Difficult but critical: Reducing abandonment during onboarding

May 19, 2023

Declan Raines, Head of US Gaming at TransUnion, discusses why it is hard but vitally important.

Friction-free onboarding helps online sportsbooks retain players and boost revenue in a highly competitive market. When mobile sports betting launched in New York in January, thousands of bettors raced to online sportsbooks. Unfortunately, on some platforms, they experienced technical issues such as login errors, the inability to place a bet, make a deposit, cash out and more. These frictions in the player experience can lead to consumers abandoning one sportsbook for another. In today’s on-demand world, consumers expect fast, convenient and secure digital experiences in all their interactions, including mobile sports betting. They demand instant transactions, grow impatient when filling out online forms, are hesitant to provide too much information and have no qualms about abandoning your site for a competitor.Friction during registration deters players from continuing on your platform. However, online gaming operators must weigh offering a seamless onboarding process against the need for robust AML and KYC checks. Some operators may think a seamless player experience must come at the expense of fraud prevention, but with the right tools and strategies, online sportsbooks can find a balance between protecting against fraud and ensuring a quick and seamless player experience.

What leads to player abandonment in online gaming?Think about the last time you were using an online retailer. While shopping, you add a few items to the cart but lose patience when asked to fill in a large amount of personal information required to checkout. Deciding it’s too high, you leave the items in the cart and exit the site. Player abandonment is the same as exiting without paying for the items in your cart. The initial contact between a potential player and an online sports betting operator is crucial. If there are problems, the would-be player will likely abandon the attempt and move to another platform. Lengthy ID verification checks, unclear instructions, a reluctance to share too much personal information and technical glitches are just a few things adding friction to a player’s ability to place a bet.

Despite operators investing large sums of money toward driving new sign-ups to their platforms, player abandonment is estimated to be near 70% in the online gambling industry, despite hefty bonus offers. Mobile sports bettors typically visit with a specific bet in mind, which adds to their impatience with any roadblocks. If they cannot complete the process, they may miss the window to place the bet. For example, you’re getting ready to watch a football game and decide to wager on the game. You receive an enticing bonus offer from one online sportsbook, so you create an account. Because the game starts in a few minutes, if an authentication error or problem with your deposit occurs, you’ll likely abandon the process or try another operator because you have limited time. After a poor experience, a player’s probability of returning to the platform again is low, especially if they didn’t encounter friction with another sportsbook.

Fraud and frictionAs online sports betting grows in the US, it’s attracted the attention of cybercriminals. TransUnion’s 2022 Global Digital Fraud Trends Report saw gaming fraud rise 33% in one year. Online betting platforms are attractive fraud targets because fraudsters target free money. Sports betting platforms must verify players’ identities and ensure they aren’t underage, using stolen information, attempting to open multiple accounts or money laundering. Unfortunately, most authentication procedures add friction to the sign-up process to ensure security, making for a not-so-seamless experience if an error occurs or authentication fails.Consumers are willing to endure some friction for security – 68% of consumers rank security as their top concern when creating an online account. With fraud growing in all industries, most consumers, especially younger generations, are cyber-savvy and understand the need for fraud protection. While players are willing to endure some friction for security, they still want a seamless and fast onboarding process. However, online sportsbooks still need to ensure the player attempting the account is a real person and that the information is accurate.

Preventing player abandonmentEvery time a player leaves your platform, you lose a retention opportunity and must compete against other brands for the customer. Faster and simpler onboarding equals more players. There are tools and strategies to help make onboarding quicker, and smoother. Many vendors have access to deep and robust data to confirm whether the information provided to open a new betting account is accurate – use them. If the vendor doesn’t have access to public data, verifying a person’s identity becomes more difficult. You need access to as much data as possible to have the best chance of reducing abandonment. For example, DraftKings improved its onboarding process by verifying as much information as possible before asking players to provide it. The platform often uses multiple databases to confirm players’ names, ages and last four digits of their Social Security numbers. DraftKings only asks players to submit the missing data. Identity verification tools can also automatically detect and fix data entry errors or typos, saving the platform from having to contact you.

Stay ahead of the gameA lot of money goes into acquiring customers, so every second counts. Every field in your registration form is essential to get new users to sign up for your platform instead of your competitor. Operators that strike the balance between security, speed and efficiency will see better returns on their marketing investment. Indeed, seamless onboarding and reducing abandonment are key components to success


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