as well as insights on the continent's future.
It can be challenging to break into emerging markets like Africa, notes Maria, especially when considering the wide range of consumer and market trends on the continent. “The African market is more complex and diverse than it’s generally assumed. Many operators mistakenly believe that a single strategy will work throughout the continent, so they plan to enter several countries at once, without preparing their project for the specifics of each country”.
COVID's effect on the African iGaming market
The impact was the same everywhere, with some differences Maria remarked. Like most of the world, major sporting events were canceled. Most African countries enforced curfews, which is noteworthy in Africa and one of the substantial differences; with retail still being hugely popular in many African countries, this especially impacted the gambling sector. Also, there were significant economic losses due to the loss of jobs.
Things looked pretty dire from the pandemic onset and lockdowns, and the view was quite negative. With an evident decline due to market restrictions. The industry attempted to adapt quickly by moving offline to online, diversifying portfolios with Esports, virtual sports, bingo, slots, and a few changes in regulations, etc. But as time passed, the region witnessed the reawakening of the industry.
When it comes to the future of the market in Africa, what happened over this challenging time could be a catalyst for change. An acceptance of more diversification and the need for moving online. This difficult period has propelled operators to the importance of transformations of their business, which can only contribute to speeding up the evolution and development of the iGaming sector. It is unclear how long the effects of the pandemic will last.
Verticals and factors of growth
In Africa, sports betting and lotteries have a solid presence, Maria highlights.
“The African market is well-known for its strong sports betting and lottery verticals. Acknowledging this, we, as a sportsbook provider, are constantly striving to improve our betting offering to ensure our clients benefit to the fullest. Right now, for example, we have more than 1,500 football matches for pre-live betting — both top and lower-tier leagues."
In terms of growth, there has been a slow shift to online. However, this change to online is likely to pick up momentum. It's no real secret that more and more people have access to mobile phones these days. Consequently, seeing the widespread adoption of mobile devices, the move to online will naturally happen.
Betshops are a cultural part of the social fabric in many African regions and will always remain and will continue to enjoy widespread appeal. Along with other existing industry trends, having both an offline and an online presence is where things are headed; an increasing number of operators are moving towards Omni-channel solutions.
According to Maria, undertaking all the necessary research to ensure that the product is localized to its full potential and within all legal operating regulations is an important process for operators seeking to enter the African market. Having a dependable partner with demonstrated experience operating clients in those markets and a solution with flexible localization capabilities to target those markets is critical. Localization in this region includes integrating popular local payment methods, particularly mobile payments, which is essential. Other requirements include supporting popular leagues, providing effective agent solutions, the local language, and offering adequate Omni-channel solutions. Operational strategy and performance play a critical role in the success of generating and remaining in these markets. Alternatively, a customized solution will facilitate the process and save money and time.
African retail market and the move online
Maria explains the online market and its development.
“If we’re talking about trends, I’d say we can see the slow transition to online or the growth of hybrid betting enterprises. We see how countries are slowly but surely opening up to online and mobile payments. Taking into account the existing trend of population growth, the growth of the young generation and increasing mobile penetration, I’d say that in the next decade we’ll see significant growth in online betting in the region”.
There will be differences across Africa depending on the community you reside in, and your reasons for choices. In addition, there will be disparities throughout Africa, from tradition to insufficient digital infrastructure. The process is anything from a simple move to online. In reality, Uplatform feels that an Omni-channel solution, a strategic marketing approach, and education have the potential to convert certain players. However, it is not a procedure that can be completed in a single day.
Technological advancements, economic and regulatory development, and the growth of the younger demographic in the region will make it necessary for betshops to have an online presence in the near future. However, the entry might prove to be very costly and there will be high competition. Therefore, there is no reason to sit idle and let the competition get a headstart.
Maria's thoughts on strategies for betshops.
“I think going all-in online would be a big mistake for the local brands that have betshops across the whole country, both big towns and small villages. But to have both an online and offline presence would be a great move to attract new audiences online, and show the existing player base the beauty and simplicity of betting online, while still keeping their beloved social hub – the betshop. Also, having the right agent scheme would greatly benefit these countries too.”
The omni-channel gaming experience
The omni-channel gaming experience for players and operators should be simple, fluid, and effective, Maria emphasizes. As such, it should provide seamless and consistent experiences across all betting channels. It should offer one account across retail stores and online, a shared wallet, and a loyalty program. For instance, this helps the bettor conveniently deposit funds offline and place bets online or register and place bets from their phone. From the operator's side, they benefit from unified administrative tools, a user-friendly interface for cashiers, and seamless, effective operations. Moreover, a well-designed sportsbook should be coupled with high-quality tech offerings, adequate support, and a comprehensive sportsbook selection. Our approach to creating our solutions at Uplatform reflects this view.