A few years ago, a Steam community manager contacted me about a bug that was preventing users from obtaining certain skins in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The fix was simple and I had the potential to make a few coins.
The community manager explained that Steam had recently implemented two ‘fancy’ features – one allowing users to show off their community badges on their profile pages, the other enabling them to earn skins by completing certain tasks – and that these new features were resulting in a large number of users trying to take advantage of them.
The problem was that these tasks required users to input their bank details, and since the company had no idea how to prevent fraud, they had to implement ‘two factor authentication’ (2FA) to protect their customers’ accounts.
2FA is a security measure which requires users to input a code – known as a ‘security code’ or ‘TOTP’ (Time-Based One-Time Password) – in addition to their username and password when logging in to a website or application. This extra code is then required alongside the username and password before the account can be accessed.
While this was hindering many legitimate users from claiming their prize, it was also preventing many potential scammers from carrying out their evil deeds. It turned out that my simple fix had huge implications and it changed the way online gambling worked.
2FA Made The Difference
Prior to implementing 2FA, users would receive an email containing a link to click on to verify their email address. Once verified, the user would be taken to a page where they could choose a coupon code to use toward future purchases. These codes would later be mailed to users’ addresses after their purchase.
Users unable to claim their coupons would simply leave the site frustrated, and would likely leave an unhappy impression on the company’s already tattered moral fabric. Not only that, but many of these users were likely to be scammers looking to steal your identity – and your money – so there was also a security risk to consider. Not to mention the fact that there was no real recourse should a fraudster steal your identity and drain your bank account.
Tasks such as verifying an email address required only a username and password. Therefore, it was easily hackable and it made the company’s customer database particularly susceptible to identity theft. Once 2FA was implemented, all of this changed. Now, a user must input their ‘TOTP’ (Time-Based One-Time Password) alongside their password to verify their identity.
This is done by scanning a QR code – a short snippet of text and/or graphic data that can be scanned with a smartphone camera – or entering it manually on a computer.
The fact that this was not possible prior to 2FA meant that betting websites had no idea whether or not a user was truly committed to making a purchase. They also had no way of identifying if a purchaser was a scammer trying to steal their account. Now, 2FA ensures that only legitimate users can make any kind of purchase on a betting website, protecting the company from many forms of fraud. It also means that users are more willing to provide certain personal information – such as their bank details – to make a purchase, increasing the confidence of both the company and the user in the legitimacy of the transaction.
This simple change resulted in happier customers, fewer complaints, and a better overall experience for all parties.
The Implications Of This Change
The fact that online gambling changed as a result of this simple fix has a lot of implications beyond the realms of Counter-Strike. In particular, the way we look at advertising and marketing changed forever as a result of this simple fix.
Advertisers want to reach as many people as possible, so they often resort to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, where they’ll pay a website to place a banner ad in front of a user who has expressed an interest in a particular product or service.
With PPC ads, an advertiser is essentially throwing money away if they don’t reach the right audience. However, with the right targeting and the use of non-personalized ads, they can be fairly certain that a lot of people will see their ads. This type of advertising is extremely targeted and it’s often used for highly relevant products and services, making it incredibly effective.
On the other hand, retargeting ads – where advertisers attempt to ‘retain’ a previously engaged user by displaying ads that are tailored to their interests – are less effective due to the fact that most people have already seen ads with similar information.
This is why retargeting ads often appear much less frequently than PPC ads and why they’re less effective – users have already seen similar information presented to them, so the likelihood of them seeing an ad for ‘pennies from heaven’ is slim.
The use of retargeting ads is mostly restricted to eCommerce environments where a product is bought and then, usually, the customer is presented with ads for similar products. In these cases, the information about the previously purchased product might be used to target the customer with ads for similar items.
However, even in these cases, customers have become numb to ads and are unlikely to be lured in by them. As a result, eCommerce websites have moved away from the use of retargeting ads and have started to focus on generating organic leads, meaning those leads that come directly from website visitors – instead of being bought from an advertising network – through the use of content marketing and lead nurturing.
What Does This Mean For The Future?
If online gambling is any indicator of future tech trends, we can expect to see an increased focus on security and ensuring that financial information is kept secure – as well as simplified sign-up procedures to make the experience as quick and painless as possible.
With the advent of cryptocurrencies, all of this information can be securely stored on a wallet which can then be used to carry out financial transactions with relative ease – and without the need to expose too much personal information.
The future of online gambling is looking up as a result of many factors, not least of which the inherent security risk posed by online gambling. However, we can also expect to see an influx of smaller operators using cryptocurrencies, eliminating the need to store financial information on a centralized database, and thus avoiding some of the risks that online gambling represents.
While this might seem like a daunting task, it’s an essential one if we’re to remain relevant in a world where the skills and knowledge needed to become a digital nomad are becoming increasingly more accessible.