With Bet365 recently adding search to their app we ask: is the industry waking up?

With over a quarter of a million bets at any one time, have you ever wondered why some of the biggest players don’t offer search – the very cornerstone of internet functionality? Bettor Faster – specialists in betting and gaming UX have been mulling it over…

ASOS.com is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing online retailers stocking 80,000 products and turning over nearly £1b a year. Like any other retailer with such breadth of product they offer two ways of navigating, by menu or through a search box that sits smack bang in the middle of their site.

The UX premise is simple – shoppers can be can divided into those who know what they want (searchers) and those that don’t (browsers). In fact, it’s pretty hard to imagine a company like ASOS not having a search box, that would be crazy right? Not if you’re a bettor.

How we compare to other industries

Say an operator offers 40,000 events a month. Our back-of-a-napkin maths says that’s about 600,000 markets and well over 1,000,000 selections. Let’s say that if on any given day a quarter of the month’s events are priced up, you’ll have 250,000 selections. That’s a hell of a lot of product. Yet some of the biggest operators in the world offer no facility to search.

Is sticking a tenner on Harlow Town to beat Margate 1-0 somehow easier to find amongst a quarter of a million products than finding a pair of red braces for a wedding on ASOS? Try the experiment for yourself, you’ll be amazed, you’ll be able to get the prices of 3 pairs of red braces in under a second, you know, like how search works. Good luck finding the price of a Harlow Town correct score.

When operators do indeed offer search, it’s often an insecure little oddity tucked out of the way somewhere, perhaps behind an icon in a quiet corner. If you bother searching for the search, you’ll struggle to get it to return anything deeper than a fixture and 1×2 market; typing something as obviously useful as ‘Neymar to score first’ will get you nowhere.

If you think about it, it’s the equivalent of ASOS search only understanding the keyword ‘shirt’ instead of its current (and dare I say it, obvious) ability to get me all the way to a ‘navy ted baker shirt for men’. They wouldn’t stand for it.

At Bettor Faster we had a burning question – why is this? Why as an industry do we so undervalue search? The answer… like Harlow Town, is hard to pin down, a murky mixture of challenges that over time have led us to this point.

Big, messy and esoteric

Firstly let’s look at our ‘product’ – the bet. The great advantage that ASOS has over an operator is that they can be pretty damn sure a pair of red high heels now, will still be a pair of red high heels in five minutes time. Just imagine if ASOS tried selling our kinda heels – the rather fabulous Goalscorer Market for instance. On sale for 90 minutes, called different things by different people, comes in 22 styles with 7 variations of each, can appear simultaneously in multiple departments, every variation fluctuating wildly in price based on customer demand and oh yeah, you might find they can be in or out of stock on a second by second basis.  

And here lies the first major problem, sports taxonomy is big, messy and esoteric. Any Product Owner that’s tried working with a 3rd party search provider will have hit the wall of getting them to fully appreciate the nuances between e-commerce and betting.

Getting their search to work with the complexity of sport is like getting a square peg through a round hole – either they change how their product works or you change how your data is structured and tagged to accommodate them, adding it to already burgeoning roadmaps and technical debt.

The chicken and the egg

For this reason even after significant investment, search tends to be underwhelming. Not quite the feature you confidently place in the middle of your site shall we say. Which leads to the second problem. So fierce is the competition for sportsbook UI that if a feature doesn’t deliver on conversion it quickly gets depreciated. It’s a classic chicken and egg scenario, do bettors really not use search or is it just that the search is, well… crap? The truth is that it’s both.

From a user perspective search is all about finding specifics, your customers will give your search just one chance to prove it can deliver or they’ll never touch it again. From the operator’s perspective it gets tried, it under delivers on ROI for the UI it occupies, before being chucked on the pile of things ‘we tried that didn’t really work’.

But hey, users find bets right? They’re creatures of habit, they figure out how to use our sportsbooks and eventually crack on with learned behaviour. Why rock the boat? We’ll tell you why, because the experience sucks.

When our customers aren’t betting they’re pulling up fixtures on Google, searching on ASOS using their camera, they’re refining their way through Amazon’s 480,000,000 products or asking Alexa what time the Post Office closes – with each interaction outside our industry putting us to shame.

A hidden opportunity cost

Bettors are no different to shoppers – there are browsers, and then there are those who just want to get what’s in their head, into their betslip without a navigational rigmarole. In economic terms this forms a hidden opportunity cost of poor User Experience.

Simply put – bettors think of bets, particularly in-play, but can’t actually be bothered navigating to them, so the bets go unplaced. A hidden loss of revenue, no one realises they’re losing.

Think about it, you’re watching Man City, you have a gut feeling Aguero’s going to score so you whip out your phone. You have to navigate to in-play, scroll and scan a list of 100+ events, find the match you want, scroll and tab your way through 200+ markets to find the Goal Scorer markets, to finally wade through a grid of 22 players by 7 variations and their prices. Can I be bothered? Nope. The moment’s gone.

From gut feeling to bet receipt, in as fast as you can type it

Our UX passion is reducing the friction to bet. Search offers a way of taking customers from gut feeling to bet receipt in seconds. By cutting out navigation and placing any odds at the user’s fingertips, it encourages in-play spontaneity, ‘what if’ experimentation and the ability to build bets unshackled from the taxonomy in which they live.

Want to place five-fold across five european leagues? It shouldn’t be a problem, just type “chelsea lazio hamburg barcelona and PSG to win” and get your 54/1 acca into your betslip. If this reminds you of increasingly popular Twitter odds request services, you’d be right and it’s an area we’re excited to work with operators to help speed up and automate.  

The betting and gaming industry prides itself on being progressive, we love innovation and pushing technological boundaries yet it feels like we’ve given up on search. Not some passing fad, or yesterday’s buzzword… search. This is what drives us, to get people excited about it again, to make it relevant to betting, to offer operators new kinds of plug-n-play intelligence so they can create the products of the future – today.

Bettor Faster works with some of Europe’s highest profile operators to support and boost their UX needs, from when their own UX team is over capacity to when they want fresh eyes to offer a second opinion or new thinking.

Find out how we can support your team here.

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