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.
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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Fyre Festival: lessons learnt and myths debunked
The launch of two Fyre Festival documentaries earlier this month must have been the highlight of many event professionals’ week, or even year. Online streaming platforms Hulu and Netflix released separate documentaries revisiting the disastrous Bahamas-based Fyre Festival, and they have been the talk of the town ever since.
Aside from lashings of schadenfreude and a huge amount of empathy for those who lost money and livelihoods, a few things emerged from Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened and Hulu’s Fyre Fraud that are important to set straight.
True: Social media, influencers and brands can make or break an event
Get these three things right and the world is your oyster. The fact that Fyre sold out instantly was an incredible testament to the care taken by agencies surrounding the brand and design, as well as the power of social media and influencers. But the terrible fact was that this marketing was not based on reality.
While a set of supermodels sold the event, a simple tweet broke the horror story to the world: that pitiful, sweaty cheese sandwich. So, please be careful – the terrible experience of one customer can make global headlines in seconds.
Future launches of festivals and events will reveal whether consumer trust in new brands “selling the dream” has been broken, or at least whether fans will require more substantiation before deciding to part with their cash.
False: You can’t use cashless wristbands if there is no wifi
Thankfully, the Tappit team had no involvement with Fyre Festival. However, what we do know is that our solution does not require wifi to operate. Reporting and analytics by events organisers might be marginally slower as a result, but a lack of wifi does not cause a problem with regards to implementation. Even on a far-flung island – which Pablo Escobar may or may not have owned – you can integrate the Tappit solution seamlessly.
The fact that Fyre sold out instantly was an incredible testament to the care taken by agencies surrounding the brand and design
True: Going cashless is the future of events
Fyre correctly tapped into a major trend for customers and event owners alike: going cashless is the future. Cash is used in less than 1% of transactions in Sweden — and Tappit’s recent global survey of 800 festivalgoers found that 73% prefer being cashless at festivals.
For organisers, too, there are huge benefits to going cashless. Valuable data and insights are gained, helping organisers to understand their fanbase and target their marketing. Profits increase due to faster transactions, increased spending and a reduction in administrative costs and, of course, theft and fraud are virtually eliminated. Sadly, in the case of Fyre Festival, no one benefited at all.
True and false: The fans’ money was at risk on the wristband
One of the benefits of going cashless as an event organiser is to understand how much people are willing to spend at your event. This, in turn, gives greater insight into how to create a memorable experience and provide the products that customers want to buy.
At Fyre, from what it seems the fans did lose their money. However, this is an issue wherever and whenever people buy something long distance. Whether it is a gift card or a holiday, if a retailer goes bankrupt before the customer receives the goods, then their money is at risk.
If event organisers choose to work with Tappit, our dedicated account management team helps them to create the right solution for their audience. We work together to ascertain whether keeping funds in escrow or ensuring the transactions are stored on our partner’s merchant account is the best way to reassure customers or aid cash flow.
Being honest with fans might not have saved Fyre Festival, but it certainly would not have created a global story that provided enough content for two full-length documentaries
True: Honesty and timely communication make a difference
When things turned sour for Fyre, they went downhill quickly. Yet, as many people mentioned in the documentary, simple and fast communication might have made a difference. Being honest with fans might not have saved Fyre Festival, but it certainly would not have created a global story that provided enough content for two full-length documentaries.
So, while everyone is discussing Fyre around the water cooler for the next few weeks, please think about what you can learn and what you can do to ensure that your event is making the headlines for the right reasons.
Jenni Young is chief marketing officer of Tappit.
Tappit appoints former Eventbrite exec as CCO
RFID and cashless payment specialist Tappit has appointed Duco Smit, formerly director of business development at Eventbrite, as chief commercial officer.
Smit was the first employee of Ticketscript, which grew to become Europe’s largest self-service ticketing platform, and rose to become sales director for Europe before the company was sold to Eventbrite last January. At Eventbrite, he became director of business development for continental Europe.
In his new role, Smit will be based in the Netherlands, leading UK-based Tappit’s plans for international expansion and supporting the company in growing its roster of cashless festivals, events and venues. The company is the cashless payments partner of Bestival and Camp Bestival, as well as Creamfields Hong Kong and the after-race concerts at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Duco shares our passion for live events and he joins at a very exciting time for the business”
“The growth of Tappit is clear, as they are rapidly becoming a leader in the live event space,” he comments. “It’s a great time to become involved, as businesses realise they can constantly improve their customer offer – and event safety – by analysing spend and footfall data throughout their venues.”
Jason Thomas, CEO of tappit, adds: “We’re extremely excited about Duco joining our global team. He brings invaluable experience from one of the largest event companies in the world and will play a key role in the company continuing to increase its global presence.
“Duco shares our passion for live events and he joins at a very exciting time for the business, as the global events market increasingly continues to embrace cashless solutions.”
Bestival goes cashless for 2018
UK festivals Bestival and Camp Bestival are to go partially cashless after agreeing a three-year strategic partnership with RFID specialist Tappit.
Festivalgoers at both Camp Bestival (26–29 July) and Bestival (2–5 August) will use Tappit’s contactless payment wristbands for the first time, streamlining the payment process while allowing the festivals to capture more data from their ticket buyers.
“Bestival has always been about escapism, creating an otherworldly wonderland where you can leave all the stresses of real life behind,” says Bestival co-founder and curator Rob da Bank. “We think Tappit’s wristbands can be a big part of that, reducing queues and hassles and making things a bit more carefree for festivalgoers. They also give us the sort of real-time data insights that can help us with a lot of things like crowd management.
“We are looking forward to bringing this experience to two of the UK’s leading festivals”
“We eventually foresee it all going totally cashless, which will make the whole Bestival experience even more easygoing for everyone.”
Adds Tappit CEO Jason Thomas: “The process of going cashless isn’t as costly, complicated or time consuming as people may think. Working at a strategic level with Bestival, we’ve been able to establish a cashless payments infrastructure in less than a month. Event owners using Tappit benefit from a proven return on investment, improved customer satisfaction and greater business insight.
“We’ve worked with major events all around the world and we are looking forward to bringing this experience to two of the UK’s leading festivals.”