The future of contactless payment systems
To get the obvious dark joke out of the way, most festivals literally went cashless in the pandemic-stricken calendar of 2020/21, and not for strategic reasons. But now, after the better part of two years on pause, the survivors are gradually returning to a changed world in which actual cashless systems, once a matter of preference for live events, seem destined to become the standard.
As shows and festivals come back online around the world and begin to thrash out solutions to Covid safety, staff shortages, visitor flow, and our own increasingly cash-free habits, cashless and contactless options are a must-have, whether based on RFID, mobile pay, barcoded tickets, or some hybrid of the above.
“I think [cashless] was maybe 30% before the pandemic,” estimates Event Genius founder Reshad Hossenally, “and now it’s probably close to 80%-odd, maybe more.”
Nor is this likely to be a temporary shift. “In the festival world, the biggest change we are going to see when everyone is back is that cash and tokens will be out,” says David De Wever, CEO and partner at Antwerp-based PlayPass.
Before Covid, cashless festivals weren’t always to everyone’s taste – an NME column from 2018 was unambiguously entitled ‘We need to talk about cashless festivals, because they f***ing suck’ – but things are different now.
“Cash is no longer a preferred payment method, as cashless systems allow for a cleaner and safer experience for everyone”
The pandemic isn’t over yet, but event management technology – of which access control and cashless systems are just the most visible applications – will certainly be an important tool in the process of piloting the live business back out of the wilderness.
According to recent research, 63% of fans have greater event health and safety concerns than before, and 66% of fans are more worried about venue hygiene [source: Performance Research]. Meanwhile, the most mature markets are well along the road of phasing out cash, with hard currency in Sweden down to 9% of transactions in 2020, against 14% in the Netherlands, 23% in the UK and 28% in the US [source: McKinsey].
It all adds up to a major opportunity for cashless specialists, many of whom offer ticketing, access, marketing and travel within the same system, and whose technology easily flexes to encompass any number of testing and vaccine
passport options. Where festivals have returned in 2021, the majority have come back in cashless form, usually in tandem with some form of digital access control – whatever the particular situation has required.
“As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for our solutions,” says Jason Thomas, CEO of global cashless provider Tappit. “Cash is no longer a preferred payment method, as cashless systems allow for a much cleaner and safer experience for fans and staff. RFID solutions work perfectly for festivals, but we’ve seen a real increase in demand for our white-label mobile pay solution, which works for events and venues with their own app or digital ecosystem.”
But while certain markets in well-vaccinated nations have bounced back to life, 2021 has not been quite the wholehearted return to action we were all hoping for – even if early signs were good.
“We’ve seen a real increase in demand for our white-label mobile pay solution”
“Around April, May, suddenly everyone was active,” says De Wever. “At that stage, a lot of them needed proposals for Covid testing and all different kinds of extra technology. Then it went quiet for a bit, particularly the big festivals.”
Most of those big festivals decided against risking a 2021 return, and even now, with pockets of events carefully raising the curtain again, just about everyone in the event technology business has seen too many false dawns to indulge in too much unvarnished optimism.
“What we have seen this year is some of the mid-sized festivals are trying to have an edition, depending on the country,” says De Wever, speaking in late August. “UK, Belgium, France is busy at the moment, but apart from that, it is still really flat in a lot of countries. We are just watching what is happening at each national level, and we also have some promoters who are taking the initiative themselves.”
One such example is Barcelona’s Cruïlla festival at the city’s Parc del Fòrum, which decided to proceed in July, safeguarding fans with an antigen testing regime made possible by PlayPass’s RFID system.
“[Cruïlla director Jordi Herreruela] decided he was going to test everybody, every day, no matter what,” says De Wever. “The procedure was that people had to create an account and buy a test for each of the days they were going to the festival. When you arrived at the festival, you swapped your ticket for an RFID wristband and took a test.
Intellitix saw its 2020 calendar wiped out and executed a quick pivot, developing a Covid-screening and assessment tool
“The company doing the testing linked the ID with the barcode on their tests, and when you got the results back after 15 minutes, that was linked with the wristband. Then you could scan the wristband to see if it was valid and if the result was positive or negative.”
This year’s patchy albeit largely cashless revival comes on the back of an extremely lean period in which, like so many other companies in the live space, the survival of the key cashless players was far from guaranteed.
Most also count sport as another key market, and consequently found themselves hit hard across several sectors. Like many others, Intellitix saw its 2020 calendar wiped out and executed a quick pivot, developing a Covid-screening and assessment tool.
“2020 was getting it into the hands of the essential businesses, making it work for construction, manufacturing, food processing, retirement homes, schools, healthcare,” says Milan Malivuk, chief strategy officer at the Toronto-based global provider.
“But the reality is, as busy as we have been with that, we are very keen to get back to what we do. So, we are obviously trying to bend over backwards to make things happen, but not to the point where we are willing to cobble together some half-assed deployments that aren’t going to be successful.”
“We were in a growing industry where every year you could expect growth and suddenly it was completely finished”
PlayPass and its French rival Weezevent announced a merger in March 2020, retaining both brand names but creating a 100-strong team with offices in Antwerp and Paris, as well as Canada, Switzerland, Spain, and the UK.
“We were in a growing industry where every year you could expect growth,” says De Wever. “And suddenly it was completely finished, and we lost 90% of our revenue, so that was quite confronting. And like a lot of businesses, we started to evaluate the best options of how we make sure we can survive this, and how we can become stronger after.”
The two companies had been in discussions before the pandemic, De Wever reveals, but the tempest of 2020 focused the need for mutual support.
“We had already had some discussions with Weezevent before. For my part I always considered them the biggest competitor. A lot of companies claim to be a European leader, and I don’t think there was one, but now… let’s wait until 2022, but I think we can say we are in a position to be the European leader.”
The immediate function of modern event technology this year has been to help get the show back on the road in difficult circumstances. But the deeper promise of such technology manifests itself on several fronts. As well as timely safety capabilities, it also potentially offers better experiences, shorter queues, and transactional efficiencies in a sector that, as most festivalgoers can probably confirm, could sometimes do with them.
“We are quite optimistic that Covid has pushed technological advancement in a sector that typically is slow to change”
“What Covid has done, in our opinion, is to accelerate something that was coming already – this attitude of ‘what’s the quickest and easiest way to transact?’ That’s the expectation now,” says Sam Biggins, commercial director at UK-based food and drink ordering app Butlr.
“We are quite optimistic that, although Covid was a terrible thing, it has pushed technological advancement in a sector that typically is very slow to change. Music venues have been operating in almost exactly the same way since their inception. Same with festivals. I don’t think the first Glastonbury will have been very different to Glastonbury these days, in terms of technology at least.”
And for promoters, efficiency isn’t the only win to be had here. The promise of teched-up festivals is that they belatedly offer promoters the opportunity to know their customers, learn from their movements around the site and create opportunities to communicate, preview, reward, and strategically market to them.
“We have been doing this since 2010,” says Malivuk. “And the reason people have used us is because they want to know who is inside their event – for marketing, for the ability to re-engage, build brand connections, the ability to improve traffic flow inside the event. And it’s about facilitating cashless transactions and speeding them up, gathering more data and increasing the average spend per person, typically by 30% to 40%.”
Tappit’s Jason Thomas agrees. “In this market, the solution that will provide real value is one that can go beyond simply delivering cashless functionality, to provide a frictionless fan experience and enable event organisers to understand each and every fan – connecting what they bought, when they entered the venue, when they left and how to maximise this,” he says.
“Providing real-time data to deliver real value for organisations will make the difference between success and failure”
“Data is the most valuable element of the cashless solution, and as we work with our clients throughout the process, we help provide insights and ways to make events even more profitable. Making consistent connections between a fan or consumer and ensuring you know their preferences is crucial in building strong brand loyalty. Providing real-time data and insights to deliver real value for organisations will make the difference between success and failure.”
On the one hand, some operators note that avid data capture isn’t necessarily the way the wind is blowing in the wider world. “We were on the BBC recently and it was all around data-less ordering,” says Biggins. “Some solutions will mine users’ data and it’s ludicrous and it’s intrusive. You don’t need someone’s date of birth to place an order. We are of the opinion that the less data you take, the more seamless the experience.”
But for broad-ranging event management systems, suggests Hossenally, a restrained data-driven approach, deploying closed-loop systems that enable organisers to bank all the data generated by their events, offers benefits on both sides.
“With the onsite experience now, there’s a lot more that can be enabled that promoters didn’t really think about before, because they didn’t have the technology solutions to do so,” he says. “It’s a real opportunity to be able to create that full end-to-end journey, from the company buying the ticket to accessing the event to paying onsite.
“It’s about understanding that customer and having a 360-degree view of their spending habits. It’s not necessarily all about Big Brother but how, in order to generate more revenue, promoters have to give more to the customers in the form of a better, more tailored experience: rewards, loyalty, all that sort of stuff that promoters couldn’t really do before.”
“Now with 5G, you can have 150,000 people in one place and have reliable connectivity”
Gradually, other barriers to seamless operation are being removed, too, including the perennial difficulty of networks for mobile solutions. “We have held off on releasing a mobile solution for a very long time, purely because network infrastructure wasn’t there,” says Malivuk. “But now with 5G, you can have 150,000 people in one place and have reliable connectivity.”
Intellitix acquired a mobile-first company called CrowdBlink in January 2020, on which it has built “a lightweight version of Intellitix, with a ticketing solution, access control, and cashless.” The future, Malivuk suggests, isn’t necessarily increasingly complex systems but more accessible ones, aimed at smaller events.
“Intellitix has always been a no-brainer for events over a certain size,” he says. “But we always also had a lot of demand from events that want what we do but the numbers don’t make sense. CrowdBlink doesn’t do everything Intellitix does, because that’s kind of the enterprise option, but for smaller events that just want to sell tickets, scan people in, conduct transactions but at a lower price point – that’s what this is for.”
As a dedicated payment system, UK-based Butlr also has an ambition to strengthen the technological hand of those it works with, which includes independent festivals and up to 700 venues. At Brighton’s On The Beach, Butlr displayed QR codes on posters and screens around the event, which allowed customers to order using their phones and receive a push notification when their order was ready to collect.
“We had four members of staff, compared to 50 on the main bar, and we were responsible for 50% of the takings,” says Biggins. “We want to avoid those scrums at the bar, five-deep. In my opinion, those should be a thing of the past. But as with all things, it takes time for adoption.”
“We want to avoid those scrums at the bar, five-deep. In my opinion, those should be a thing of the past”
At festivals of the future, he says, Butlr plans to spread its PickUp points around a site. “So rather than having one big bar miles away, we will have points really close to the stage. You scan a QR code, choose a PickUp point, and pick up pre-made drinks. That’s our vision of the future and we are starting to do it now.”
The wider future, of course, is a carefully managed return to business, as events attempt to gauge demand in a market where they haven’t drawn an audience in eighteen months or so. For cashless technology, the picture is a combination of the highly ambitious and the very down to earth.
“In five years from now, I think we can expect truly immersive and customised event experiences,” says Thomas.
“The launch of ABBA’s live event experience has shown just how creative events can become. Connected devices and 5G will all create the perfect environment to deliver a unique and tailored event experience for each and every fan. The right cashless solution will connect the fan’s experience to their purchasing preferences. Delivering deep and meaningful engagement can be endless, and the connection between brand and consumer will continue to grow stronger.”
And then there is the down-to-earth side.“I think there’s core tenets that are fundamentals, like, can we make it more invisible?” says Malivuk. “That’s the future of it – being less obtrusive. That’s where everyone’s interests align. If you improve the festival experience, that’s where you are going to see more revenues. Just make it suck less to buy things onsite. If you focus on that piece, everything else follows. Make all those steps that suck, suck less.”
Cashless leaders Playpass and Weezevent merge
Leading European cashless payments companies Weezevent, based in Dijon, and Playpass, headquartered in Antwerp, have merged.
The new Playpass-Weezevent group comprises six offices with more than 100 employees and 1,200 event clients, including major festivals such as Lollapalooza (Paris, Berlin and Chile), Rock Werchter, Main Square (pictured), Hellfest, Rock en Seine and Austria’s Frequency and Nova Rock. The companies, which have a combined annual turnover of over £400 million (€466m), also provide cashless solutions for sports brands such as Formula 1, Red Bull Air Race, Paris St Germain FC, Lausanne FC and the World Darts Championship.
It is hoped that by joining forces the firms can make NFC (near-field contact) wristbands and cards as ubiquitous for payments at UK festivals as they are in continental Europe.
Post-merger, Steve Jenner of PlayPass and Olly Goddard of Weezevent jointly head up the group’s UK and Republic of Ireland division. The deal will also lead to the expansion of the companies’ offices in Paris, Madrid, Antwerp, Lausanne and Montreal and their in-house development staff.
Paying tribute to Playpass co-founders David De Wever and Dale Hofkens, Weezevent’s CEO, Pierre-Henri Deballon, says: “David, Dale and their teams share the same passion and vision as Weezevent for delivering a world-class cashless experience, and after eight years of healthy competition the time has come to form a new team that is stronger, more ambitious and more confident than ever.”
“The return to a normal post-Covid situation will accelerate the adoption of cashless everywhere. This is about being ready”
De Wever adds: “Our two companies are highly complementary and the consolidation of our expertise and experience now makes it possible to form the leader in cashless event solutions. The return to a normal post-Covid situation will accelerate the adoption of cashless everywhere. This is about being ready for the market while continuing to innovate.”
Last year, says Goddard, “promised a much wider adoption of cashless technology at events before our industry was put into lockdown. Though this natural progression was interrupted, we are looking forward to a productive 2021 and beyond, and our merger with PlayPass will put us in an even stronger position to deliver what consumers want and events need.”
British festivals planning their return this summer using the group’s cashless technology include Standon Calling, 2000 Trees, Black Deer, ArcTanGent, Lakefest, Neverworld and the inaugural UnLocked Festival.
“As a competitor we have always held the utmost respect for Weezevent, in particular the strength of their technology, team and commitment to improving the visitor experience,” adds Jenner. “To join forces with them at this time is a really exciting opportunity for us, our clients and the UK’s live events industry, placing us in a much stronger position to not only help the sector get back on its feet faster, but to emerge stronger than ever.”
Goodtill by SumUp POS launches music venue offer for ILMC 33
Goodtill by SumUp is the leading provider of iPad POS software in the UK & Ireland, powering some of the UK’s most exciting businesses and the largest names in hospitality with £500m of transactions processed annually. It has more than 1,200 customers in hospitality, with POS systems in over 450 cafes and restaurants, along with pubs, bars and nightclubs, hotels, major sports stadiums, offices and schools.
Oliver Rowbory, co-founder at Goodtill: “For over five years, our aim has been to deliver the best point of service technology to forward-thinking businesses across the restaurant, events and hospitality sectors.”
In 2020, Goodtill by SumUp has seen rapid growth in Goodeats, a powerful click & collect and table ordering platform which has processed over 1 million collection and delivery orders, providing hundreds of cafes and restaurants with the ability to sell to customers safely and remain open during lockdown.
The company has just launched a set of hardware and core POS offers specifically for the live music sector, which will help all types of venues, from grassroots to arenas, whether they are looking to invest fully or simply license the system. Features include a whole host of capabilities including extensive reporting and management, stock control, multi-outlet management, loyalty features and more.
“For over five years, our aim has been to deliver the best point of service technology to forward-thinking businesses across the restaurant, events and hospitality sectors”
John Talbot, Goodtill’s new Music Partnerships Manager will be at ILMC 33: Virtually Live to talk about the value of Goodtill and its Goodeats mobile ordering solution, as a way to reopen successfully in the coming months, while managing physical interaction and ensuring your fans feel welcome and safe in your venue.
Anyone interested in Goodtill’s products can sign-up now for a demo and quote, including an exclusive ILMC / IQ Magazine discounted offer. Click here for more information.
Rewind’s Paul Carey joins TicketCo
Cloud-based events payment platform TicketCo has appointed Paul Carey, formerly general manager of ’80s festival Rewind, as key account manager in the UK.
Carey, who has also worked as a publicist for artists including Elton John, David Bowie and the Who, is charged with driving growth in Norway-based TicketCo’s UK festival division.
TicketCo launched in the UK last year and has since secured clients including Coalition Agency, Ministry of Sound, Tobacco Dock, Junkyard Golf and several sports teams. The company also has offices in Poland and Sweden.
Carey comments: “I’m joining TicketCo at an exciting time; the company is making excellent progress in taking the UK ticketing and event payments market into the new digital world.
“There is so much scope to drive positive change in the festival industry”
“There is so much scope to drive positive change in the festival industry and TicketCo will continue to be one of the frontrunners of the digital disruption in the coming years.”
TicketCo’s technology is compatible with Android and iOS devices and enables organisers to push offers on food, drink and merchandise in advance of events. The system can also send QR codes to eventgoers’ smartphones, which are then scanned at entry points to gain access.
David Kenny, TicketCo UK country manager, says: “Paul is a fantastic addition to our growing team of industry experts. His track record in the festival and music industries is incredible and we believe he will make a real impact in this space with TicketCo.”
Alexandra Palace darts goes cashless with Weezevent
The World Darts Championship returns to Alexandra Palace in London this December, with all payments cashless for the first time in the event’s history thanks to a partnership with Weezevent.
All bars, food and merchandise outlets at the three-week sporting event will be using a cashless payment system powered by Weezevent. The system, which cuts out the need for cash and provides event organisers with visitor and sales data, debuted in the UK festival market at Standon Calling in 2019.
Moving on from the previous paper-based token system, the 85,000 attendees at the World Darts Championship will be able to top up in advance or on site, and make payments using souvenir NFC cards at Weezevent point-of-sale devices.
These cards can be used on repeat visits to the darts series, which runs from 13 December to 1 January, benefitting fans who attend more than once during the darts’ three-week residency at the 10,000-plus-cap. Ally Pally (pictured).
“The benefits to customers will be instantly obvious, with fewer queues at the bars and speedy transactions”
Olly Goddard, UK country manager for Weezevent, says: “Alexandra Palace is one of the most iconic venues in London and we are very much looking forward to bringing our cashless system here through our partnership with the World Darts Championship. The benefits to customers will be instantly obvious, with fewer queues at the bars and speedy transactions.
“Importantly, it will now be a much simpler process to get refunds back from the cards should there be any pre-paid amount left once the darts has finished. Previously, guests would have to send back the paper tokens; with the Weezevent system all refunds are processed online immediately after the event ends. ”
Matt Porter, chief executive of the Professional Darts Corporation, the Worlds Darts Championship organiser, adds: “ I used the Weezevent system at Standon Calling and saw how easy it was to use. Providing a cashless solution to our fans is an important step to improving their experience at the World Darts Championship. As an organisation, we are always looking at ways to improve our offering and with Weezevent we have partnered with a proven and reliable system.”
Eurosonic partners with PlayPass
Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS), Europe’s largest showcase festival for emerging talent, has partnered with cashless payment provider PlayPass.
Festivalgoers, delegates and artists will be able to make payments at all 42 ESNS locations using an NFC wristband, mobile wallet or payment card. All payment options will be accepted on a single, PlayPass-provided point-of-sale device.
Each attendee will be issued with a personalised, electronic wristband upon registration at the event. Funds can be loaded onto the wristband via PlayPass self-service top-up kiosks or the Payconiq mobile application for visitors from the Netherlands and Belgium.
PlayPass will also invite event organisers attending ESNS to take a behind-the-scenes look at its technology and operations.
“We are very proud to become a partner to Eurosonic Noorderslag and are extremely excited to be showcasing new capabilities at such a prestigious event”, says David De Wever, CEO and co-founder of PlayPass.
“We believe that the features we are presenting at Eurosonic will be a true game-changer for the live events industry”
“We believe that the features we are presenting at Eurosonic will be a true game-changer for the live events industry and we look forward to showing promoters how they can yield significant gains, both financial and in visitor loyalty, through intelligent use of our technology and the invaluable data it generates.”
“ESNS believes it is important to lead the way in innovations in the music industry,” says Dago Houben, managing director of ESNS, which first introduced cashless payments in 2013.
“It is now time to make the next step and improve on every aspect. With the state-of-the-art system that PlayPass provides, we feel confident improving the quality of payments and services on all levels and for all involved,” adds Houben.
ESNS 2019 attracted over 42,000 guests from 44 countries, including 4,100 conference delegates and representatives from 423 festivals. The event showcased 342 acts across more than 40 stages.
PlayPass hails record summer for cashless & RFID at UK festivals
Cashless and NFC specialist PlayPass has enjoyed a record-breaking summer, operating at over 250 events across 22 countries over five continents and processing 12.82 million cashless transactions, worth €78 million euros. Globally, 2019 has seen the company grow its event roster by 40%.
The UK has seen the sharp end of this growth curve, with a 400% increase in events embracing the company’s solutions to improve their visitor experience, increase spend per head, operate more efficiently and eliminate fraud.
This year saw PlayPass deliver more than 80% of all commercial UK cashless and RFID festival activations, reinforcing its position as the market leader and building on a solid four-year track record for reliability in festival fields. While many implementations focused on going fully cashless, some events used the technology to combat accreditation fraud, while others wanted to create a more immersive visitor experience. One even used it to help people climb up walls!
Here, Steve Jenner, PlayPass’s UK managing director, relays his ten proudest deployments from the UK’s biggest summer of RFID yet, in order of delivery date…
Some events used the tech to combat accreditation fraud, while others wanted to create a more immersive visitor experience. One even used it to help people climb up walls
1. We Are FSTVL, 24–26 May, became the UK’s first major festival to successfully go fully cashless. A flawless RFID operation provided a fast, queue-free experience inside the event, attended by 70,000.
Steve Durham, director of We Are FSTVL, says: “We were delighted to partner with PlayPass – they gave us the confidence to say ‘we can do this’, and the feedback we’ve had from the public is that it was super-easy and super-smooth.”
2. Black Deer, 21–23 June, contracted PlayPass to take the festival fully cashless as well as using the staff accreditation system. As well as giving visitors a hassle-free experience, the country and americana festival went on to smash previous UK records for online pre-event top-ups and reported a significant spend-per-head uplift. The increase in service speed took some traders by surprise, including Pizza of Dreams, who sold out of stock during the event.
Chris Russell-Fish, Black Deer’s operations director, says: “I’m delighted to say that it’s worked brilliantly. We’ve had no queues, the system has been easy to use – far better and more secure than dealing with cash – and our spend per head has been significantly higher than last year. We’ve had great feedback from the audience, traders and bar managers and I’m sure we’ll look to enhance it further next year.”
3. Smoked & Uncut, 15 June, 6 July, 27 July. With capacities ranging from 3,000 to 5,000, this trio of sold-out one-day shows with an older audience demographic experienced a solid uplift in spend per head, going fully cashless for the first time.
Lotti Eagles, head of marketing for Smoked & Uncut: “Using PlayPass’s system benefited both the customer experience and our experience as organisers. Queues at bars and food stalls were reduced and it has allowed us to far more accurately track spends, which meant we could be far more prepared ahead of the next event, as well as use this data to guide our plans for 2020.”
“The data mine that we’ve got, that will enable us to run the event more efficiently from an accreditation point of view, is mind-blowing”
4. British Summer Time, 5–7 July, 12–14 July. We rolled out our crew management and access control systems to eliminate the risk of accreditation fraud on all six Hyde Park shows. Several thousand crew working onsite were issued with secure RFID wristbands encoded with their professional credentials, which were scanned at back-of-house checkpoints, where security was paramount.
5. 2000trees, 11–13 July. After a highly successful leap to cashless last year, yielding a reported 24% increase in bar spend, the award-winning 10,000-capacity Cotswolds punk-rock fest added our crew accreditation system for year two. Through fine-tuning the cashless operation, they were also able to achieve another sizeable uplift in spend per head.
Festival director Brendan Herbert on the accreditation system: “Through this, we’ve learned so much about our event and all the crew, press, VIP guests and artists that come here. The data mine that we’ve got that will enable us to run the event more efficiently from an accreditation point of view is mind-blowing, so we’re already very excited about using it next year to put new ideas into practice.”
6. Bluedot, 18–21 July. One of the proudest, most exciting projects in my career, this was our biggest UK operation of the summer, with over 500 devices in the field and a team of 14 on site. It was also a huge year for Bluedot, having sold out its expanded capacity of 21,000 and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. It was the perfect moment to go fully cashless, and – as a festival themed on space-age technology – it was important that the tech was used for more than just cashless convenience.
Enter the ‘Mission Log’. Conceived by Bluedot’s creative team, this used our new gamification services for the first time in the UK to give visitors a more immersive festival experience. RFID scanners mounted in upright podiums around the site enabled visitors to check in at over 400 attractions, including live performances, talks, exhibits and sponsor activations. After the event, they could log in to the Bluedot website using their wristband ID to view their ‘Mission Log’, reliving their personal experience of the event with links for deeper content. It was a big leap for Bluedot and undoubtedly a giant one for festival-kind.
“Through rain and shine, wi-fi and power outages, even a gate stampede, our technology and operational crew have proven to be highly resilient, flexible and reliable this summer”
Bar operator Marc Daly, of Field Vision, says: “Working with PlayPass at Bluedot saw our transaction speed increase, queues reduce and ancillary costs reduce. We had less security on site as no physical money needed to be transported or counted. Our risk of theft reduced to almost zero, and our build and de-rig times reduced as less equipment needed to be set up and distributed. The PlayPass team were always efficient and easy to deal with and I look forward to working with them next year.”
7. Neverworld, 1–3 August. The festival formerly known as Leefest levelled -up this year with an attendance boost to 6,000 and a fully cashless site. Every ticket came pre-loaded with £26 of cashless credit, meaning that 100% of the audience had money on their wristbands as soon as they were through the gates. The result was a queue-free experience from start to finish and a highly successful transition to cashless.
Brian Meredith, from Neverworld’s board, credited PlayPass’ onsite team who, he says, were “just great and could not have been more helpful”.
8. These Walls Are Meant for Climbing, 10–11 August. We went from green fields to London’s Westfield shopping centre for ‘It’s Bigger’ agency, adapting our tech for this action-sports fest hosted by outdoor clothing label the North Face. Interactive climbing experiences, alongside live music and DJs, saw our handheld scanners built into the top of ten climbing walls.
A thousand participants each day were issued removable RFID wristbands so they could log their climb by checking-in when they reached the top. Using our new gamification services, this triggered an automated email containing a special offer voucher from the North Face they could redeem in the high street.
“We look forward to continued success with our existing UK clients and introducing many more events to the benefits they can attain with our solutions”
9. Lakefest, 8–11 August. A major onsite cash theft in 2018 prompted Lakefest’s organisers to make the jump to cashless. Coinciding with a sizeable increase in attendance to 12,000, it proved a highly successful endeavour that was well-received by the family heavy audience.
10. London Dessert Festival, 16–17 August. The capital’s sweetest new food festival, in London’s Old Truman Brewery, went fully cashless with us for its first edition to give customers and vendors a smoother experience and avoid the costs and complexities of cash management. Six thousand visitors were issued RFID cards which they could top up with funds online (in advance) or on site to spend on delicious puddings at 50 stands.
Steve Jenner, pictured with the PlayPass team at Bluedot, comments: “Through rain and shine, wi-fi and power outages, even a gate stampede, our technology and operational crew have proven to be highly resilient, flexible and reliable this summer. I’m particularly proud of the positive feedback from our clients, praising the results we’ve achieved on their behalf – for giving their visitors a better experience alongside consistent commercial uplift and improved security across all sites.
“We look forward to continued success with our existing UK clients and introducing many more events to the benefits they can attain with our solutions.”
Weezevent: Celebrating Standon Calling success
A team of eight Weezevent staff were on hand to provide practical advice, guidance and support at Standon Calling in July, as the cashless payments provider marked a successful first year of its partnership with the boutique UK event.
Paris-based Weezevent, which provides cashless solutions for some of the biggest events in France, including Rock en Seine, Hellfest, Lollapalooza Paris and Les Vieilles Charrues, opened a London office in 2017 and signed the 15,000-capacity Standon Calling earlier this year.
“Standon are the festival experts when it comes to RFID and cashless technology,” said Weezevent’s UK country manager, Olly Goddard. “Their decision to become our first festival partner in the UK is an endorsement of our solution and reflects our intention to expand here in the UK, as we have done so in France.”
Standon, this year headlined by Rag’n’Bone Man, Nile Rodgers’ Chic, and Wolf Alice, in 2013 became one of the first UK festivals to introduce a cashless system. After working with two different RFID providers, it moved over to Weezevent for 2019 to take advantage of the company’s cashless and access-control solutions, which work offline avoiding the risks posed by an unstable Internet connection. (As Weezevent co-founder and CEO, Pierre-Henri Deballon, told IQ earlier this year, “If a festival can’t process payments, that’s like a normal business being closed for weeks…”)
All 180 festival staff at bars and restaurants, and 50 independent traders used Weezevent’s cashless payment system, while mobile partner Greencopper allowed festivalgoers who downloaded the Standon Calling app to create and top-up their cashless account online in seconds.
Andrew Snell, founder and director of One Circle Events, which runs Standon’s bars, described the new payment process as “slick, quick and fast.” Snell is no stranger to cashless – he also runs a cash-free pub in London – but is still impressed by the Weezevent system: “It’s seamless,” he commented. “The device is really nice to use – it’s about the size of your iPhone in your hand – and the staff are absolutely loving it.”
“Standon Calling’s decision to become our first festival partner in the UK is an endorsement of our solution and reflects our intention to expand here in the UK”
Despite Weezevent’s growing British footprint, Goddard said the company is committed to providing white-label services for its clients, rather than building awareness of its own brand among consumers. “Our brand is not important,” he commented. “What is important is the technology and the reliability of that technology.”
As an event that welcomes festivalgoers of all ages, Standon Calling also wanted to give families more control over their cashless accounts. Using Weezevent’s technology, access and buying rights were set depending on the age of the attendees, through RFID microchips attached to cashless wristbands.
“It’s the same account on multiple chips,” explained Goddard. “A parent will be able to control how much goes on the children’s wristbands from their phone. So rather than go over and give their kids a tenner, they have them as a subcategory of the their own account and give them a budget to spend.”
Goddard added that Weezevent had its ‘under-18’ mode activated at Standon Calling, which prevents those under legal drinking age from spending money on alcohol.
Standon Calling founder Alex Trenchard was impressed by Weezevent’s festival debut. “The Greencopper app integration reduced the need for as many on-site top-up stations,” he explains, “auto top-up working offline allowed us to increase spend while reducing costs, and the family accounts helped our family audience plan their festival spending better.
“I’m looking forward to continuing our successful partnership with Weezevent as we continue to make the cashless experience as seamless as possible for our attendees at Standon Calling.”
Event Genius Pay to make African debut
UK event technology company Event Genius has announced a new cashless payment deal with the inaugural Ghanian edition of Afro Nation festival this December.
Event Genius has partnered with festivals and events across Europe and Asia including Portugal’s BPM Festival, Jika Jika! in Northern Ireland, Parklife in Manchester, UK and Annie Mac’s Lost and Found festival in Malta
Under the new deal, the company will take its cashless payment technology to Africa for the first time.
The Ghanian edition of Afro Nation festival is scheduled from the 27 to 30 December, with an expected attendance of 15,000. Alkaline, Burna Boy and J Hus are among acts to appear on the line-up.
Festivalgoers will be able to pre-purchase credit to pay for food, drink and merchandise at the event using RFID-enabled wristbands.
“We’re delighted to partner with a ticketing and technology company capable of providing a true end-to-end event platform for the inception of Afro Nation”
Event Genius is powering the ticketing for Afro Nation Ghana through the Ticket Arena website and a white label box office. Using the Entry Genius app, organisers will be able to manage entry points, track attendance and reduce ticket fraud.
“We’re delighted to partner with a ticketing and technology company capable of providing a true end-to-end event platform for the inception of Afro Nation,” says Obi Asika, chief executive of Afro Nation.
“Through our partnership with Ticket Arena and Event Genius, fans are assured the best possible experience from buying tickets, to entering the festival safely and ultimately enjoying their time dancing on the beach, without the need to worry about money or queues for drinks.”
The first-ever Afro Nation festival took place in Portimão, Portugal this year from 1 to 4 August, with performances from Wizkid, Davido, Ms Dynamite and Stefflon Don.
Why technology needs teamwork for festival success
Festivals pride themselves on the all-encompassing experience they provide fans, transporting attendees into an entirely new world over the course of a few days. The widespread integration of technology at festivals in recent years has been revolutionary in transforming the festival experience for fans and allowing them to become more immersed than ever before, while also making it a more seamless experience from start to finish.
For organisers, new technologies have also opened the door to data-based insights that have never been actionable before. Whether it’s via chatbots or RFID wristbands, technology is making it possible for organisers to analyse the habits of attendees in order to personalise and curate an experience around their needs and desires.
These unique insights have never been more important for event organisers. Competition is higher than ever due to the ease of access to festivals all over the world and tans’ expectations are higher than ever. Organisers can’t afford to fall at any hurdles or be left trailing behind the rest of the industry.
It’s easy for eager event organisers to get lured into implementing complex technologies on the promise that they will catapult festivals into another realm. However, there is often a misconception that implementing new technologies will remove the necessity for human resource. This is rarely the case: technology is only truly successful with the guidance of human expertise. New technologies can only be implemented effectively with good training, support and a strong relationship between organisers and their technology partners.
When a piece of vital technology fails to function properly, the reputational damage it can cause events can take years to put right
Select your partners carefully
Before choosing a technology partner, you first need to understand what you want to achieve and how it’ll benefit your short and long-term goals as a festival. There are countless innovations that can help elevate festivals and improve the overall experience for attendees, but it’s important to consider who will be there to support you during the integration of the technology. Take the time to look at their credentials, expertise and how much guidance they can provide – don’t just go for the cheapest option, go for the option that best aligns with your vision.
When enhancing the festival experience with new technologies, adequate support must be there to support and guide implementation. Take the time to choose a vendor that provides holistic support as well as industry leading expertise and guidance to ensure seamless integration of new technologies. Inevitably, there will be hiccups to overcome; however, with the support and foresight of the right partner, it will cause minor repercussions for attendees.
Adequate support must be there to support and guide implementation
The importance of education
Education is an incredibly important element of the planning, and the implementation process needs to extend well beyond the immediate festival team to include safety and security staff, external food suppliers and even customers themselves.
If integrating RFID technology, for example, organisers must align with all external vendors to make sure they have enough time to familiarise themselves with the new devices and payment process. A pitfall of many organisers is sacrificing a thorough education process, thinking that it’ll take up too much time or be too costly. The reality is that for most, it can be integrated and rolled out with minimal friction. Sharing a step-by-step guide and providing hands-on training sessions on how the technology functions are fundamental, but teaching operators about what to do if the technology should fail is also imperative.
When a piece of vital technology fails to function properly, the reputational damage it can cause events can take years to put right. By putting clear processes in place, outlining how to continue serving the attendees the best they can, the impact on the customer will be minimised. When forming a new relationship with providers, event organisers need to ensure that a crisis plan is in place and ready to implement if something were to go wrong. Communication is vital, so having this in place beforehand will ensure a unified and seamless response.
technology is only truly successful with the guidance of human expertise
Use your insights to learn and review
The attraction of having access to data insights is being able to tailor future events to the demands and behaviours of real attendees. It’s important to closely examine these insights to make strategic decisions based on data, not gut feel. Previously, organisers would have had to predict what the demands on capacity will be at specific times and dates. However, new technologies, such as cashless systems, can collect and provide data on queuing times at particular food and drink stands. This can help organisers with future location planning and also help vendors analyse which food and drink items are most popular so they can ensure that supplies don’t run low.
In addition, data provides a great opportunity for organisers to learn about their fans’ behaviour and as such, market relevant offers personalised to each attendee. The long-term benefits of this behaviour are huge, both in cost effectiveness and in retaining long term customer relationships.
Technology can help support festivals, match fans’ evolving expectations and provide a more seamless and enjoyable experience for both organisers and attendees. By working together closely with experienced technology vendors, educating festival staff on new systems, and utilising existing technology available effectively, organisers can provide memorable experiences (for all the right reasons) to their customers throughout the festival period and beyond.
Jason Thomas is CEO of cashless payment specialist Tappit.