Role of digital wallets: What’s changing for players and operators?

Israel Rosenthal, CEO of MuchBetter, reflects on the increasingly important role that digital wallets play in the iGaming sector, before discussing why they are going the extra mile to ‘make life a little bit easier for merchants and their customers’.

The events of 2020 made a mockery of predictions made at the start of the year. I won’t make the same mistake and attempt to make bold predictions for 2021 as a single year. However, there are some general trends in iGaming payments that will surely continue in the years ahead, especially in regard to digital wallets.

It’s helpful to understand digital wallet trends from two perspectives, the player and the operator – although there is significant overlap. For players, user experience is king. For operators, they want more than the broad selection of alternative payment methods that exist on the market today. They increasingly want their trusted payment partners to act as payment hubs, solving more challenges for them and opening more doors to new opportunities. This is the future for digital wallets, which will only grow in importance in iGaming.

Payments that players want

Starting with customer trends, the priority for players is always the user experience. This includes the ease with which they can pass security checks and make payments, the variety of deposit options available to them, and the functionality of their payment application.

We started MuchBetter with the simple goal of creating a seamless payment experience that didn’t compromise on security. We incorporated our own IP with best-in-class technology like touchID, meaning players could make secure instant deposits anywhere in the world with their smartphone and fingerprint – no PINs, no passwords.

Adapting to consumer expectations

However, as consumer expectations have moved on, digital wallets have had to adapt too. We’re seeing that players increasingly want payment services that they can use for day-to-day purchases beyond iGaming. For example, we saw contactless as a great opportunity to make our product more rewarding for users. Contactless payments surged in popularity during the pandemic, especially with limits being raised to £45, and soon £100. It’s why we’ve expanded the range of contactless devices powered by MuchBetter, from practical keyfobs and cards, to fashion accessories like watches, bracelets and even a smartshirt. Customers want the option to pay in whatever way they like, whether that’s online, in-store, or p2p transfers, and they expect their favourite digital wallet to enable them.

Offering more payment options doesn’t just mean integrating new technologies. Yes, it’s important for wallets to offer crypto as a deposit option, but the ultimate aim is to offer payment options that are suitable for the broadest selection of customers possible. For instance, digital wallets cannot ignore the significant proportion of iGaming players who will always prefer to pay by cash.

This is especially true in regions like Italy, and why we launched our Ricarica evoucher service there. Ricarica allows MuchBetter users to top up in cash at thousands of newsagents, supermarkets and petrol stations. With our technology and partnerships, this model can be pushed into other EU countries such as Spain, France and Portugal.

Operators in search of a payments hub

As for operators, there is a huge selection of distinct payment options on the market today. They will assess options and listen to play demand, but the ones that really stand out are those that solve the most challenges and go the extra mile.

At MuchBetter, we’re working to make our app more than just an alternative payment option, but a payment hub. It’s why we added our rewards service, enabling operators to share promotions with customers via a payment partner for the very first time.

Suddenly we were both a payment option and a sales channel at the same time. We also created a personal IBAN solution, which is being used to top up MuchBetter accounts. Soon operators will be able to use this for direct top ups into the customers gaming account. We are also exploring with our banking partners how we can manage pay-outs directly to customers’ bank accounts.

Our next step

Our next step is to leverage our existing payment network and excellent connections with other payment methods to make MuchBetter a one-stop-shop for all an operator’s payment needs. Imagine an operator expanding into Canada, they would typically need to start a complex technical integration to start accepting Interac payments.

Our goal is to do all this heavy lifting, since we already have the licences, the relationships and the technical expertise. We are developing services to offer deposit options like Interac and Boleto directly to our merchants, with pay-outs using our banking partners and payment network.

Our goal is to make life a little bit easier for merchants and their customers. By aggregating numerous payment options, operators only need to work with us, rather than a dozen different payment companies. Likewise, by wrapping it up with our expertise and technology, we hope to guarantee operators a seamless integration experience.

We believe that digital wallets must solve as many challenges as possible for their merchants. I think iGaming operators will increasingly demand these kinds of agreements with their payment partners, and now is the time for digital wallets to transition into becoming payment hubs. No one knows what the future holds for iGaming payments, but I see there being a harmonious balance between the customer and operator trends outlined above. Customers are expecting more from their payment products, so too are operators. This will push digital wallets to perform better and do more, but this is precisely where they need to be – at the very centre of iGaming.

After all, payments are arguably the number one mission critical element of the iGaming business model. Without digital wallets playing their crucial role, everything falls apart.

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