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Leveraging Free-to-Play to Enhance Cross-Selling in Online Gambling with John Smith

The online gambling market is highly competitive, and operators need to constantly come up with new ways to stay relevant. Free-to-Play (F2P) experiences are a smart strategy in this environment. F2P allows users to try games without spending money, but it comes with benefits for operators, too – as it helps operators draw in new users. This method also helps keep these users coming back, turning them from newcomers into regular players. 

Learn more on why F2P is an effective tool for operators to boost both user numbers and engagement – based on our conversation with John Smith. 

Strategic Advantages of Free-to-Play

Free-to-Play (F2P) models are strategically positioned within the online gambling ecosystem. They are designed to draw new users by offering a taste of gameplay without financial commitment. 

This approach based on “initial engagement” is crucial for drawing in potential players. It allows potential players to explore various games in a no-pressure environment. And, the ease of entry provided by F2P games is particularly effective in attracting a broad audience, which includes those who may be hesitant to gamble real money without first understanding the game dynamics.

As John Smith notes, F2P acts as a bridge, encouraging users to experiment without fear of loss – thereby increasing the likelihood of their continued participation.

F2P games also serve as an entry point that dramatically lowers the barriers for new players, simplifying a smooth transition to real-money games. This setup is integral in demystifying gambling for newcomers and building their confidence. 

For many newcomers, the gambling world can appear intimidating due to the risks associated with betting real money. F2P games lower these barriers by providing a risk-free introduction to the mechanics and thrill of gambling. John Smith describes F2P as offering a "safety net" or a "second chance," which helps convert a losing experience into a positive one, thereby enhancing player retention.

The educational aspect of F2P games cannot be overstated, as they serve as both a tutorial for learning how to play and a strategy for becoming comfortable with the online platform's interface.

"It's a safe place to learn before going out. For example, if you gave someone a free-to-play roulette game and explained how it works, creating positive experiences with it, they're more likely to give it a try with real money later on."

And then, the data speaks for itself. The significant revenue from F2P games underscores their role in the gaming industry. With an estimated $111.37 billion generated in 2023 and an expected increase to $117.7 billion in 2024 (Statista), F2P games prove not only to attract users but also to keep them engaged. The growth across platforms, notably PC and mobile, shows the broad appeal and versatility of F2P games in reaching diverse audiences.

Overcoming the Fear of Cannibalisation

A common concern among online gambling operators is that offering Free-to-Play (F2P) options might undercut revenue from paid gameplay. Operators worry that free games could keep players from spending money on paid content. However, data and industry trends suggest the opposite, showing that F2P can actually support and enhance paid gameplay.

Introducing F2P games effectively allows players to get familiar with the gaming environment without financial risk. Getting familiar with game mechanics in a free setting builds a player's confidence, making them more likely to try paid versions. 

For instance, statistics reveal that American users spend about $61 annually on in-app purchases, a strong indication of their willingness to pay within apps after engaging with free features.

Furthermore, F2P strategies can broaden overall user engagement by providing a variety of interactive experiences that support rather than replace paid content. These strategies help keep existing customers and attract new ones who might not have registered otherwise. 

"Every operator traditionally saw free-to-play as an acquisition tool, but the educational part plays a major role in easing users into real-money gameplay by reducing fear and building familiarity with the game mechanics."

Using F2P as a marketing and engagement tool allows operators to expand their user base and encourage more players to move from free to paid gameplay – a move that might have been more difficult or impossible to make without F2P. 

Data-Driven Insights for Cross-Selling

Integrating gamification into upselling and cross-selling strategies involves leveraging interactive and engaging game mechanics to improve customer experience and drive additional sales. 

"It's understanding prospects' marketing objectives first and then plugging in the right type of gamification mechanics based on the understanding of what they want the outcomes to be."

First, businesses need to analyse their customer base to identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. Gamification strategies can be designed to encourage users to explore additional products and services in F2P. For example:

  • after a customer places a bet on a sportsbook, they could receive a gamified offer, such as free spins on a casino game, turning a single-vertical user into a multi-vertical one.
  • a customer who frequently bets on Sportsbook can be offered a promotion to try out Casino games during a lull in sports events
  • similarly, a Bingo player could be encouraged to explore Poker through targeted offers and incentives.

One effective approach is to transform negative experiences into positive ones. If a customer loses a bet, an automated push notification or email can be sent, offering a gamified reward such as free spins, a scratch card, or a free-to-play version of a casino game. 

This retains customer engagement but comes with even more benefits – as it also provides an opportunity for the customer to experience another product without financial risk.

"The most common one I've seen is what I would call a 'full-time Saturday.' Sports games finish on a Saturday afternoon. If you take NFL Sundays, for example, games have finished, and you've lost a number of bets, you've had a losing experience. That is a perfect opportunity to engage the Sportsbook customer with a casino experience, offering them a second chance with something like free spins."

Traditionally, departments like Sportsbook and Casino operate in silos, but F2P gamification can create a more cohesive experience. For instance, offering rewards in the casino section for activities completed in the sportsbook can incentivise users to explore both areas, enhancing cross-sell opportunities.

Omnichannel Strategies

A successful omnichannel strategy pretty much means that every player interaction remains consistent, whether on a smartphone, through a computer, or at a physical venue. 

The F2P format allows for that. 

For example, utilising a loyalty card system that tracks user activity across both online platforms and physical locations can reduce the distance between these environments. Such a card might offer points or rewards for digital engagement that are redeemable at a casino, providing a cohesive experience that encourages frequent interactions and increases customer loyalty.

Businesses have seen significant benefits from these strategies. Operators who implement F2P games across all platforms often report higher conversion rates from free to paid games, as players feel more comfortable and engaged regardless of the platform they choose to use. Continuous, integrated experiences allow customers to seamlessly switch between channels, resulting in greater customer satisfaction.

And, on top of that, an omnichannel approach that includes F2P options can drive increased revenue by leveraging cross-selling opportunities. When players enjoy a free game online and receive incentives to visit a physical location to claim a reward, it not only enhances their overall experience but also boosts spending across different channels. 


Why not transform the way players engage with online gambling? 

Standalone Free-to-Play verticals are emerging as a transformative trend in the industry, reshaping how operators attract and retain users. These verticals serve as a powerful tool for converting free players into loyal, paying customers.

F2P strategies offer even more significant benefits, enhancing user engagement, increasing retention, and driving revenue. Providing users with the opportunity to explore games without financial risk builds trust and promotes a smoother transition to paid games. It increases players' likelihood of making purchases while also satisfying them.

Operators should see F2P not just as a side feature – but as a core element of their user acquisition and retention strategies. They should look into options to integrate F2P experiences seamlessly across all platforms to create a cohesive and engaging user journey.

Moreover, they should critically evaluate their current offerings and consider further ways to improve F2P. Comprehensive F2P strategies can strengthen a platform, attract a broader audience, and boost cross-selling opportunities. 

The next step? Pilot programs or partnerships should be considered by operators to enhance their F2P capability, giving them a competitive edge in the fierce online gambling industry.

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