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How important are payment methods and speed of payment processing important for customer experience in online sports betting?

We talked with Sujit Unni, Chief Technology Officer at Paysafe, which had conducted a survey among US punters. He provided insightful and detailed answers on this and several other questions.

Read on for some fascinating perspectives on the past, present and future of the payment process and its role in online sports betting.

Q. Let’s start with the recent survey that Paysafe conducted among US sports bettors. What are the key takeaways from the survey?

A. Here are some of the conclusions we came to after surveying sports bettors in eight regulated US states:

Available payment methods influence players’ decision to use a brand: To fully capitalize on the growing opportunity of online sports betting, sportsbook operators should strongly focus on the player experience at the checkout. The payment methods that are available and the security of said methods are critical for players when it comes to evaluating which brand they choose to place their bets with.

Transaction security factors highly into choice of sportsbook: When asked to identify which criterion was most important when depositing funds with a sports-betting brand, bettors said the security of the transaction was more important than any other characteristic.

Easy and fast payments are critical: Just as important to players is the speed and ease with which they receive their winnings when they wish to cash out. According to four fifths (79%) of US sports bettors we surveyed, they have a negative impression of the sportsbook when their expectations related to cash out speeds aren’t met. This can result in the sportsbook taking a large reputation hit. A poor reputation spreads among players and can result in a significant brake on its growth.

The online sportsbooks themselves must be fast and efficient: It’s important to make sure the sportsbook’s payment platform is moving quickly and efficiently. The easier it is for a player to access payouts, the more likely they will be to continue using the platform. Those who adapt to these demands will position themselves well for significant growth.

Q. Everybody talks about the speed of payments. How does speed factor into the mobile process as a whole, and how does it contribute to the overall success of an online business, especially an iGaming business?

 

A. iGaming is changing more rapidly right now than ever before. Mobile’s role in this evolution is huge, given apps’ potential for speed and the strong relationship we’re able to build with end-users: We’re right there, in their pockets, whenever they pick up their phone.

But proximity alone is not enough. End-users will grow bored or burnt out if their experiences are slow, or if we’re not constantly offering new experiences and improving what’s already available.

Increasing the speed of our processes and the user experience is critical in that every second of load time anywhere within the app literally costs every company money, especially in iGaming, which is less of a considered purchase than traditional mobile shopping or eCommerce. iGaming customers are making fluid, real-time decisions; the more time they have to wait to get to the next step, the less patient they become and the more likely they are to drop off.

Speed is a function of many factors, and there are a number of processes that power the payments experience. We work with mobile DevOps platform Bitrise to increase the speed of all of the mobile processes that power the user experiences leading up to and including payments, as well as the behind-the-scenes operational processes that influence our ability to release updates to the app stores more frequently and faster.

The payments part of the mobile process is a particularly expensive place to be slow. Out-pacing competitors in that process is what’s creating the winners in this space.

Q. What are the ways by which Paysafe tries to accelerate its mobile processes and e-payments?

A. If you look at it from a very high level, the two primary ways we accelerate our processes and e-payments are through having the best talent and technology.

We stay competitive on the talent side by attracting and – just as importantly –

retaining the best people in the world in this space. We have been able to build on their expertise to constantly improve the speed at which we deliver value for merchants and consumers alike.

When you are investing in this level of talent, it’s important that you are not wasting their skills on things like troubleshooting, waiting around hours to test builds, or doing manual fixes to problems that could be automated.  So, on the technology side, our mobile engineering teams use Bitrise to test all new code, reduce build times from hours to minutes, identify issues that might interfere with the user experience, and so on, before submitting releases to the app stores.

Our goal is to always do everything as fast as possible, without sacrificing our standards of quality and security.

Q. It looks like the ‘slow and steady’ will not win the races anymore. But could the focus on speed–especially in payment processing–be detrimental to the fraud-prevention measures?

A. Building on my last answer, it’s imperative to not sacrifice security to save time. I will say that one of the upsides of investing in technology like Bitrise is that it allows us to get the best of both worlds: Speed and security. In our mobile engineering processes, for example, Bitrise allows us to automatically run a number of security tests and checks that were previously slow, manual labour. Now they take up less time, are more consistently executed, and actually free up the team to work on innovations for our merchants and consumers. That’s not to say that there aren’t manual checks involved anymore, but those are fewer and more meaningful.

Q. Could you talk about the recent innovations that Paysafe brought to the payments ecosystem?

A. Given the nature of our business we are constantly evolving our value proposition and anchor around our philosophy of customer outcomes. We tend to think of innovation around key pillars including:

  1. Evolving our business to be a true cloud-based platform that supports multi-sided markets. This allows existing customers and merchants to access new features and stay engaged with our platform. The recent introduction of Openbucks, a product that allows store gift cards to be used at point of sale at other merchants in the Paysafe network, benefits customers who can now use restricted gift cards across a wider merchant base, and allows our merchants to accept a non-traditional payment method.
  1. Building out hybrid-business models with the wider finance eco-system through the launch of capabilities like pop-up banking with traditional banks like TSB. While serving as a revenue stream, this also allows banks like TSB to optimize their branch footprint and enables customers to access simple transactions using the Paysafe network.

We have also spearheaded a suite of embedded finance offerings with partners like Amazon and Google. Our offerings of cash to digital, digital wallets and processor agnostic payment methods makes us one of the few firms that can offer industry specific open loop and closed loop solutions.

Q. Allow me now to bring a customer perspective. What benefits do companies, especially those in the iGaming sector, gain from integrating the accelerated payment solutions of Paysafe?

A. Given our “born in gaming” origins, we believe we are one of the few payment platforms in the market that has a full suite of solutions to support both store based and online operators. This means our combination of brick and mortar, wallet, and cash solutions allow customers to seamlessly transact and play across the in-store and online offerings of our gaming merchants.

Solutions like our single integration API give our gaming merchants access to payment processing platforms that are accessible in multiple geographies through different processors, a host of local payment methods and a global network of banks. This in effect improves the customer experience and reduces revenue losses from declined transactions.

Effective risk and fraud management is a key differentiator, given the deep expertise and geographical coverage we provide the industry. Our investment in our risk and fraud infrastructure protects both merchants and customers while ensuring a seamless payments experience.

Q. The new technologies in the payment space have blurred the boundaries of national currencies to an extent. What are your thoughts on the influence of the laws and regulations of different countries on the growth of payment processes, especially for a highly regulated industry like iGaming?

A. The world is definitely a smaller place from a payments perspective today than it was five or six years back, largely enabled by the rapid adoption of disruptive technologies like blockchain, API driven ecosystems, and standardization of messaging services.

Like any financial service, payments are heavily influenced by regulation – and fortunately in a good way for the most part. Governments have been quick at recognizing how critical a scalable and democratized payments infrastructure is to drive economic growth and, as a result, we see regulation being enacted in in many markets. This is helping build out global payment ecosystems – for instance, UPI in India, Open Banking in Europe, or FedNow in the US. As this ecosystem continues to evolve, we see the emergence of trends like pay by bank and local payment methods continuing to grab market share from the card schemes, which will benefit both consumers and merchants.

iGaming is still in its infancy and, in certain markets like the US, can ride this wave of an open payments ecosystem to provide a far superior experience to its customers. Regulation in gaming is still evolving and it will look to more mature markets in Europe for insight as it starts to put in place legislation for the industry. Paysafe is leveraging its established presence in the EU to bring insight and product offerings to the US market that allow our gaming partners to not only grow their business in line with established legislation but also to build and offer products that consider future legislation that we think could be enacted.

Q. What is your take on the growth of mobile payments over the last few years?

A. Smartphones are a part of our daily lives today and are to a large degree considered indispensable. In the few years leading up to the pandemic, we were already seeing steady growth in mobile payments.  The onset of the pandemic accelerated that growth by as much as 75% in some segments.

Some of the key drivers are:

The influence of digital transformation: As industry sectors, particularly financial services, have increasingly been disrupted and transformed, the mobile phone has emerged as an important customer engagement channel. As customer behavior matured to using mobile phones as a transaction medium, the need to support payments drove adoption.

The rise of emerging digital economies: The other big influence was the rise of emerging economies. India, for example, had a head start in becoming a digital economy with its population armed with mobile phones before they even had access to desktop computers. Countries like India that are supported by digital friendly government regulations, have a large unbanked population and an industry that’s very willing to provide payment and banking solutions, witnessed exponential growth in mobile payments.

Apps, wallets, and subscription services: As the number of apps hosted on Apple and Android platforms grew, people are increasingly using mobile phones to purchase a range of services, from buying tickets to ordering rides and subscription services. This adoption led to the creation of a full payment supportive ecosystem, including wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, and our own Skrill digital wallet, among others) and emerging payments volumes driven by a growing library of subscription services.

Payments continue to become easy and reliable:  Having a credit or a debit card used to be the only way to make a payment on a mobile phone. However, payments have evolved to keep up with the emerging digital landscape. Today beyond these traditional payment methods, customers can pay with their bank accounts, cash, and by using over 200 local payment methods specific to geographies –which has democratized payments. That coupled with regulation to promote open banking systems and reliable real-time payments as well as faster payment infrastructure has helped drive the surge of mobile payments.

Increasingly secure and safe transactions:  Wherever there is a financial transaction there is also the risk of fraud. Because of this, mobile phones have evolved to continually make transactions both convenient and safe. Whether it’s by using face ID, biometrics or contactless payments, the ability of the manufacturers to deliver secure payments was critical in driving the wider adoption of mobile payments.

Q. Let’s conclude with something about the future. Could you reveal some of the changes that you foresee coming in the mobile space? What about the payments sector?

A. With app store operators seeing pressure from governments around the world to loosen their grips on the mobile ecosystem – especially in terms of payments – we expect to see some massive changes soon.

Alternative app stores that allow more app choices for end-users and more payment processing choices for app store publishers are benefitting both merchants and consumers.

Additionally, we expect the consumer’s need for speed to increase even further, widening the divide between those businesses that can deliver on this expectation and those that can’t.

We’re confident that, between the talent of our team and partners like Bitrise, we’ll land on the right side of that divide.

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