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.
For more African market insights, read Maria’s full interview here.
Tailored flexibility - CasinoBeats exclusive
Uplatfrom entered the iGaming market with the strategic intention to provide a completely flexible client-focused approach with the ability to offer tailored solutions to enter and perform in all markets using a unique multi-featured platform.
Kate Romanenko, Uplatform's Head of Games, spoke with CasinoBeats about partnering with Uplatform and various other topics, including Mergers and Acquisitions, Live casinos, and what Uplatform envisions for the platform in 2022.
“We are looking into settling in the industry as a trusted long-term brand and providing maximum flexibility for our clients as we expect the industry to keep changing more and more in the future”.
Mentioned Kate and we couldn’t agree with her more.
The entire team at Uplatform takes great pride in establishing long-term relationships with our clients by applying our core values to every project. We believe that Uplatform is a long-standing platform partner providing our clients with the personalized and significant advantages they need to prosper, maximizing their investment, remaining innovative, and delivering targeted, relevant, engaging, and entertaining products in any market they choose to enter. As the industry rapidly changes and the world moves closer to regulated gaming and the implementation of specific region-specific rules and taxation laws. Uplatform's unique offering has been developed with an emphasis on supporting regulated markets through a comprehensively versatile strategy that provides our clients with all the vital products, tools, and solutions and a dedicated client-focused approach for optimized business performance that promotes sustainable growth and success - such as our massive sportsbook Usports, and extensive and diverse online casino games portfolio Ucasino and for fully optimizing the performance of business Utools to enable smooth and effective operations all in the one place. This comprehensive approach helps maintain a long-term relationship and develops into a valuable asset for our clients, bringing with it the benefits of practical knowledge from industry professionals, flexibility, reliability, and an all-around competitive edge.
Sharing her thoughts on development of online casino industry, Kate adds:
“Online gambling is growing as an entertainment vertical in general. Live games are a great leisure activity with social elements, so it definitely remains to be popular among players”.
The online casino gaming industry has undergone some transformations in recent years, but Live casino games may be the most prevalent. Even though this is not a new concept, it has been around for a while; it may have suffered a stigma of entertainment reserved for Bricks and mortar casinos only. However, with true-to-life visuals, HD broadcast quality, and high-speed internet coupled with people spending more time at home. Live casino games have proved to be quite a revolution, an enjoyable playing experience complete with social interaction.
People have realized how close they can get to a real-life casino experience, that there is a massive demand for more live casino gaming content. What began as a niche gambling option has grown in popularity as a must-have entertainment option for providers.
What to expect from Uplatform in 2022? Kate has a definite answer:
“Online gambling is growing as an entertainment vertical in general. Live games are a great leisure activity with social elements, so it definitely remains to be popular among players”.
Our teams were extremely diligent and working hard, fine-tuning every aspect of our business from A-Z in 2021. From HR, Administration, and compliance to the design and technical elements tweaking everything to precision. 2021 also allowed us to attend several live events and the chance to successfully showcase our first stand at iGB Amsterdam. We were all very ecstatic with our iGB exhibit, which proved to be very beneficial and productive connecting in person with new and existing partners and providing the opportunity to show what Uplatform has to offer. Heading into 2022, we plan to keep on moving forward on our 2021 progress. We have many brilliant, enthusiastic, and visionary people working for us at Upltatform, so we never run out of motivation or quality strategies. We plan to expand our clients and brand presence into more regulated markets, improve our portfolio and offering, and keep a close eye on new product innovations and industry trends. Also, we intend to continue with promoting Uplatform at more live events, so we hope the global situation sees some more positives in the way of travel in the new year.
Read the full interview here.
Invaluable experience - Kate discusses Uplatform with G3
Kate, Head of Games at Uplatform, sat down with G3 in a wide-ranging interview to discuss what it was like entering as a new player in a competitive industry, just right when COVID shook the world. She also discussed the all-star line-up of products Usports, Ucasino, and Utools, as well as Uplatform's long-term aspirations.
Here's a snapshot of what Kate had to say during her interview:
Standing out in an already competitive market
“We are serious with our goals – delivering our client's success and prosperity”.
It's no secret that our industry is very competitive. As a consequence, Uplatform is continuously on the lookout for what's new and innovative in the market and what would be advantageous to our clients. As well as interacting with them to identify what they truly require. Among Uplatform's stand-out qualities are, importantly, the fact that the majority of our team have extensive iGaming experience, and, subsequently, the platform is still in its early stages, resulting in fewer adverse experiences for our clients.
Covid and Uplatform's strategy
“Many of the issues that other platforms were dealing with were magnified double for us”.
Kate added, Uplatform was released just before the Covid pandemic. So in so way, it pulled the breaks on what we had just developed. At the start, it was quite a challenge working together on a project with everyone located remotely. However, because of the experience and backgrounds of the entire team, we were able to accomplish and develop something new and unique, and we believe that Uplatform is progressing rapidly because of this. Our strategy is that treat each operator individually and distinctly and as if they are the first client, which definitely adds to the uniqueness of partnering with Uplatform.
“The hero is Uplatform itself, where you can get all the services together”.
In response to a question concerning the flagship products, Kate stated: the line-up of products includes Utools, our all-in one suite of services, as well as, Usports, Ucasino, Ugames, with the latter three products to be offered as standalone solutions.
We're confident that Usports will succeed, Kate mentions, since it is a bespoke product that combines human and machine intelligence technologies. It offers unique betting odds that are thoroughly reviewed and managed by a large team. Ucasino is a games aggregator; ''I'm personally responsible for this division. My mission is to collect the most outstanding content available and acquire the most exciting games and rates so that our clients are completely satisfied''. Ugames is an in-house games provider and is offered as part of Ucasino, primarily developing quick (instant) games and other RNG games. Utools is a collection of comprehensive back-office solutions, analytics, reports, including many other quality tools that ensure operators have all the necessary data to operate their business successfully.
“The main trend throughout the industry must be growth, I believe”.
There is a trend emerging in playing casino games, Kate says, perhaps because it is an evolving vertical, or maybe because players want to experience that live casino feeling. We can also see that the slot players are especially active.
“We understand trust and “word of mouth” comes not immediately but requires some time and we took on the challenge”.
It is a long-term undertaking; therefore, we are doing everything we can to keep our operators satisfied and maintain the excellent standards we rely on. The target is, of course, to be outstanding, create a unique identity, and continue to improve our product and client partnerships so that we can become a reliable, trusted brand on the market and, eventually, cease investing in traditional B2B marketing strategies.
Be sure to head over to G3 to read the whole of Kate's interview. Discover more about Kate's roles as Head of Games in the full Q&A, where she reveals what it is like to be back in attendance at Live events, Uplatform's immediate plans, and her perspective on how the Covid pandemic has helped the world evolve.
You can read the whole of Kate's interview here.
Leading insights - Focus magazine interview exclusive
Just after the iGB Live! Amsterdam exhibition, the well-known international iGaming media Focus, spoke with Maria Bashkevich, Head of Marketing, about the Covid pandemic, what gambling operators have learned from it, as well as insights into the LATAM market.
Lessons from covid
“The possibility to adapt quickly to the fast-changing reality was the key in the first quarter of the pandemic”.
Covid presented quite an unfavorable time for everyone, Maria remarked. Nevertheless, the most important lesson that everyone involved in the industry got out of this period, not just for the gambling operators, was versatility; internal processes, HR policies, marketing campaigns, and general operations must be responsive and flexible. Covid also created significant changes in the market in certain regions, which aided in accelerating the shift to online. A crucial lesson for certain operators was deciding on their transition to online to ensure that business was moving forward and generating income.
Resumption of live events
“iGB Amsterdam showed us that there is a demand for “new” players in the market”.
Shortly before the pandemic struck, we joined the market, so there were no live events to attend, spread the word, and promote Uplatform in the traditional in person format that everyone is accustomed to. With the advent of the world opening up again and the announcement of live expos, it was critical for us as a new player to attend live events. And our hard-working team was eager to get out there to present what Uplatform represents, which proved very valid at iGB Live! Amsterdam. Maria adds that there was so much activity and interest at our stand in Amsterdam, it was an incredibly productive and eventful few days. The whole Uplatform team was run off their feet, meeting with partners, making new connections, reinforcing brand loyalty, and showcasing everything Uplatform offers. You can read how we’d celebrated the return of the offline events here.
LATAM market prospects
“Each country in LATAM has its unique requests as the gambling culture, playing preferences, and infrastructure is completely different, so the interest from LATAM is with the flexibility and adaptability Uplatform presents”.
Maria highlighted that the innovative solutions and the extensive and diverse range of content, an expert team willing and capable of taking on any project are particularly appealing to LATAM clients. Also, every region in LATAM has its own gaming culture, playing tastes, and infrastructure, which sees Uplatform as a very attractive solution due to the variety and customization Uplatform offers. Uplatform benefits greatly in such regions like LATAM because it provides an all-in-one solution that can address all characters and requirements of the market.
These were just a few of the highlights from Maria's Focus interview. Learn more about Maria's thoughts on each of the topics discussed in-depth, as well as the future of Uplatform here.
Akarshit on The Future of African Gaming
Akarshit Mandhotra, Uplatform's Business Development Manager, in a recent magazine for igamingfuture.com was actively involved, along with several other industry professionals to share their viewpoints and expertise on the African gaming market and address some of it the regional challenges affecting the industry.
“Poor internet connections and low internet speed is a big aspect that is limiting the African market's full potential. However, Uplatform is prepared for this”.
Although there are still issues with the quality of the digital infrastructure and slow internet, Africa’s emerging economies present exciting opportunities for iGaming and betting businesses online and the traditional retail betshops. Changing demographics and appetite for sports betting across the continent are just a few factors contributing to rising growth and potential.
To compensate for the lack of digitization, Uplatform has long-standing partnerships with local telecoms companies and developed a platform that enables bettors to place bets via SMS and Telegram. In addition, we also have available to the African market hundreds of payment alternatives, including popular local African payment methods for extra convenience.
Uplatform is prepared for such challenges as slow internet connections and limited access, acknowledging these difficulties and providing solutions to capitalize on the African market's full potential. Uplatform maintains support for these types of underdeveloped areas through our unique solutions, such as the option of utilizing an agent scheme enabling players more opportunities via placing bets with agents. Apps that provide our partners with convenient, fast-loading solutions that deliver an easy to access, user-optimized experience to their players.
Akarshit went on to say; with many operators forced to close their doors owing to restrictions and lockdowns, proactive operators who have made the switch to online have already shown to be sustainable. Throughout the pandemic, online platforms steadily gained popularity and continued to thrive.
“If you want to successfully launch a product in Africa, then bonuses are an absolute must have”.
Bonuses boost player engagement and loyalty, and Uplatform offers every type of incentive available to provide a high-quality betting experience. Offering bonus incentives such as match of the day, welcoming new players, birthdays, cashbacks, first-time deposit, and major live event streaming ensures new brands have the kickstart they need to capture the African market.
Moving forward Retail vs. Online
“Africa has a bright future, the market is actively developing, and Africa is the only region where the young population is increasing”.
Online is growing, but the retail sector with betshops still commands its market share. Attributable to the status of limited internet access and the overall digital landscape, retail continues to find strong demand in many African regions. African players enjoy all sorts of betting as long as the choices are easy and readily accessible. With a large young population, this includes a growing interest in Esports betting. However, there is a steady and considerable increase in online betting thanks to the ease of use and convenience of immediate payments and the extensive customizable betting possibilities available with mobile Apps. Due to the versatility of our Omnichannel solutions, Uplatform clients in African markets can enjoy the best of both worlds, providing players with a convenient and market-specific experience.
Read more about Uplatorm's insights via Akarshit's experienced eyes, as well as perspectives from other knowledgeable contributors, in The Future of African Gaming Magazine.
Akarshit talks Uplatform, the market, and future plans
During GAT EXPO 2021, our esteemed Business Development Manager, Akarshit Mandhotra, provided insights on Uplatform and its plans in the conversation with the prominent LATAM media specialized in the gambling industry - SoloAzar.
“We are already in the process of introducing our product to licensed markets”.
In a recent interview, Akarshit discussed the benefits of returning to live events and where Uplatform is heading. Our position is to strive to be globally well-known and continue Uplatfrom’s recognition as a reputable sportsbetting and casino platform supplier. Due to travel limitations during the last 18-24 months, this was preventing our team to connect with people in-person and hindering networking opportunities. Uplatform's goal is to form new partnerships and discuss news and updates of the sports betting and gambling market. This has proved very successful and beneficial so far; during EXPO meetings, most LATAM countries shared their strong desire to start new businesses and have shown interest in Uplatform.
“With Uplatform, we were able to encourage some operators to expand their products and establish an online offering”.
Akarshit continued: following the lockdowns and restrictions, numerous operations have already reopened throughout the world. Sustainability has already been demonstrated by operators willing to take a strong lead online. Throughout the pandemic, online platforms gained a more widespread acceptance and steady growth.
Path for the future
“The Uplatform team has very ambitious goals. We want to make our presence known by participating in multiple events around the world”.
Talking to SoloAzar, Akarshit discussed future company plans to further strengthen our unique offering and expand our global reach. Our team is constantly working to improve the platform, increase our sportsbook, including esports, toto, virtual sports, and casino products: live casino, slots, skill-based games, and expand partnerships and licenses. We plan to increase Uplatfrom's exposure by presenting our sportsbetting and casino solution at as many events as possible to develop new relationships and acquire vital market information that will result in valuable insights, collaborations, and a better knowledge of what clients want.
To learn more about Uplatorm's long-term plans. Read Akarshit's complete interview here.