Online gambling or iGaming was already registering strong growth before 2020, thanks to the widespread adoption of smartphones and opening up of key markets like the United States in 2018. But the industry has received a shot in the arm with the increase in demand for online services after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marketing is the lifeblood of iGaming, particularly in the B2C segments where there is intense competition. The regulated markets are all heavily saturated, giving customers a surplus of options. Faced with a tough task ahead of them in customer acquisition, new iGaming startups have to rely largely on multiple online/offline channels.
Importance of Regulations on iGaming Marketing
Gambling is a very sensitive subject with highly negative connotations in many parts of the world. Offline marketing is strictly forbidden in many countries. Especially in unregulated markets, authorities usually forbid access to offline marketing channels like TV and magazines for iGaming companies.
Even in digital advertising, lack of regulations usually meant restricted access to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and most importantly, paid ads on search engines like Google.
Regulations bring much-needed clarity and legitimacy to the world of iGaming marketing. Access to multiple channels become easier after legalization and regulation of iGaming in a market. The UK is a great example of this phenomenon in action.
Let’s now examine the 4 main channels of customer acquisition for B2C iGaming startups and how they perform in regulated and unregulated markets:
Most online casino and betting brands have affiliate marketing programs. Websites specializing in online betting reviews and related fields enroll in these programs and promote these iGaming brands in return for a commission.
Within the affiliate channel, there are different focuses. Some sites provide reviews of casinos, others provide access to onuses supplied by the casinos and a lastly are affiliates that provide free to play versions of the slots available for real money play at the actual casino.
Affiliate marketing is very effective when targeting unregulated markets and those that forbid access to other channels like offline TV ads and Google ads. Their efficiency and ROI is greater in these situates, and somewhat less in regulated markets.
Smaller brands and startups can benefit more from affiliate marketing due to the budget factor. Big brands with deep pockets can afford more expensive channels of customer acquisition, including sponsorships of sports teams for example. As a more economical and flexible option, affiliate marketing is more accessible.
Search Engine Optimization
All online businesses have at least a small segment of their marketing mix dedicated to SEO. One of the oldest digital marketing practices in existence, SEO is all about bringing in traffic to your online website.
With iGaming businesses, Search Engine Optimization aims to get higher ranks on Google and other search engine results, bringing new customers to the website. While a popular option in markets where iGaming ads are prohibited for Google, success with SEO hinges on several other factors.
If there are many competing brands, particularly those with big marketing budgets, they can dominate the highly contested keywords. This used to be quite an issue in iGaming, where the number of target keywords and phrases are quite limited.
With the evolution of Google’s search algorithms, organic search results have gained importance in recent years. Using strategically placed blog posts and natural backlinks, even smaller iGaming startups can gain increased visibility online in highly competitive regulated markets.
For iGaming in 2020, media buying can involve both online and offline channels of customer acquisition. Unlike SEO and Affiliate marketing, media buying is usually a more passive form of customer acquisition. It is more about raising awareness about your brand among the target demographic, through ads on TV or online media like websites and social media.
Both online and offline versions of media buying are an option only in regulated markets for iGaming. Gambling-related ads are often strictly off-limits for TV channels and even social networks in many places.
But in places like the UK, ads can be placed on TV, subject to certain strict rules regarding timing. The problem with offline ads is often the cost involved – you need a pretty significant marketing budget and some serious branding efforts for it to be a viable option.
Online is a far more accessible option, particularly for startups in the B2C segments. Youtube channels and Twitch accounts, belonging to influencers are all great options, though the latter may fall under the purview of PPC (explained below) depending on how the payment system is structured.
Some folks confuse PPC with online media buying. In the latter, you pay in advance for the placement of the ad, regardless of how many customers are acquired. In PPC, the remuneration to the platform displaying your ad/link is determined by the actual number of people who visit your site after clicking that ad.
It is a more aggressive and results-driven approach to customer acquisition. Unlike media buying, it can also be more focused on the specific demographics of potential customers. Google ads are the most common example of PPC readily available online.
And much like media buying, PPC ads are also subject to gambling regulations. In iGaming-friendly markets, they are a very effective option of startups looking to attract customers without getting into the SEO rat race. But as always, the problem is one of access, depending on the local laws.