The world was already moving towards cashless payments in retail, restaurants, and sports venues. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated this movement. According to CPA Practice Advisor, digital payments totaled $6.6 trillion worldwide in 2021. Concern about the cleanliness of cash, a demand for the ease of cashless purchases, and a general acceptance of cash-free polices are drivers for this trend. They also drive the development of several technologies that will boost customer service and promote operational efficiency.
Cashless technologies include increasingly common tools like near-field communication (NFC) devices and payment apps. There are also exciting new innovations such as devices that use fingerprints and facial recognition software to connect a digital wallet and facilitate payment.
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How It Works:
When you are talking cashless payments, you are talking about a couple of system types. The two dominant ones are systems that use NFC chips and ones that use venue apps. In near-field communication, devices (phones with Apple Pay or Google Pay and POS terminals) transmit data through electromagnetic radio fields that allow them to communicate with each other. The “near” in near-field communications can refer to distance that the devices must be from each other to conducts transactions, usually two inches. The connection between your phone and the POS terminal generates a secure transaction instantly.
For guests, touchless payment systems provide a tremendously easy method for both entering your facility and purchasing concession items and apparel, thus providing a better overall experience. Not only does fumbling for tickets or your wallet become a thing of the past, but guests can also order food in advance of their visit and have it delivered to their seats. When you layer on facial or fingerprint recognition technology, the potential of showing up to the facility with just your cell phone (maybe a lawn chair) becomes a real possibility.
Touchless tech also provides the assurance for both guests and staff that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other contagions is greatly reduced by eliminating interactions. For operators, touchless payment systems, reduce both the time and the number of staff needed to conduct point of sales operations. Whether you use kiosks or an app, the effort in the food and beverage, ticket, and apparel purchase processes lies primarily with the consumer and the technology itself. The role of the staff is to fulfill orders. Touchless payment systems also provide insight on each interaction a guest has with your venue. Data showing where guests go upon entering your facility, the items they purchase, and the timing of those purchases can influence the types of offers you provide them via a mobile app or real time social media marketing. This crucial data can help determine inventory levels needed for future events, or which items you can specifically highlight to certain audiences. Perhaps you noticed your pickleballers eat more ice cream post-event than other groups. Time to stock the coolers!
Obstacles To Entry:
The type of touchless payment system you use will determine the level of difficulty you’ll have implementing it. Payment systems using NFC communication technology will require POS registers or kiosks. Electrical wiring and outlets must be positioned in areas to support them, making it easier to implement this solution during the development phase of a project. Utilizing an app for payments, requires and investment in app development and helping guests see the value in downloading the app. The percentage of people willing to engage with a new app is low, so the obstacle is significant.
Advanced systems using facial or fingerprint recognition require larger infrastructure and software investments as well as a willingness by consumers to adapt the technology. The latter is critical because some people may not be comfortable making their face or fingerprint available to a venue or a third-party vendor. As application of this technology becomes more common, those fears will likely decrease.
Touchless Tech In Action:
Climate Pledge Arena, home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, takes “touchless” one step further by providing a grab and go option in four of its concession areas. The venue uses Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology which uses sensors to determine changes in store inventory. Guests must pre-register with the Amazon system, which can be done at the facility. Once they have, they can insert their card into the entry gate or hover their palm over an Amazon One device when entering one of the four locations. Once inside, they can grab the items they want and leave when done shopping. The Just Walk Out system determines what items were taken and the card or linked Amazon One ID is charged.