Poker Affiliates "Hugely Important" Says 888 Poker Chief

In a news release from 888, the company’s Vice President of Poker, Maytal Ginzburg, talked about the importance of poker affiliates, plus the company’s future and rebranding plans. The full interview is as follows:

With strong fourth quarter revenues, what do you put 888poker’s recent 16% revenue growth to?
It’s really a combination of factors. After two years of intensive development, we have a fantastic poker product with a differentiated positioning around the “we play different” ethos supported by ‘different’ promotions, a different language and innovative features.

We chose to focus on a different target audience, work in markets where our umbrella brand has a strong brand awareness and offer our customers a ‘different’ playing experience. We asked our customers for overall feedback on our product and offering and made sure we actually listened, delivering their needs and being true to our core value of offering a ‘different’ poker experience that stands out in this crowded marketplace.

As Shane Warne says on the UK TV commercial, “we play different.” But what exactly is different about the 888poker product?
First of all our site has a much lighter, less intimidating feel than other sites out there. We challenge what the more casual players might expect of a poker site, and use a lot of the social gaming style features in our products. Rather than focusing on the very traditional, undifferentiated bonus offers, we prefer to offer our customers a sign-up package that we can firmly stand behind, we’re not about offering $600 welcome bonuses that ‘may’ eventually be awarded to someone that commits to playing all his/her free time on the site until he loses his hair. For us, it’s about opening our doors to customers that want a casual game of poker, some may play for fun, some may play for real money, some may play for as little as $8 a month and others may play for more, what we offer is a fun and exciting game of poker against people who share the same interests as you.

Over the past few years, we held a number of focus groups which showed that a lot of poker players play to feel part of a wider community. Real poker is not just about winning money, but it’s about the thrill, the fun, the excitement and the social experience. Online poker has been traditionally focused on the ‘money making’ element – we feel that there is no reason why online poker should not enable players to meet, socialize and play together. We offer our customers a place to meet, play and socialise rather than simply feed and make money off each other. Our commitment to offer different games, different product features, different ways of communicating and different experiences is what we bring to the table.

How much has your work with affiliates been a factor in your success?
They have been hugely important. If we used to work with a select few affiliates in the past that used to bring in the majority of the revenues, today it’s a far greater number with a bigger focus on the small to mid-sized affiliates.

In July this year we made a few critical changes to our conversion funnel resulting in a 40% increase in conversions. Because of this improved conversion rate we’ve also seen a surge in the number of affiliates working with us.

Has there been a shift in your strategy on customer retention?
Most definitely. Over the past few years 888poker, previously known as pacific poker, had a bad name in the industry due to the old inferior product and poor customer experience. Until September this year we have invested a lot less in mass market acquisition of customers and a lot more time and resources on understanding how to build a poker offering that met our customers ever changing needs. Our focus this year was on capturing a larger proportion of our customers ‘share of time”. We built a strong community platform that is state of the art on the industry and today we have a dedicated team that focuses on engaging more with customers through the community and forums. We consider our community members to be ambassadors of our brand, they are our voice to our inner world and our ears and eyes to the outer world. We realise people will go and play on other poker platforms but we want them to see 888poker as their home, somewhere they’ll always come back to because we look after them, listen to them and offer them a ‘different’ poker experience.

Are players happier knowing there is a specific poker arm within the company looking out for their needs?
Absolutely. Towards the end of last year we restructured the company, and as part of the change we created a poker-focused unit, which deals exclusively with the poker business. We now have dedicated poker people who have the capabilities and know how to deliver on what our customers are asking for. Delivering a ‘different’ poker experience to our customers is the backbone of our strategy. To achieve this we needed the best people who understand poker and the poker player, and so in the poker team we have a world-class team of poker experts who are leading our efforts. The outcome is improvement across the board – even our promotions have improved as the people building them are people who understand the poker industry from a professional and recreational point of view.

What has been your approach in France?
We decided to treat France with caution given the tax burden and the lack of clarity as to the ability to operate profitably int he market. So, we are acquiring customers, but keeping a low risk profile. Over the next few months we will make critical decisions as to whether France will be added to the pool of core markets where we put most of our focus on today.

What do you envision for 2011?
It’s only the beginning for 888poker, going from one of the less popular poker brands in the industry from a product perspective, we feel we now have one of the best products and one of the best marketing teams and concept around. We have a pipeline of future innovations, features and promotions which we feel will excite players and make them want to play with us all the more.

We spent this year understanding and adapting to this ever changing market, capturing a niche in the market, and giving our customers a “reason to believe” in us. Looking back it was a challenging year; looking forwards, we believe we now have what it takes to capture a much larger share of our customers’ time.

Affiliates can promote 888poker via Uffiliates.