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William Hill scores big on customer engagement with attractive, personalized offers

The Need

Since it was legalized in the UK, online gambling has become incredibly popular. Today, online betting generates billions of pounds in revenue each year for gaming operators. Spotting an opportunity for rapid growth, William Hill, one of the UK’s oldest bookmakers, launched online services shortly after legalization. In just a few years, the company seized an impressive 16 percent of market share.

Keen to build on its success, William Hill set out to find new ways to engage customers and secure its position as a leader in the UK gaming industry.

The Challenge

To stay ahead in the online betting space, operators compete fiercely for differentiation. William Hill attributes a large part of its market share to the delivery of excellent customer experiences driven by smart data analysis.

Patrick Di Loreto, R&D Engineering Lead at William Hill, explains: “We can’t predict the future, but we know that if we are not in control of our data, we’ll never be in a position to innovate. Understanding our data and how we can leverage it to deliver highly personalized content to our users is the next major opportunity for revenue growth.”

William Hill targeted the “In-Play” market, where customers place bets on live sports games, as the next area for growth and innovation. Specifically, the company looked to offer personalized, real-time betting options during events.

Patrick Di Loreto continues: “Many of our new, instant campaigns need to feature personalized recommendations that may only be valid for thirty seconds—a feature that must perform perfectly, especially during peak times like Saturday afternoons.”

The Solution

To effectively capture, correlate and understand every customer interaction in real-time, William Hill looked to upgrade the infrastructure supporting its applications and machine learning capabilities. Crucially, the company wanted to ensure that its systems and processes could handle vast volumes of data in motion and could offer the tools required to exploit it.

Patrick Di Loreto says: “Our journey to developing more reactive services started with embracing core functional programming concepts. We recognized that we needed to change how we thought of system architectures if we were going to develop more reactive services. Following a crash course in Scala, we decided to use it to prototype Omnia—our primary production platform for collecting user information across multiple channels.”

William Hill also decided to deploy the Akka Platform, Lightbend’s dedicated suite of reactive microservices, to form the backbone of its functional programming application infrastructure. The combination of Scala and Akka has equipped William Hill with a range of powerful tools for building effective personalization features based on up-to-the-second user interaction data.

Akka Platform also enables developers to program software without having to constantly track and update the location of physical components. And because Akka offers rich clustering and sharding features, developers can focus on the core functionality of their applications without needing to worry about managing scalability or performance.

The Results

Since enhancing its development and analytics capabilities using Scala and Akka, William Hill is much better placed to meet surges in demand for its services during live events.

With Scala and Akka, William Hill can ensure excellent resilience when facing peaks of up to 100 percent in website and mobile application traffic—a regular occurrence on match days and throughout major sports tournaments. As well as developing greater resiliency, the Lightbend solution has empowered the company to provide up-to-the-second, time-limited offers that are personalized to each user’s preferences.

Patrick Di Loreto explains: “With Omnia, we can cope with large numbers of simultaneous, real-time offers. Launching new offers in the months ahead will provide the first chance for us to see how Omnia reacts to these new types of services.”

William Hill is already in the initial stages of rolling out a “best suggestions” feature, which provides customers with offers on bets during live events—offers that are only available for just a few seconds. The company is also currently looking to incorporate gamification into its mobile and website applications by rewarding customers for performing specific actions.

Patrick Di Loreto concludes: “Simply put, without Omnia using Akka and Spark to handle distribution and speed, none of these innovative services would have been possible to launch due to our real-time requirements and extreme peaks in load. We’re looking forward to exploring further avenues for innovation with Lightbend as we continue to develop our services in the years ahead.”

Founded in the UK in 1934, William Hill is a leader in the global sports betting and gaming market. In addition to its UK activities, William Hill is locally licensed to operate in thirteen countries around the world.

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