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.”
PlayPass promotes Steve Jenner, expands in UK
PlayPass has strengthened its UK operations, promoting Steve Jenner to the role of managing director for the UK and Ireland to address growing demand, as more festivals go cashless with the provider.
Jenner, who joined the company in 2015, will lead an expanded team which includes the appointment of Ben Hirons, formerly of Gorilla and Peppermint and Creative Bars, who will oversee event delivery.
It has also been announced that We Are Fstvl and Beat Hotel will go fully cashless with PlayPass this year. At 55,000 capacity, We Are Fstvl is the company’s largest cashless UK event to date.
Black Deer and Merthyr Rising festivals will also go completely cashless for the first time in 2019. The organisers of 2000Trees festival, which transitioned to cashless last year, reported a 24% increase in bar spend per head, among other gains, and have signed with PlayPass again for this year.
“PlayPass’ proven technology is gaining the trust of a growing number of festivals who can see the benefits to them, their public and their traders”
Jenner says he is “delighted” to become UK managing director and “very confident in delivering the company’s busiest and most successful year to date in the UK.”
“We are looking forward to integrating our technology and supporting these new clients in delivering successful events this year,” comments Jenner.
“PlayPass’ proven technology is gaining the trust of a growing number of festivals who can see the wide range of ever-increasing benefits to them, their public and their traders.”
Jenner presented the cashless provider’s latest innovations to international promoters and production professionals at the ILMC’s New Technology forum this month, with a focus on enhancing sustainability at events and improving the experience for families with children.
Why NFC cashless is the future of payments at events
Contactless is now the leading payment method in everyday life, much to the glee of the banking sector that controls and feeds off it, but live events have a much more powerful – and lucrative – alternative available to them.
NFC technology allows smart event owners to run their own ‘closed loop’ financial eco-system, which leaves the banks outside the front gates and gives the event full and direct ownership of every payment transaction taking place on site, with no middlemen siphoning off the data and charging a commission.
Benefits are concentrated with the event and its visitors rather than a third-party financial institution that has not shared any of the promoter’s risk in putting on the event.
- Greater spend per head: UK festivals last year reported a 24% increase in bar spend per head as a result of going fully cashless with PlayPass.
- Higher customer satisfaction: 92% of visitors surveyed by Standon Calling, the UK’s first ever music festival to go cashless, find PlayPass easier and more convenient than other payment methods, and 89% would prefer not to bring any cash or cards to an event.
- Visibility and ownership of all transactional data: More event owners recognise the importance of data and claiming ownership of transactional insights will pay dividends, particularly in establishing fairer deals with traders and concessions.
- Increased efficiencies and reduced costs: From validating tickets to staffing a bar, a scanner device is significantly quicker than a person, eliminates theft and human error and gives average savings of 4% compared to non-cashless events. Unlike contactless, PlayPass’s NFC system works fully offline by writing to the chip.
- Reduced crime and better security: A lost NFC tag can be replaced on site in seconds with the balance intact. Traders, who often employ unknown casual staff, don’t have to worry about theft from the cash register. Event organisers no longer need to worry about forged tickets or passes.
- Improved sustainability: PlayPass’s NFC payment system has a lot of powerful, automated features designed to streamline on-site recycling initiatives, account for carbon travel costs and reward visitors for ecologically minded behaviour.
- Drives pre–event upsells and earlybird ticket sales: Eventgoers can purchase items pre-event or give post-event options to convert unspent funds into a down payment on next year’s ticket, keeping the money in the event’s pot whilst providing value to the customer.
- Traders prefer it: Cashless gets traders’ thumbs up, due to higher-spending crowds, the elimination of cash management, no risk of theft and automated reconciliation contributing to improved festival experience… and profit.
- Better for cash flow: Events that offer pre-loading capabilities benefit from receiving this revenue before the event has started. UK festivals working with PlayPass receive around 80% of their total food and beverage revenue ahead of the event.
- A haven from a bank-controlled world: Festival culture has always been synonymous with escaping from the real world – owning your data and transactions promotes independence and freedom.
The world over, progressive event brands are now embracing PlayPass’s NFC cashless solutions and taking control of their on-site economies without a backward glance.
For more information about taking control of your event’s financial ecosystem with a closed-loop NFC payment solution, visit the PlayPass website.