Festicket names CEO ahead of “major growth drive”
Benjamin Leaver has been named CEO of festival discovery and booking platform Festicket and its subsidiary Event Genius.
Leaver has been a non-executive board member of the company since 2018 and also has wide-ranging experience in technology businesses across multiple sectors.
He was formerly COO of Treatwell, the largest beauty website in Europe which in 2015 was acquired for more than $200 million.
As a result of Leaver’s appointment, Festicket co-founder and CEO Zack Sabban assumes the role of president.
In the new role, Sabban will focus on strategic relationships with partners and clients, driving accelerated global growth and capitalising on-demand around the world.
“During the next phase of our development, I want to drive our global growth”
Today’s news follows the appointment of Brian Walker as chief technology officer, and the promotion of Event Genius and Ticket Arena founder Reshad Hossenally to chief operating officer, as the business focuses on a global rollout of its end-to-end Event Genius technology.
Sabban says: “I am immensely proud of how much we have achieved since we started Festicket a decade ago. During the next phase of our development, I want to drive our global growth and take our services to thousands more event creators around the world.
“I am delighted that Benjamin has agreed to lead the business as it seeks to empower event creators everywhere to grow profitably and sustainably as they deliver incredible experiences to people all over the world.”
Leaver adds: “We have an amazing team with an incredible knowledge of what makes live events successful. The coming months and into next year will be one of the most important in the history of the industry.”
“The coming months and into next year will be one of the most important in the history of the industry”
Leading promoter and Festicket senior advisor Harvey Goldsmith comments: “Under Benjamin’s leadership and with an exceptional senior team in place, Festicket can continue to grow as the live events market explodes into 2022.
“When fans attend a show, they want a seamless experience from the moment they leave their homes. Post pandemic the adoption of technology, such as cashless, a core part of Festicket’s offering to its event partners, has become even more vital.”
Founded in 2012 by Sabban and Jonathan Youne, Festicket is the world’s largest platform for discovering and booking festival trips.
In 2019, the company completed the acquisition of Event Genius, and the associated Ticket Arena consumer website and brand.
Event Genius is a UK-based ticketing, access control and cashless POS platform servicing events across the globe.
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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.”
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Event Genius expands with new ticketing deals
Ibiza superclub Amnesia and German festival promoter Cosmopop have signed primary ticketing deals with UK-based Event Genius.
Amnesia, one of the island’s most established clubbing destinations, will use Event Genius’s egTicketing, egMarketing and egTravel products from its 2021 season onwards, while while Cosmopop – whose events include Love Family Park and Time Warp (both 20,000-cap.) – will utilise the company’s entire end-to-end solution, including egTicketing, egMarketing, egTravel and egAccess.
Festicket and Event Genius CCO Yonas Blay says: “Cosmopop and Amnesia are both huge organisations in Europe’s clubbing community and it’s an honour to be working alongside them both. It’s been a tough year for everyone across the events industry, which makes it all the more encouraging when promoters of this nature put their faith in us to help them in the return to live events.”
“Cosmopop and Amnesia are both huge organisations … and it’s an honour to be working alongside them both”
“Ibiza has always been a melting pot for clubbers across the world. For that reason, we need a ticketing provider who is as equally at home in Ibiza and Spain as they are in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and beyond,” comments Sergi Blaya Cutillas, brand manager for Amnesia. “Having the ability to sell and promote our events to clubbers all across the world in their native language, currency and payment method through Event Genius’s egTicketing, egTravel and egMarketing solutions is a great bonus for us.”
Robin Ebinger, director of Cosmopop adds: “We’ve been working with Festicket for some time as a ticketing allocation and travel partner, so we always trusted their ability to deliver great results. As soon as they partnered with Event Genius and explained their new tailored, end-to-end primary product that we could use across all our events and venues to help streamline our operations, we knew it was the right decision to take our relationship to the next level.”
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Event Genius unveils Covid-secure product suite
Event Genius has launched a new range of products – egTicketing, egMarketing, egTravel, egAccess and egPay – designed to offer event organisers an end-to-end, Covid-secure ticketing, travel, access control, marketing and payments solution.
The launch comes amid a rebrand that brings the ticketing and event management platform, along with consumer-facing brand Ticket Arena, in line with parent company Festicket, including new logos and a new design for B2B websites, self-service platforms and user interfaces. Festival travel specialist Festicket acquired both brands last summer.
“The pandemic made us stop and really think about what we could offer to the industry. It made us realise that the Event Genius acquisition came at just the right time,” explains Festicket CEO Zack Sabban. “The feedback we’ve had from clients is that organisers have so much more to contend with at present, and that being able to streamline their ticketing, travel, access, marketing and onsite payment processes with one provider gives them the time and freedom to overcome the challenges of organising events during a pandemic.”
A video, which can be watched above, outlines the new Covid-secure product updates for fans and promoters.
“It’s clear that 2020 has been a tough time to be in the events industry, but it’s been amazing to be able to strike up high-profile partnerships alongside the likes of AEG Presents, Rolling Loud, Rock in Rio and Afro Nation, and more recently EDC Portugal, the USA’s Revibe Wellness Retreat Festival and Amnesia Ibiza. Seeing organisers of this nature putting their faith in what we’re doing to help fans and promoters get back to the events they love is both encouraging and extremely rewarding.”
Festicket acquires Event Genius and Ticket Arena
Festicket, the marketplace for music festival travel packages, has announced the acquisition of ticketing and cashless payments platform Event Genius and its consumer-facing brand, Ticket Arena.
The combined business, dubbed Event Genius by Festicket, will create an “end-to-end platform for organisers and fans”, according to the companies, bringing together ticketing, accommodation, travel and packages, marketing, data insights and analytics, access control, point of sale and cashless payments services and fan-engagement tools “to plug a gap in the market that no other organisation has addressed to date”.
Festicket, which says its mission is to become “the world’s largest two-sided platform for live events”, allows customers to book tickets and travel packages for more than 2,000 festivals worldwide, working with nearly 6,000 accommodation and travel suppliers.
The company welcomed a US$4.6 million funding round earlier this year, bringing total investment to nearly $30m.
“We have something truly unique for the events industry”
Event Genius, founded by MD Reshad Hossenally, works with some of Europe’s best-known events, including BPM Festival, Ibiza Rocks, Summer Daze and Annie Mac’s Lost & Found Festival.
Hossenally, who will join Festicket as chief supply chain officer, comments: “The Event Genius mission has always been to utilise technology to bring event organisers and consumers a better experience, regardless of the size or type of event. Couple this with Festicket’s global marketplace and supplier network and we have something truly unique for the events industry.”
“The acquisition transforms Festicket’s product set,” adds Zack Sabban, CEO and co-founder of Festicket. “In Event Genius, we have found a company that shares our mission to be a disruptive force in the live entertainment market and, ultimately, to bring the best possible experiences to fans.
“Reshad and the team have built a great product they have good reason to be proud of, and I look forward to welcoming them to the Festicket family.”
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.
BPM Festival goes cashless with Event Genius
BPM Festival has signed a five-year deal that sees them join a growing list of festival’s choosing to go cashless with Event Genius.
The deal sees the world-famous electronic music showcase take advantage of the Leeds-based company’s award-winning cashless solution, Event Genius Pay, as part of an end-to-end service that will also provide online ticketing and access control to the festival.
As a result, fans attending BPM Festival will be afforded the best possible experience before, during and after their visit to the sunny municipalities of Portimão and Lagoa in Portugal’s southern Algarve region this September.
Prior to the festival, BPM fans will only need to create a single online account to buy tickets and pre-purchase credits, which will replace cash across the festival site. Upon arrival, these credits will be loaded to an RFID-enabled wristband – which they’ll receive in exchange for their ticket – and be used to pay for food, drink and more with a quick tap. Fans will be able to top-up credits on-site whenever they run low and reclaim any unspent credits after the festival has finished.
“Event Genius Pay offers a win-win scenario for BPM’s fans and organisers”
“It’s a big decision, we’re confident our fans will love it,” says Jason Jennings, director of BPM Festival and AMP Lost and Found Festival, which went cashless with Event Genius Pay in 2018. “At last year’s Lost and Found Festival, the expert staff at Event Genius made the switch to cashless quick and easy for our staff and, more importantly, our fans, so when the time came to make a decision about BPM Festival, it was a no-brainer.”
“Event Genius Pay offers a win-win scenario for BPM’s fans and organisers,” says Reshad Hossenally, managing director at Event Genius. “Without having to worry about carrying money or wasting time waiting in line to be served, BPM festivalgoers can just relax and enjoy the sun. Jason and the BPM family can expect a boost to their revenues, a reduction in cash handling mistakes and won’t have to incur the overheads involved with moving physical money around the site. Cashless really is king.”
Learn more about the Event Genius Pay cashless solution at the company’s website.
Smart money: Put your money where your wrist is
Since bursting onto the festival circuit around five years ago, the popularity of cashless payment technology has grown exponentially, with cashless solutions – usually delivered via an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip attached to a wristband or festival pass – now a familiar sight at some of the world’s most popular events.
After a bumpy start (including high-profile failures at events such as Download and Hurricane Festival), cashless tech has shed its growing pains and is now common across much of mainland Europe. It’s also fast making inroads into largely cashless-resistant markets such as the UK and US, where event promoters, like their continental cousins, are drawn to its sales uplift potential – 15-30%, according to Payzone – and contactless-native audiences to its security and ease of use.
A French revolution
According to Steve Jenner, UK business development director for Belgium-based PlayPass, Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to cashless payment take-up – although it is catching up fast. “Outside the UK, it is now uncommon for an event not to use RFID for payments – to the extent that there is very little noise generated by it, with no debate needed beforehand and no audience fuss after,” he explains. “The established systems now work offline, avoiding the well-publicised issues that affected some of the earlier adopters, like Download in the UK and Hurricane in Germany, both in 2015.
“The UK – while later to the party than most other markets – is now catching up rapidly, following three highly successful summers of cashless festival implementations. PlayPass has doubled its overall worldwide growth in 2018, but we have tripled the number of UK events we work with, and are on course to do at least the same in 2019.”
“On the whole, the UK market has not yet switched to cashless,” agrees Pierre-Henri Deballon, co-founder and CEO of Dijon-based Weezevent, which provides cashless solutions for some of the biggest events in France. Referencing Download 2015 – whose cashless-only set-up was criticised by many festivalgoers after it failed on the first day, leading to the reinstatement of cash payments the following year – Deballon compares barriers to adoption in the UK and other largely non-cashless markets to flying: “It’s similar to aviation,” he says. “It’s the safest way to travel but if one aircraft fails then people become scared of flying.”
“The UK – while later to the party than most other markets – is now catching up rapidly, following three highly successful summers of cashless festival implementations”
Weezevent’s system – which, like PlayPass’s, works offline, avoiding the risk posed by an unstable Internet connection – is used by the majority of France’s cashless festivals, says Deballon, which account for nearly three quarters of the French market. “Of the 100 biggest festivals, 70% of them are cashless,” he says, “and we’re doing 95% of them.”
Weezevent was founded in 2008 by Deballon, Sébastien Tonglet and Yann Pagès, and went cashless with its first major client, France’s biggest festival, les Vieilles Charrues, in 2015. “All the other festivals looked at what they were doing, saw how successful it was and decided to switch,” Deballon explains. “Maybe if Download  had succeeded, it would have been the same in the UK market.”
Reshad Hossenally, founder and managing director of UK- based Event Genius, says the market for cashless technology “is always rising. As a relatively new technology, when compared with the likes of online ticketing and traditional access control, there is a big pool of events and festivals that have the potential to make the switch to cashless and benefit as a result.
“Between 2017 and 2018, we have doubled the number of events we have serviced,” he continues, “with lots more events for the winter booked in on top of this.
“As the technology becomes more widely adopted, it is also opening up a broader range of industries. We’ve used our technology at music festivals; food and drink festivals; winter and Christmas carnival events; large-scale clubbing and warehouse events and more, and are targeting even more sectors for 2019.”
“Like all technologies, cashless technology develops at a mile a minute, and the technology used back in 2015 is well and truly a thing of the past”
Hossenally says RFID payment technology has come on in leaps and bounds since the dark days of 2015 – something the company is keen to make clear to event organisers. “What we always try to communicate is that, like all technologies, cashless technology develops at a mile a minute,” he explains, “and the technology used back in 2015 is well and truly a thing of the past. Today the tech is far more advanced, reliable and robust.
“Major failures are often related to networking issues. At Event Genius, we have developed our solution, Event Genius Pay, to be able to run completely offline, mitigating any possibility of downtime.”
It’s easy to see why downtime is such a major concern for cashless events: for festivals, especially – where the trading ‘year’ is compressed into just two or three days – any outage could be catastrophic. “If the system fails, it would have many impacts,” says Deballon. “We service over 200 festivals, and often have maybe 10-20 on any one weekend, and we’ve never had the organiser not being able to sell – if a festival can’t process payments, that’s like a normal business being closed for weeks…”
When it works, however – and it’s worth noting there have been no major festival RFID failures for nearly four years – cashless payment technology benefits event organisers and punters alike. The chief advantages of going cashless, says Jason Thomas, global CEO of Tappit, whose clients include Bestival and Creamfields Hong Kong, as well as several major sporting venues, “can all be summed up in three main points: Firstly, it improves the fan experience. Secondly, it increases revenues through speeding up transactions and significantly reducing fraud. And thirdly, it gives event organisers valuable data and insights.”
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39% revenue uptick for Cocoon in the Park with Event Genius Pay
This July, the UK’s Cocoon in the Park festival recorded a 39% increase in revenues just two years after making the switch to RFID cashless payments with Event Genius Pay.
The growth – calculated by using data from the festival’s last non-cashless, token-based event, in 2016 –was achieved after organisers implemented a series of recommendations provided by the team at Event Genius, who had analysed data from the festival’s cashless debut in 2017.
“Last year we decided to go cashless and saw the benefits of Event Genius Pay, for fans and ourselves, immediately,” says Shane Graham, founder and owner of Cocoon in the Park. “This year, by using the lessons learned from the data insights provided by the system, we were confident we could improve further.”
The cashless POS, which processed its four-millionth payment transaction this summer, works by offering ticketholders the chance to plan their budgets by pre-purchasing credit – to be spent on food, drink and merchandise – directly from the festival’s website.
“Once you’ve bought your first drink, holding out your wrist to pay becomes second nature”
On the day itself, fans exchanged their entry tickets for a wristband equipped with a small RFID chip and had their pre-purchased credits loaded by staff. Customers could then spend their money by tapping their wristband at any of the point of sale devices at the festival’s bars and vendors.
“It’s so easy for fans to get used to,” adds Chris Toich, founder of Outback Events, providers of event production and bar operator services at Cocoon in the Park.
“Once they’ve bought their first drink, holding out your wrist to pay becomes second nature and queues move quickly. There’s no fumbling around for change, waiting for a card machine to connect, and fewer errors.”
“It sounds simple, but by letting fans spend more time enjoying the music, we’re helping them have the best experience possible,” continues Graham. “We saw this reflected in the incredible atmosphere at Cocoon’s tenth anniversary this summer, and the growth will help us to deliver an even better experience next year.”
More UK music festivals go cashless
The Cotswolds’ 2000 Trees has become the latest UK festival to go 100% cashless with a PlayPass-supplied RFID system.
The 10,000-capacity, three-day event – whose most recent edition was held from 12 to 14 July 2018 – deployed 100 point-of-sale terminals across 55 sales outlets, with visitors incentivised to pre-register and load funds before the festival with a £10 or £15 bonus credit if they topped up £100 and £150, respectively.
Festival director Andy Rea reported a “significant” increase in bar sales, along with a reduction in queueing times, with transaction times down to 40 seconds.
“Twenty-eighteen has been a momentous year for us with our move to cashless,” says Rea. “It was a decision we had been deliberating for a couple of years; I think it is a very positive step forward for our festival that we are really proud of.”
“You can’t underestimate the convenience it adds to the customer experience, not having to worry about bringing cash and keeping it safe – plus the tech helped render queues almost non-existent, allowing people to spend more time enjoying the festival. The positive feedback we’ve had from our audience, traders and staff has reinforced our belief that we made the right choice in going cashless and appointing PlayPass.”
“Queues were almost non-existent, allowing people to spend more time enjoying the festival”
Also doing away with paper money was Northern Ireland’s Jika Jika! Festival, which made its debut on 25 and 26 August in Ebrington Square, Londonderry.
Event Genius supplied the RFID technology, which increased spending by 23% per head when compared to prior Jika Jika! events held on the same site last year.
“We’ve been hugely impressed with Event Genius Pay,” says festival director James Crossan. “The solution speeds up transactions at the bar and makes it easy for fans to top up credit, allowing them to spend more time enjoying the music and less time waiting in queues.”
Lauren Lytle, newly appointed head of technical operations at Event Genius, adds: “It’s been a privilege to be able to help Jika Jika! make a resounding success of their debut festival.
“From start to finish their team’s commitment to ensuring their fans have the best possible time has been amazing and it’s great to have been the first RFID payment provider to deliver a fully cashless festival in Northern Ireland.”