Written by: Danny Bogus, Principal Digital Consultant
It’s easy to forget that Google, a staple of modern day life, was not the first internet search engine. WebCrawler, AskJeeves, and Lycos were founded earlier but did not reach a sustainable level of success. At the core of their businesses, these sites were not significantly different.
So why did Google prevail over other established competitors? One of the key reasons is that Google was simply easier to use. The site loaded quickly and wasn’t cluttered with a variety of options, the search results weren’t plagued with advertisements, and the clean design made reading results tolerable.
Google understood the practice of usability and leveraged this as a competitive advantage. Usability can be defined as the degree by which something can be easily used. It’s also an ongoing practice that sits between the intersection of behavioral trends and technological advancements. And it’s not just a digital thing – it can be applied to all types of products.
For those old enough to remember, cars were equipped with a standard hand-powered roll down window. As technological advancements occurred, the usability practice shifted to a motor-powered window with a push button. As technology advances and our behaviors change, perhaps the usability standard will become a voice activated control, and touch buttons will feel like relics of the past.
Poor usability can be a major deterrent for prospective customers. Consider the obstacles in place for new players of non-scratch lottery games. Many players are directed to read paper brochures, fill out play slips, and make complex choices in order to get into the game. This is not the level of simplicity that is likely to engage new generations of players – and make no mistake, millennials are shopping at stores where lottery games are currently sold.
Usability is also important for engaging retailer staff. Many clerks can attest to the fact that the lottery terminal is often the most complex piece of equipment in the store. It’s also unforgiving – in many states, tickets cannot be cancelled after they are printed. After a few negative experiences, many stores arrive at policies that require players to complete bet slips – putting the effort, and confusion, back on the player.
As for those already playing, most lotteries recognize that the vast majority of winning number results are checked online. As a result, lotteries must constantly strive to improve the usability of their web and mobile sites. This can be challenging in an ever-evolving market of device types, screen sizes, touch and click interfaces.
Competition also exists in the digital channel today, and this puts lotteries at risk for lost opportunities. Winning number results are provided on a wide variety of sites and, as illustrated by the Google example, players will eventually gravitate to the superior user experience. Maintaining an active digital audience will allow lotteries to convert traffic into revenues at retail and online.
Additionally, expectations of good website usability is being set by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook. On the plus side, lotteries can mimic design patterns that have already been established by these sites, and players will quickly interpret how to use the features. However, not all business functions performed by lotteries can be related to other internet giants.
The good news is that usability can easily be measured, tested, and refined. A starting point for lotteries to consider is conducting a player journey map. This can be a helpful exercise, and reference tool, to understand all of the touchpoints associated with player segments’ experience with the lottery.
Once the touchpoints are well understood, lotteries should seek methods to begin benchmarking the usability of each. This could include measuring the ease of use, and opportunities, associated with bet slips, self-service interfaces, retailer equipment, web and mobile sites. It may be important to obtain sentiments from a variety of player or retailer segments, while also including non-players that may be part of a future target group.
At this stage, lotteries can begin to create and test prototypes in order to gauge what solutions may improve usability scores the most. This is often an iterative process, driven by a feedback loop from the end-users that will result in a balance of simplicity and usefulness.
Lotteries must also avoid the status quo when usability improves. Good usability, when it remains static over time, will quickly turn into poor usability as technology and behavioral trends evolve. In the quest for new players, an ongoing investment into usability research and design initiatives can be an essential piece of a growth strategy.