The Power of Customer-Centricity: Lessons from a Product Leader's Journey
In today's data-driven world, predicting user behavior has become a crucial competitive advantage. In an interview with Gaming Eminence, Ian Tibot, the Chief Product Officer at Future Anthem, emphasizes the importance of prioritising customer needs by implementing customer-centric processes and structures, consolidating feedback, and forming a competent team to achieve a comprehensive roadmap. He also discusses the delicate balance between innovation and familiarity in the iGaming industry, advocating for the use of small-scale tests and smooth customer migration to a new platform. Ian stresses the significance of leveraging transactional data to construct real-time personalisation feeds for AI and using data to predict player behavior. Additionally, he shares his insights on the growth of sportsbook offerings in the UK and US markets and how emerging technologies might impact those markets.
GE) What processes and structures as a Chief Product Officer do you feel are important at an organisation to effectively understand, empathise and anticipate customer needs?
IT) I think that all organisations have to implement processes and structures that enable them to be customer centric in everything that they do and more importantly decide not to do.
The first step is to be really clear about who your customer truly is and understand this at both a market and personal level. Once you have a really clear view of this you can begin to put in place processes that allow you to empathise with these people, understand what they are trying to achieve, what their challenges are etc and then begin to anticipate how your product helps them achieve their objectives.
We are particularly focused on how we consolidate all customer feedback, as we use this as the origination point for ideas that the product team begin to focus on. For example we aim to speak with our clients every two weeks and ensure that we take the opportunity to meet face to face at industry events. These conversations are really important for us to gather product ideas and also validate our roadmap to ensure we are delivering valuable product improvements
GE) During your time at William Hill what unknown challenges and struggles did you face as your career progressed from Digital Procurement Manager up to Head of Product - Sportsbook? And how has that helped develop and shape your thought process moving forward?
IT) I really enjoyed my time at William Hill, I worked with some great people who I learnt a lot from in all of my positions over the years.
I believe my background within commercial roles really helped me make the transition into a product-focused role, as the core skills needed for negotiation (empathy, anticipation, a long term view) are very similar. When I had the opportunity to move into a product role I jumped at the chance to take more responsibility and work within a role where you had a direct impact on the customer experience. This is a part of product roles that I find most rewarding - the ability to build towards a vision and get positive customer feedback along the way.
My main learning throughout my time with William Hill was about the importance of having a strong team that is aligned with your vision. This is a crucial enabler of delivering a rich roadmap and once you build positive momentum being able to capitalise on it quickly. The industry moves forward so quickly that you need a team that understands where you are aiming to move the product experience towards and can work autonomously within that vision to deliver great customer experiences. There is no way that one person can deliver fast enough in our market - as a result you are only as strong as the team around you.
I am really proud of the team that we built and what that team was able to achieve in reviving the fortunes of a product that had been neglected to the point of decline. We started from a group of 3 people who were working incredibly hard to just keep the lights on to 14 people across all parts of the products including the platform. We were successful due to a clear product structure that gave each member of the product team autonomy within their area of the experience and a focus on delivering iterative improvements.
When we were building the team I was lucky to be supported by great group of Senior PO’s who built a culture of high accountability and transparency that meant that when we recruited people into the team they quickly were able to use their individual skills (either domain experience or mature agile development experience) to really take ownership of their roadmap. We turned it around to provide a strong product experience that delivered record Net Promoter Scores across the Football and Racing experiences
GE) With product development specifically related to iGaming, how do you balance the customer experience of familiarity with innovation?
IT) The key to balancing innovation and familiarity is to constantly be trying new things in a small way before quickly scaling this in a joined-up manner. It takes time for players to learn about a new game or bet types and sometimes this is forgotten in an industry that moves so quickly.
Using small scale tests with real customers gives you a low risk way to try new things and validate if they are adding value to the customer experience before committing to them in a major way.
The best example of how we used this approach was the migration of UK customers onto a new platform. We worked closely with our data teams to identify customers with certain behaviours and ensure that we segmented these customers to move them onto the new platform in a small scale way to gather feedback, analyse KPI’s and address any issues that we found before then scaling this across the customer base.
GE) How does data and AI play a role in understanding what can draw a player to a new game and where it will be successful in the long run?
IT) Our products use AI to understand player behaviours from transactional (bet/spin) data. We have found that transactional data (bet/spin) provides the best source to enable AI to understand player behaviours. This source is 100% accurate (compared to some expected loss from clickstream) and it is also available from core systems that are highly resilient.
Through the analysis of player behaviours that we find within this data we are able to build real-time personalisation feeds that deliver highly contextual recommendations of games or bets that are configured to the UX of the client we are working with.
For example we can configure a new games component for existing customers to new games that are similar to those that they have previously had high engagement with using our game similarity engine. For brand new customers we can configure a new game component to those games that we predict will have the highest conversion from day 1 to day 2 based on the an analysis of the game metadata
GE) How have you seen the Sportsbook offering across the UK and the US markets develop over the past few years and what emerging technologies do you feel will impact those markets?
IT) The key change in the offering in the UK and US over the last few years has been the emergence of Same-Game multiples/parlays and the change in customer preference for player markets. This has driven strong margin from a more recreational player base but has also introduced greater complexity for operators to be relevant with a one size fits all marketing approach.
For example getting the content balance right at the moment when you have Premier League, Grade 1 racing and the 6 Nations has always been difficult, but now, in order to be relevant to a customer you need to get the right sport, the right teams and the right bet type, then if you know nothing about that customer the likelihood is that you won’t be catering for their specific needs.
The key emerging technologies that we feel operators need to be focusing on are AI & Machine Learning which enables personalisation at scale and crucially a real-time data infrastructure that enables operators to be relevant in the moments that matter for their customers. I think we have seen especially in the UK the impact of offering players a more personalised experience through the changing fortunes of the leading sports books over the last 5 years.
While each of the operators have had their ups and downs the thing that I see with every operator that grows their market share, is that they are offering their customer a more personalised experience that puts the products they want in easier to access places or within promotional offers.
These are both very complex areas when applied to the dynamic nature of sports betting and we are excited to be working with some really forward-thinking companies that are investing in this area now. We see the companies who we work with are recognising that irrespective of their data maturity they need to invest in offering personalised experiences as this is what their customers are telling them they want. They also see that they can’t afford to wait until their data architecture is perfect before they begin testing and learning what resonates with their customers through deploying our suite of real-time personalisation products.
About our contributor
Ian Tibot is Chief Product Officer at Future Anthem. He has notable industry pedigree, having built a strong reputation at William Hill, where he spent nine years. He was responsible for the bookmaker’s sportsbook platform as Head of Product and previously international product development for gaming and sports, working across multiple regulated markets, leading over 100 team members in three European locations. Visit https://www.futureanthem.com/