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How Online Sportsbooks Can Prepare for High Traffic

It’s nearly 2022, which can only mean one thing: the Qatar FIFA World Cup is coming. Gauging by the tournament’s last edition in Russia, during which half of the world’s population tuned in to watch and bookmakers took in an estimated 136€ billion in bets, Qatar presents a huge business opportunity for online sportsbooks.

Besides considerable one-off revenue, major sporting events can also be a source of annual recurring revenue if sportsbooks play their cards right. Events like the World Cup are an opportune time to advertise the best a sportsbook app has to offer, be it through timely new features or a seamless user experience. Provide new customers with an unforgettable betting experience during the most important dates in the calendar and they will keep coming back.

Just as these events are an opportunity to win new customers, they can also be a time to lose them. Customers that have committed to one app above all others are unlikely to be forgiving if it lets them down on the big day, especially if they chose the app based on a promise that was not delivered. To maximise potential revenue, safeguard their reputation, win long-term customers and foster the loyalty of existing ones, online sportsbooks need to start testing their digital experiences now.

1. Get a new feature ready

There is no better time to launch a shiny new feature than in the weeks running up to a major event. This could be a feature that has been on the development plan for a while or that was planned specifically for the event. Either way, make sure that marketing campaigns tie the new feature directly to the event so that potential customers make the link. The more attention sportsbooks can bring to their app when fans are most likely to download one, the better.

That said, sportsbooks cannot afford to launch a new feature at such a crucial moment without a testing strategy in place. As is the common practice, sportsbooks need to enforce a code freeze in the immediate run up to major events to rule out possible interferences. This means leaving enough time for testing before the code is locked. And it’s not just the new feature that needs testing, but the entire app, as sportsbooks need to ensure that the new code has not caused unexpected issues to pop up elsewhere.

2. Pique interest with an enticing event-specific promotions and information

Every sportsbook will offer near-identical bets on major events, so offering event-specific promotions is key to gaining a competitive advantage. Review websites are already comparing the best deals for Qatar 2022 and this is likely to have a large influence on which apps customers choose.

The most engaging promotions go beyond basic incentives like free bets for first-time customers or successful referrals. Instead, they add a deeper dimension to the betting experience itself, like a refund if your team is eliminated on penalties and games that end nil-nil, or enhanced odds for special outcomes like England to win the Cup. Free-to-play competitions can also engage more fans.

From a technical perspective, promotional codes tend to cause friction. Besides ensuring that customers are able to enter and retrieve promotional codes, there are also UX considerations. At what point in the payment process does it make most sense to ask for the code? Can customers redeem multiple codes at once? Do codes use uncommon symbols that are difficult to enter on a mobile device? Are eligibility requirements clear to customers? Only through real user testing can sportsbooks design products customers love.

In the months building up to the tournament there will also be a hunger for information. Where and when are the group games being played? Which TV channels are they on? Who are the players in each squad to look out for? Who are the favourites or the dark horses? If sites or apps can make themselves the go-to source for this information through clear, accessible language and design, fans are likely to look to them as the leading betting authority when deciding which app to choose.

3. Anticipate inexperienced bettors

Major events with a widespread appeal like the World Cup, the Grand National, Wimbledon and the Grand Prix draw in lots of first-time bettors. Not only have these customers never used your app, they may have never even placed a bet. And it’s not like they will attempt to download and use the app in lab conditions, either. Many will be betting amid the commotion of a stadium or with friends in the pub, their attention split between their phones, the game and their environment.

In order to anticipate the volume of inexperienced bettors using the app on match day, sportsbooks need to consider two things. First, they need to make registering for the app and making a first deposit as simple and frictionless as possible. The more regulations come into force in the gambling industry, the harder onboarding customers becomes. For more information on how to reduce this friction, check out Applause’s recent guide to how gambling operators can optimize the user onboarding process.

Second, ensure the UI is user-friendly and self-explanatory. Can bettors easily find the bets they are looking for? How well does the site guide inexperienced bettors in placing complex bets such as accumulators? Is the procedure for redeeming promotions self-explanatory, both before the user enters the code and once the promotion has been applied? Applause recently heard from Philippe Joos (Head of Product, Napoleon Games) and Dave Pilgrim (Senior Product Manager) about how gambling operators can get the basics right — read the webinar summary here.

4. Stress test

Testing is the key to exceptional performance on match day. Just as players train for years for the World Cup, sportsbooks must commit to a rigorous, structured testing process if they are to outperform their competitors. And it’s not enough to test a month or two before; if sportsbooks are to build the best apps possible, then test cycles should be carried out on a regular basis as an integral part of the development cycle.

As a bare minimum, online sportsbooks should ask:

  • How long does it take to process a bet once a customer places it?

  • Can users cash out when the option is available?

  • In in-play betting, is there an excessive delay as bets are suspended between an event happening and the odds being recalculated?

  • Is the geofencing technology ensuring that only those allowed to bet can?

  • Do live streams work well without buffering?

Applause recommends running test cycles on weekends with a full sports program, as this is the closest sportsbooks can get to experiencing high traffic without testing on major dates. It’s not enough to know that your app works in average conditions — you need to know it can function at the same level when experiencing significant load.

5. Retain new customers

Now that you have attracted so many new customers to your app by following points one to four above, you need to retain as many as possible. The weeks after the event are critical for convincing customers to stay, with research from Appentintive showing that only 40% of customers actually use apps a month after downloading.

Social gaming features like Sky Betting’s ‘Request a Bet’ are becoming popular retention tactics, although these have seen varying levels of success across different European countries and have yet to really take off in the UK market. Other more traditional strategies involve in-app messages, push notifications and loyalty programmes. Promotions can also be effective for enticing new users to return, though it is imperative that these can be easily redeemed and that users understand how they work.

Testing payment is also key for retention. If there are too few payment methods available, or withdrawing funds is a tedious, drawn-out affair, customers will be less likely to return to your app in the future. Besides boosting retention, offering as many payment methods as possible is also important for securing high conversion rates from registration to first deposit.

Whether your company needs to ensure online gambling works around borders, validate a new betting feature or identify transaction issues with specific payment methods, Applause can help. Our real-world testing solution gives online casinos and sportsbooks the ability to validate their experiences with real bettors and test their geo-fencing technologies. Learn more at

Published: December 15, 2021
Reading time: 7 min