It’s human nature to err towards trying again, as opposed to trying different. It’s tempting to think that retail will return to normal if we just simply “try hard enough” to provide a necessary sense of safety, all the while not materially changing much else. This, to me, fails to take stock of what the pandemic really did – what effect it really had on players and retail ecosystems.
The pandemic broke down an age-old lore of gaming: the retail player does not want to be identified. If so, then how did such a material demographic move to play online? Surely they could not have without registering or going through full KYC.
It also smashed the biggest taboo of retail franchisees and agents: the fight to ring-fence the retail player away from online, shielding them from the sirens of igaming. The players are now out of the proverbial gates, and entirely aware of the digital experience.
So, what next? Is offering a warm, yet hygienic, hug going to be enough to bring retail back to where it stood in early 2020? Fat chance.
This would simply underestimate the players, in how tech-savvy they are, and how much they prefer a better, faster experience. Players expect digital experiences in the retail era to be smooth, fast, immersive and secure for them, and anything less than that will clearly not be good enough. Any investment or decision below this bar is simply a by-product of us (decision-makers) being too risk-averse, too anachronistic, too insecure.
The fact is that things won’t return to the old normal anyway. Players have already adapted to post-COVID reality in retail via online experience. There has been a shift in player behavior in favor of digital, by opting for online gaming and omni-channel services. Haven’t we all noticed how expedited checkouts, one-click payments and “tap and bet” betting has quickly become the new norm? Didn’t we all have doubts about self-service betting terminals, now considered normal if they handle 50% of all bets placed?
For me, the future of retail will likely be a seamless blend of bricks and clicks. How will this be achieved? Simply taking the extra operational step towards a cashless and self-service customer journey.
It’s not just COVID. Not feeling safe enough to line up, or exchange cash is just the symptom. Your cashier desk has long been overcrowded, by players waiting to place a bet in between virtual sports, in-play betting and paying a bill or topping up a mobile phone. Even with self-service terminals, the interaction starts with and returns to the cashier.
The next step is cashless and paperless. It moves towards the cashier-less or staff-less betting shops, an increasing talk even pre-COVID last year. The digital experience of cashless mobile tech is unique in what it offers when blended with self-service terminals, AWPs or VLTs. It turns time to the advantage, not the foe, of retail transactions. There’s no doubt that cashless betting on self-service terminals will fuel the transformation, revolutionising the retail betting landscape and the customer journey.
Payments experience is an integral part of the equation and should be in line with this. Digital cashless mobile wallets have a key part to play by meeting the need for safety and speed as part of the digitised, in-store convenience. Our OKTO.WALLET was developed as a game-changer of retail revitalisation. We are set to reduce the clunky element of extra steps in the betting process as our solution is available directly on Self-Service Betting Terminals.
Not only will it give players the freedom to bet on as fast as they wish, but it will also ensure that players receive their winnings straight back to their OKTO account, and are ready to place another bet instantly, as well as take the benefit of paperless experience, receiving notifications and betting receipts directly into their OKTO mobile app.
But this is not the entire story. No trend, storyline or strategy can be designed in a vacuum – and I’m saying this in reference to the omni-presence of the regulator. The regulator’s drive and requirements are the bigger, and sometimes more pressing, context. And in my opinion, this drive and requirement goes hand-in-hand with cashless and identified gaming. On the contrary, not identifying the player, not providing checks and balances, and not following what steps are already followed online, is simply adding fuel to the negative view of regulators on gaming halls and betting shops across Europe.
Mobile wallets satisfy the element of responsible gaming, while also identifying gaming activity. The important factor of full and proper supervision of self-service facilities in terms of safe gambling, money laundering, age verification is the extra element that OKTO.WALLET provides. OKTO provides a range of social responsibility tools to players through the app, from a strict age-verification process, self-exclusion, betting limits and profit and loss calculator tools that further enhance players’ protection.
Every touchpoint – before, during and after a player’s visit – determines if the customer returns. If this experience is fully cashless, mobile-first, fast and self-service, it breaks the glass ceiling and shouts – “It was just a great betting and payment experience. And, it was totally safe.”