2019 was a big year for Superbet – The Blackstone Group invested in the sports-betting operator to turbocharge its revenues, and a new management team arrived to lead it through its next phase of growth. The team also kicked off an initiative to gain more visibility into the customers visiting Superbet’s 1,300 retail outlets with the goal of converting them into multi-channel customers. Superbet CEO Johnny Hartnett and COO Marcello Magaletti, and Blackstone Managing Director Robert Barthelmes discussed how they worked with AWS to infuse more data and insights into the business, enabling Superbet to build a more rewarding customer experience and grow rapidly.
A dearth of customer data
Can you tell us more about Superbet and what challenges you encountered when you began your roles with the company?
Johnny Hartnett: Superbet is the largest sports-betting operator in Romania. We offer casino games, live sports, pregame sports, lottery, and more. Blackstone invested €175 million in May 2019 to help us increase market share and expand in Central and Eastern Europe. At that time, our business was 40% online and 60% retail across 1,300 locations.
Having data to identify our most profitable cohort has been pivotal, changing how we invest and think about our day-to-day operations.”
Marcello Magaletti: While we understood our online customers well and rewarded them with bonuses and promotions, retail customers tended to be anonymous. They entered the store, bet with cash and left. Also, our management team was international and not deeply familiar with the local markets. Since we had no idea who our retail customers were, we could not build products and services to cater to them.
Working backwards from the customer
How did Superbet shift from talking about customer obsession to actually applying it to decision making on a day-to-day basis?
Bob Barthelmes: Johnny Hartnett was looking at how to better define who his customer was, and he was looking for an outside perspective and thought leaders in the industry who could help. We introduced AWS to Superbet and they did a one day workshop with Johnny and his team. From that workshop, they came out with some very concrete, specific ideas, which they were able to implement within just 90-days. This has had a tremendous impact on growth within their business and the loyalty of their existing customer base.
One of the main benefits of the AWS Digital Innovation program is they take an approach of looking at it from the customer’s perspective, and then they work backwards, which I think the management team at Superbet really appreciated.
You can’t excite customers if you are offering the same services over and over. So, it’s in our DNA to continually innovate and offer customers new things that make them say “Super!”
Marcello Magaletti: AWS pushed us to think not just about Superbet, but about the customer’s life and what’s good for them. We learned a tremendous amount about what customer obsession means for Amazon—personifying the customer’s thoughts, habits, and preferences, deeply understanding them in a way that we had never done before, and working backwards from that perspective. We had often talked about customer obsession, but found it difficult to apply day-to-day.
From data darkness to customer insights
How did Superbet go about gathering data from customers who were essentially anonymous?
Johnny Hartnett: We created a loyalty program called Super Club. We gave customers in our retail network a loyalty card and offered them products and bonuses. On top of the customer experience benefits, the program also helped us meet know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) requirements.
Marcello Magaletti: Working conventionally, a project like Super Club would have involved a large part of the organization and gone quite slowly. Instead, we used AWS’s small team approach. We borrowed AWS personnel, who flew from the US and UK to our development hub in Zagreb, Croatia, to fill short-term gaps. This proved extremely helpful, beyond the scope of this project. Working side-by-side with the AWS team showed us how to plan better, structure our teams, and produce something real. It was a powerful experience for all of us.
Building engagement and loyalty
How has Super Club benefitted the business?
Johnny Hartnett: When we started with AWS, we had about 150,000 monthly active users, with the goal to get to a million. After we were sure the technology behind Super Club worked, we promoted it with national TV ads and got 100,000 sign-ups within two weeks. That was unbelievable given that the loyalty program was just a talk bubble five-months earlier. The journey from idea to delivery was really fast and has made a big difference to our customer base and business.
We now have 250,000 monthly active users, with 70% online and 30% retail, and the engagement we’re getting through Super Club is an order of magnitude greater than before. Of course, Covid supercharged online business as our retail network was closed for the better part of six months. But Super Club helped ensure that our retail customers chose Superbet online rather than one of our many online competitors. Because we had already KYC’ed and rewarded them, the transition was seamless. This was hugely important for sustaining business through the crisis.
Marcello Magaletti: Even though Super Club was designed to help us better understand our retail customers, it’s been so successful we have extended it to our online customers. We are gathering more data about their habits and preferences, and we are building products that really fit the needs of our customers.
What was the biggest surprise that the new data revealed?
Johnny Hartnett: We were surprised by the number of online customers that also visit the retail network. Multi-channel customers are the most valuable, and now that we know who they are, we can better serve them. That’s been transformative for our brand experience and retail offering. Having data to identify our most profitable cohort has been pivotal, changing how we invest and think about our day-to-day operations.
Committed to creating a world class experience
Where do you see Super Club going from here?
Johnny Hartnett: We’ve only scratched the surface of Super Club’s capabilities and the value it can deliver. We foresee bespoke bonusing and personalized offers to consumers in retail and online. It’s also hugely important that we can offer a genuine multi-channel experience. This is a unique selling proposition against our online-only competitors. There’s a long road in front of us to refine and develop the product to being world-class, but we’re heavily invested and committed to making that happen.
Our partners at Blackstone were unbelievable about opening doors for us, and we’ve reaped the benefit in our relationship with AWS. In addition to creating Super Club, we’re partnering much more extensively across AWS and across Amazon Pinpoint and Amazon Personalize for customer personalization.
When you're looking at innovation and you look at disruption within industries, those that have an innovative culture tend to be able to adapt more readily to any disruption within the industries.”
Bob Barthelmes: When you're looking at innovation and you look at disruption within industries, those that have an innovative culture tend to be able to adapt more readily to any disruption within the industries.
Marcello Magaletti: Our market is extremely competitive, and some might even say commoditized. We think of Superbet’s mission as “exciting the world.” You can’t excite customers if you are offering the same services over and over. So, it’s in our DNA to continually innovate and offer customers new things that make them say “Super!”
Chief Executive Officer, Superbet
Johnny has 20 years of experience in the betting and gaming industry across a broad portfolio of businesses and geographies. He has been CEO of the Superbet Group since August 2019. Previously, Johnny worked for Flutter Entertainment PLC where he held senior director positions across Australia, the UK, Europe and the US, managing operations and M&A. Johnny is an economics graduate from University College Dublin. He currently serves on Superbet’s Board of Directors and as a non-executive director of Xtremepush.
Chief Operating Officer, Superbet
Marcello joined Superbet in 2018 and is the group’s Chief Operations Officer and member of the Board. Prior to joining, he led Paddypower in Italy as Country Manager, and launched UberEats in Milan. Marcello spent 12 years in London working in investment banking, first with Barclays Capital and then as Managing Director for Goldman Sachs. Marcello is a finance and information systems graduate of Stern, NYU and holds an MBA from IESE, University of Navarra in Barcelona.
Managing Director, Blackstone
As Managing Director in the Portfolio Operations group, Bob provides strategic support and advice to the firm’s investment teams and portfolio companies with a focus on technology, operations, and digital transformation. Prior to engaging with Blackstone he was the EVP and GM of the Open Source Division and CIO at Finastra (formerly Misys Corporation), and the Global Vice President of Business Consulting Services at IBM.