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The incorporation of social features into the betting and gaming experience has been on the rise in recent years, whether that’s through in-game chats, group bets and even gamification. We take a look at whether this trend is here to stay.

Participants:

Lauren Wood, head of brand marketing, PlayStar Casino

Chris Scicluna, chief executive officer, Livespins 

Jean-Pierre Houareau, CEO at Live Solutions

NEXT: We’ve seen more betting and gaming companies look towards the incorporation of social features into their offering. Why do you think this is becoming a more popular form of engagement? Is this trend here to stay?

Lauren Wood: Players expect more out of their entertainment than they have done previously.  In the gambling industry, providing social features not only benefits the customer experience, but we also see better retention rates, site duration and brand loyalty.  That’s why these types of initiatives are such a huge focus for PlayStar, it sets us aside from other brands and are hugely popular with our patrons.

Chris Scicluna: Because this is a core aspect of the entertainment experiences that consumers now want to engage with. Consumers want to be able to share experiences with friends, family and even strangers as it brings a whole new dimension to the activity. If you look outside of the online gambling industry, other entertainment providers have put social interaction at the core of their offerings.

Streaming, for example, now has watch parties where people can tune into the same movies as their friends while if you look at the mobile game charts, it’s the massively multiplayer titles that dominate. Is this a trend that’s here to stay? Absolutely. As Millennials and Gen Zers become the core audience for online casinos and sportsbooks, the demand for special interaction is only going to increase. This is the connected video game generation that has grown up with social media and smartphones, so on-tap social engagement is a part of their everyday life. 

Jean-Pierre Houareau: The rise of social features in betting and gaming can be attributed to a few key factors: The online side of the industry has traditionally viewed gambling as a very solitary activity but is starting to realise the social nature of online gambling: People have always enjoyed the social aspects of betting, discussing picks with friends, celebrating wins and commiserating over losses. Online platforms are catching up by offering features like multiplayer games, chat, videochat and group bets, making the entire experience more engaging. Features such as tournaments, leaderboards and general gamification add a layer of competition, making the whole betting experience more exciting. It’s not just about the potential win; it’s about bragging rights and climbing the ranks.

Social interaction fosters a sense of community. People are more likely to return to a platform where they can connect with others who share their interests. This can be especially effective for engaging with Millennials and GenZ players who are more accustomed to online social interaction and multiplayer gaming.

NEXT: How do social features elevate both the competitiveness and entertainment value of betting? And what implications does this have for user retention?

Lauren Wood: Leaderboard and tournaments offer a sense of competition and accomplishment, bringing an extra layer of excitement to gaming that we haven’t seen before. If you can deliver a simple product that feels rewarding, then players are going to be more engaged with the promotion and your brand.  With the addition of achievements and milestones, you still get that positive experience even without necessarily winning a prize. 

At PlayStar we offer a range of these types of rewards which our players can enjoy just by playing their favourite casino games.  Our leaderboards, for example, are hugely popular with our VIPs as they compete against each other to win ‘money can’t buy’ experiences.  This has a great impact on our retention rates as people who find a site socially rewarding are likely to return. I think it also helps to build an emotional connection too, the feeling that PlayStar gets me and rewards me.

Chris Scicluna: Deep down, there is a competitive streak in us all and we love it when it is brought out by an experience that we are engaging with. Tournaments and leaderboards are a great way of doing this in the online casino space, with both adding another dimension to the experience. Livespins brings in another element, too.

We have developed an innovative bet behind system that means players can not only watch their favourite streamer but also bet behind the action taking place across the reels. This creates a group bet and a shared player experience, with additional social interaction provided via the chat function with players able to communicate with the streamer and each other throughout. They can also drop reactions, emojis and GIFs. This deeper, richer experience keeps players engaged for much longer, boosting retention and ultimately the LTV of each player. Ultimately, it’s about creating a community around the experience instead of it being a solitary activity. 

Jean-Pierre Houareau: Social features in betting and gaming can significantly elevate competitiveness, entertainment value, excitement and ultimately, user retention. Live chats & tournaments create a sense of rivalry between players. End users can discuss strategies and insights with others in live chat or compete directly in tournaments against one another. Seeing their name climbing the leaderboard adds to that sense of achievement.

The addition of group bets introduces a layer of friendly competition too. End users can root for each other’s success and enjoy the shared experience of winning or losing together.  Live Chats & Leaderboards can be entertaining in themselves. Bettors can share predictions, banter with other fans and react to events in real time, making the entire experience more dynamic. 

Tournaments & Group Bets transform betting into a more interactive experience. It’s not just about winning or losing individual bets; it’s about proving themselves as the best or celebrating a group victory.  Social features foster a sense of community. Users connect with others who share their passion for betting, creating a reason to return to the platform and engage with like-minded people.

The social aspects make betting more engaging and interactive. Users are more likely to stay interested and come back for the social connection and shared experience, especially when compared to a purely solo betting experience.

NEXT: Is there a specific demographic that engages more with the social side of betting?

Lauren Wood: I think the younger audiences are much savvier and expectant of these features, but they appeal across all demographics.  Our players want the feel of being in a real casino but from the comfort of their own home, that’s why our live casino offering is so popular.  It’s all about how we enhance that experience even further through gamification, leaderboards, and missions etc. I think the key to driving this is really understanding your audience and offering a personalised approach. 

Chris Scicluna: Speaking specifically about Livespins, we can see that it has the greatest appeal among Millennial and Gen Z players. As I’ve touched on already, these players have grown up with connected game consoles, social media and smartphones and are used to interactive experiences, gamification and social sharing. These are the people who have been swept up by the streaming revolution that has passed through the online casino and slots space, and with Livespins, they can access a product and experience that turns streaming from passive to active entertainment.

But we are also seeing more traditional players strap in and enjoy the socially-charged experience that Livespins provides. Ultimately, mass market adoption will occur and as an industry, we just need to educate players unfamiliar with social betting as to what it is, how it works and why it turns the entertainment factor up to the max. 

Jean-Pierre Houareau: Yes, there is a demographic that tends to engage more with the social features of betting: Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in a highly social online world. They are comfortable interacting with others online, sharing their opinions, and engaging in friendly competition. They are more likely to see betting as a social activity and be drawn to platforms that offer features like chat, tournaments, and group bets. 

However, to appeal to a wider audience, the gambling industry should consider some strategies: 

Offer a range of social features to cater to different preferences. Some users might enjoy the casual atmosphere of a general chatroom, while others might prefer the high-stakes competition of a tournament. Ensure social features are easy to access and navigate for all users. Additionally, have clear moderation policies in place to maintain a safe and respectful environment for everyone.

While competition can be a draw, highlight the other benefits of social features. Promote the sense of community, shared experiences, and the opportunity to connect with like-minded people. Provide resources and tutorials on how to use social features responsibly. This can help users who might be new to online betting or hesitant to engage with the social aspects.

NEXT: Are social-led features the key to emulating the social dynamics of the land-based space in a digital environment?

Lauren Wood: Absolutely. People want to experience the feel of being in a real casino but in the comfort of their own home and providing that feeling of community and social interaction is key. I think what sets us apart is that we enhance their experience even further through gamification and personalised CRM & rewards all in real time. 

Chris Scicluna: There’s nothing quite like spinning slots or playing a hand of blackjack on the floor of a buzzing Las Vegas casino. And while online and mobile play offers unrivalled convenience, it does lack the unique atmosphere that comes with land-based play. Online casinos and game providers are going to great lengths to bring social engagement to the experiences and games they offer. Of course, providers such as Livespins are also playing their part.

We are proud to be a pioneer of socially charged casino experiences and to be helping operators, providers and players maximise the potential and thrills that streaming offers. In fact, Livespins can be used to drive land-based players online for the first time with casino operators having brand ambassadors run streams directly from the casino floor. But it must be remembered that while online can’t offer the exact same social dynamics as land-based play, it does open up different and additional opportunities for social engagement.

The challenge here is for operators and suppliers to explore these opportunities and to keep bringing new products and experiences to the market. This is a challenge that Livespins has fully embraced. 

Jean-Pierre Houareau: At Live Solutions we absolutely know that social-led features can be a key element in replicating the social aspects of land-based casinos in the digital world. In our area of expertise, casino table games, we try to recreate a community feel giving the players the option to video, voice or text chat at the tables. The players can see other bettors’ actions in real time. We also keep the player numbers low so that the chats do not become chaotic. These features allow users to discuss bets, celebrate wins, and commiserate over losses together, just like in a land-based setting.

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