Will Whitehead, commercial director of mkodo.

Will Whitehead, commercial director of mkodo, reflects on a year of significant challenges, before donning a distinct US focus to look into the difficulty of standing out from the crowd among the gold rush.

With 2021 coming to an end, it is time to reflect on the year that has passed and also get the crystal ball out to look ahead at what 2022 might bring. It’s been another fantastic 12 months for the industry which has seen us adapt to the continuing challenges brought by the global pandemic, several significant M&As have changed the competitive landscape, new markets have opened, and of course, a focus on regulations.

Perhaps the biggest topic on the 2021 agenda has been the continuing opening up and developments in the emerging US market, with most European operators and suppliers currently exploring opportunities across the pond, given the almost limitless potential of this untapped region as several jurisdictions this year have approved online sports betting and igaming.

For us at mkodo, our focus is on how we can create digital products for operators, particularly iOS and Android apps, that are perfectly tailored to the local audiences. From a tech point of view, the US doesn’t differ from Europe as mobile penetration and network connection rates are high.

In fact, the smartphone market in the US is one of the world’s largest, with more than 290 million users. Despite being very tech-savvy and using apps for everyday tasks, online gambling is new for most Americans, and this is something that needs to be taken into consideration when developing digital products for the market. 

With global industry players rushing to the US, we will see a wave of new operators enter the market, but the products and offerings are bound to be very similar.

A customised and differentiated front-end experience, therefore, becomes crucial to stand out from the competition and operators will have to invest more in that area, consulting suppliers like mkodo to support that strategy.

” As a sector, we are still quite far behind other industries in fully optimising the user experience”

Gambling has traditionally been more experiential in the US, with many having visited a land-based casino where the entertainment factor is high, and the social aspect plays an important role. To ensure that players feel at home online, their journey needs to replicate that feel – and that’s where a good and tailored front-end comes in, to ensure products better appeal to local players. 

This is not a difficult task if you engage with a supplier that understands the importance of front-end experiences and focuses on areas such as UX and UI, functional user journeys and the entertainment factor, differentiating against the competition with best-of-breed software, functionality and accessibility. 

Another option for brands to ensure they stand out from the crowd and cater to a wide audience is to offer different experiences to different user groups.

For example, one app could cater to the VIP player who is less invested in the front-end experience and just wants the best odds and great performance, while another app would be for the casual player who wants to have fun with the most popular sports and events easily available.

As many US customers will be complete beginners, this should also be considered, and any digital product should be easy to use and comprehend. 

The buzz around the US is set to continue next year as even more states look to regulate online betting and gaming. With new market openings and increased regulation comes challenges but it also pushes the industry to think outside the box to increase its competitive capabilities. As a sector, we are still quite far behind other industries in fully optimising the user experience and utilising the technology available. 

The US is set to be extremely competitive with many operators entering the fray and that will bring innovation, which will help the industry evolve even further and improve the products we can offer customers. This is something which we at mkodo look forward to being a part of – next year and beyond.