Parimatch’s Chief Product Officer Sergey Berezhnoy spoke at ICE London 2020 about how the operator plans to evolve the traditional sports betting experience with a focus not just on technology, but on storytelling. With a history in the video gaming industry, Sergey can see many narrative-building concepts that would translate nicely to the betting sector, although he believes the main overlap – esports – still has a few mountains to climb.

Following a strong 12 months in its home markets, Parimatch attended ICE London 2020 with a clear vision in mind for the future of its sports betting offer.

The international operator has grown its market share with bold marketing campaigns and a strong product backed by great tech, but the main focus for Parimatch’s Chief Product Officer Sergey Berezhnoy over the next year is to research, develop and evolve sports betting’s current customer journey. Many of the innovations at ICE provide the backbone of that journey, providing several payment methods, hundreds of ways to bet, and thousands of events and markets to bet on, with other exciting developments such as VR and AI further bolstering to the industry’s toolbox in recent years. For players, the customer journey is smoother than ever before, but for Sergey, that’s not enough. His background is in the video gaming industry, and he believes that to tap into the widest possible market, the sports betting sector has to develop a story around the act of betting that is as engaging and rewarding as current popular mobile games.

“I use one word, and it’s narrative,” said Sergey. “I joined this sector from the video gaming industry, and there the focus is not on waiting for the end result, but providing as much entertainment as possible on the way to it.

Unfortunately, sports betting is currently the opposite; you come, you bet, you leave. There is no story, no great focus on the clubs involved, and often there are very few relevant events to bet on. Players who are engaged with the betting culture might bet on anything, but new and casual players need a story to bring them in. Look at Snapchat, Instagram and Tik Tok, they only show short stories, but it’s enough to get consumers engaged.”

In fact, the immediacy of sports betting is something else Sergey wants to move forward. While the rise of in-play betting has helped, many results can take between a few hours or a few days to come through depending when bets are placed, so Berezhnoy intends to make sports betting on Parimatch something players can jump into and be rewarded whenever they choose.

“In betting, the distance between betting and reward can be very high, whereas in video games the award is more achievable. We are trying to shorten that distance, but not as short as casino games,” he said. “In our research, we have taken a lot from casual gaming. If you are riding the subway or tube, everybody plays casual games or goes on social media. The big question is, why don’t they bet? It’s about a customer journey, but many sports betting sites still look like excel spreadsheets. Instagram has changed the way we consume photos, it’s our ambition to change the way people bet on sports.”

Berezhnoy added that this will involve asking players human-centric questions on pre-selected content, providing a personal touch to short, targeted stories for players to bet through. Like in video games, they won’t be faced with a thousand choices, but with a few highly engaging ones based around content they already enjoy, whether that be through live, fantasy or virtual sports – or even esports. This is another aspect of gaming that Berezhnoy has a lot of experience in, however he still believes there’s a few challenges ahead before the rapidly rising pastime becomes a key vertical for the sports betting sectors.

“Games publishers are in control of esports and they are not interested in the regulations that are needed to elevate the level of trust required for bookmakers,” he explained. “Publishers want more players, and tighter regulations can put up barriers to that. With a few exceptions, they also don’t give access to their data feed, which makes it very difficult to trade. Sports betting operators are interested in the most popular games with the biggest events, but those publishers don’t need to include sports betting into their model to be successful, and these are major roadblocks for its expansion in the industry.”

Sergey hopes that this will change over the next decade, but in the meantime, he is looking forward to weaving the storytelling ability of video games into all of Parimatch’s sports betting offers.

“At the end of the day, most of us prefer to be told stories than to scour over spreadsheets, and that’s what I want to offer to our players,” he concluded.