SiGMA News join Fintan Costello, Managing Director of BonusFinder, for a compelling Affiliate Grand Slam interview on what's next for the #1 site for online gambling in the US.
With the simple goal to allow people to "Play with More", Fintan Costello & BonusFinder insist on great design and a recognisable website, whilst backing that up with great communication, clear priorities and a great sense of humour.
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
We founded BonusFinder.com in 2019 with a simple goal to allow people to “Play with More” at their favourite casino or sportsbook. We wanted to create a way for players of all levels to find the perfect bonus that suits their playing style.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I stumbled into the gambling industry back in 2008 by mistake and have never managed to leave as I love the pace of the industry so much. I’ve held a number of roles with operators, media owners and as a consultant in the space. This is my first time as an affiliate and it’s been the most fun yet.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
The operators who get the best out of us, and I would guess affiliates in general, are the ones who treat us like true partners and take a long-term win-win approach to the relationship.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
When you look at the super successful affiliates in the industry (there are a lot to choose from) they all add value to the customer in some way. Focusing on adding value in your own unique way I believe is key.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
Our competitors are just a click away, so it’s crucial that we keep our users engaged and help them personalise their experience. Users can filter through different options to quickly find what they are looking for across all verticals and filter offers by preferences such as Exclusive Offers, New Bonuses or even Best Value for various deposit amounts. We have also recognised that great design is also super important and have worked hard to deliver instantly recognisable websites.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
We’ve been incredibly lucky with the team we have at BonusFinder. Everyone is an expert in their area of responsibility and kick ass on a daily basis getting things done. Backing that up with great communication, clear priorities and a great sense of humour are absolutely essential for us.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
First off, there are so many great affiliate sites out there. As a vertical, gambling affiliates are truly world-class. With so many great sites to choose from, we make decisions based on what users want and that is at the core of everything we do. On the partner front, our ethos is based on collaboration and open dialogue with operators. Building and maintaining long-term relationships with our operator partners is central to our approach.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Our technical infrastructure is what makes BonusFinder. Our product is extremely flexible and customisable. We have designed the site from the ground up to allow us to offer a fully localised product country-by-country and in jurisdictions such as the US, state-by-state. Our front and back-end systems are fully scalable and as automated as possible. This allows us to work with a small, agile team that focuses on the value-add and not the routine grunt work.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
AI and big data really depend on the quantity and more importantly the quality of the data you have. From an affiliate perspective, I believe it’s currently a wait and see approach to figure out what technology that will truly be useful and then all gambling affiliates will be very fast to adopt anything that works.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
With so many great operator brands out there, we will stick to what we are great at.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
Over the last 12 months, we have obtained five US licences and the states will be a big focus for us in 2020 and beyond. The US has huge potential due to its sheer size and the Americans’ love for casino and sports.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
We are very much pro-regulation and have multiple licences in the US. Harmonisation of regulation was a consideration several years ago, however individual countries have opted to regulate and maximise tax income, in turn largely protecting players from unlicensed, black market brands. However, we would urge regulating markets such as Germany to take heed of other countries’ mistakes whereby restrictive regulation around areas such as deposit limits and bonusing is seeing an increasing number of players being diverted to unlicensed sites in search of better offers.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
I wouldn’t call it a nightmare but more of a culture shock. The US licensing process is very intense, and many months have been spent creating the necessary paperwork. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?
The obvious one has been around the global pandemic and managing customers following the postponement of live sports. This has seen sports bettors move from betting on traditional sports to virtuals, esports and also casinos. Many of these verticals were unfamiliar territory to these players so managing, and educating customers in the right way, and ensuring they are playing in a safe and responsible manner has never been more important. This has been a big wake up call for some brands and I hope it will improve standards across the board as we emerge from global lockdown.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
Flexibility, personalisation, automation, and localisation are all important today, but they will become increasingly vital for the sector in the future. Speed, responsiveness, and the ability to instantly and accurately present specific customers with their own personal preferences, at the right time, and based on their precise needs and behaviours/budget will rapidly become the norm.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
We are extremely open, honest, and transparent and built the business on that philosophy. On a practical level, we keep communication lines open with our partners. We have Service Level Agreements in place on Skype and email to ensure we rapidly respond to our partners. In the last year we opened a Malta office to be closer to many of our partners.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
There are a handful of large events where all the key brands, suppliers, affiliates, regulators, and investors are present. ICE and LAC, for example, over the years has become a ‘must-attend’. It’s really the fact that everyone is there that gives us the chance to organise private meetings and dinners and get some great business done.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
The team are regular attendees at SiGMA in Malta. Last year’s event was the busiest I’ve seen it. The networking there is second-to-none so we hope we can all meet again soon because we have so many things happening at Bonusfinder that could benefit many brands.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
When I’m not at my desk or on a call I’m either running or playing video games with my son.
What’s on your must-read list right now?
I’m currently reading “The Force” by Don Winslow. If you liked the Godfather or The Shield, you’ll absolutely love this book.
Which quote do you live your life by?
If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.
Get to know other great affiliates, responsible for killer traffic! Click the link below to read more insights from affiliates:
SIGMA LATAM FOCUS:
This event brings the Americas closer to delegates from Europe and Asia, with an interesting agenda featuring a line-up of speakers that showcases the company’s commitment to covering the various gaming verticals. Explore the full agenda here and register now, this one’s on us!