Payments at CGS: ‘If customers don’t have choice they will go somewhere else’
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“Ease of use is everything” – when this comment was made by Belinda Alzner, VP of Product Management, ESPN BET and theScore Bet, she was referring chiefly to gaming, but it can relate to various payments verticals.

The payments teams at theScore and ESPN BET have been making it as efficient as possible as possible for customers to deposit and withdraw funds as part of an overall effort to simplify the customer experience. This is in recognition of increasing customer demand for quicker payments.

Customer choice is King

Fueled by the rapid digitalisation of global economies over recent years coupled with huge technological growth, customers now have a range of payment options available to them. The traditional methods of cash, debit and credit card remain, joined by new methods like tap-to-pay, digital wallets, account-to-account transfers, Open Banking and crypto.

With more convenience comes more expectations. Alzner made her comments whilst appearing on a panel at the Canadian Gaming Summit (CGS), joined by Sereena Boparai, Chief Revenue Officer at Clik2pay, and Umberto Corridori, Global SVP Gaming, Digital Payments at Nuvei.

“Players expect immediate settlement, regardless of deposit or withdrawal they want to access their funds immediately,” Corridori remarked.

For betting companies, providing quick deposits into online accounts, and perhaps even more significantly facilitating quick withdrawals from gaming accounts into customer wallets or bank accounts, is a vital competitive edge.

Firms which do not do so risk putting themselves at a disadvantage. As Corridori put it, making customers wait too long for a payment is ‘not sustainable for this industry’, as ‘many players make decisions based on many different factors’.

This principle extends from enabling quick transactions to offering as wide a variety of methods as possible. As stated above, many customers have grown accustomed to the digitalisation of finance and banking, and the various convenient methods this has brought with it.

CGS took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada’a only regulated betting market with a licensing system open to private enterprises. Two years after market launch, and in a highly developed and digitised economy, customers entering this space will have expectations – the same can be said of other developed or mature markets globally.

“If customers don’t have the method that they want to use, they will go elsewhere,” Click2Pay’s Boparai remarked. “There is an incredible amount of choice, if they don’t have it with you they will go somewhere else.”

The frictionless future

A term often seen in the context of payments, particularly payments in igaming, is the word frictionless. In the UK, this has been seen repeatedly in the context of the Gambling Act review White Paper, specifically the affordability checks mandated by the legislative overhaul, set to be introduced in  the country later this year.

Speaking within a Canadian context, Bopari and Corridori both referenced the importance of frictionless payments – however, instead of referring to affordability as in the UK, frictionless in other markets refers to the ease of deposit and withdrawal.

“Trust is very hard to gain and very easy to lose,” Bopari said. “There’s a lot of choice out there.have a frictionless experience you need to facilitate that with the consumer.”

Corridori also noted the importance of data and security to this process, adding: “Users want a frictionless experience, but they also want to heavily rely on depositing and withdrawing funds in a trustful and secure way.”

With various mentions of customer choice, ease of payments and security, it is hard not to mention crypto. For gaming, crypto payments account for a large segment of overall betting volume.

Though still dwarfed by fiat currency, crypto’s standing as a popular payment method among some segments of the global consumerbase across various sectors is hard to ignore. The issue in most cases, however, is regulation.

In many cases, including across much of North America, crypto payments remain a grey market – particularly for the gaming sector. There remains a big gap between crypto ownership and use for payments, to its acceptance by gaming operators, to regulatory acceptance of either.

Representing one of Canada’s largest gaming firms on the panel, Alzner said: “We want to understand the consumer appetite and see where the larger landscape is heading, and meet that within a gaming perspective.”

Local expectations

A final observation, that being the importance of localisation. Gaming is an international industry, with multinational operators active across various markets, no different to banking, finance, manufacturing, travel, sports, and countless other industries.

Firms such as this will inevitably come across varying payment preferences among customers, as well as different technological standpoints and regulatory conditions, spread throughout the different countries they are active in.

Looking at Canada, Interac is the most popular payments provider across the country – Boparai asserts that it is “faster than the traditional methods of e-transaction”.

“Localised payments methods are increasingly important depending on the jurisdiction you’re operating in,” she remarked. “Interac is huge in Canada, nine in 10 Canadians have used it.”

The importance of localisation ultimately links back to the significance of differentiation. If a company wants to make its way in a national market, especially a digitised industry, it’s vital  local payments expectations are met, whilst also providing a diverse range of methods to cater to all tastes.

This means not just offering the methods, but considering the operation of said methods. As Alzner puts it, “there is having the method they are looking for but also giving them the online shopping experience they want”. 

The ESPN Bet and theScore VP continued: “Interac is such a popular Canadian product that you have to have it, it’s a non starter. You then need to build on the user experience after that, the expectations are well established.

“Interac is one thing, but if they’re paying with a credit card and there’s fees, you need to be upfront about that. Executing the method often is more important than the method itself.”