Show Me the (Digital) Money!

The NFL’s Big Game is always a leader in combining entertainment and technology. This weekend we will all experience a more virtual and futuristic feel, for those in attendance and watching elsewhere. Hosting for the fifth time, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will be operating cash-free when they welcome a limited number of fans to the Big Game this Sunday, a trend that has been enhanced of recent.

The sports and entertainment industry is eager to welcome fans again soon, but COVID concerns won’t disappear all at once. Attitudes toward gathering in crowds and eating out have changed, but there’s just no substitute for enjoying some stadium grub with a cold drink. Clean and efficient concession operations will be a top priority for organizations, putting new technologies and processes to the test.

Technological innovation has accelerated over the past 12 months, but it’s not a new focus. In 2019, Oracle Food and Beverage surveyed sports fans around the world. When they asked fans about a “stadium of the future”, the four biggest takeaways were:

  1. Fans want to stay in their seats.
  2. Sports fans are open to new technology.
  3. Fans are already using new tech (such as paperless tickets).
  4. Loyalty program interest is high but participation is low.

When adopting new technology, it’s crucial to weigh the costs and benefits of the transition. For stadium food and beverage (F&B) services, that means examining fully cashless payment options. This isn’t unheard of in our industry: the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 were the first sports team to go cash-free. They immediately saw wait times reduced by up to 50%, letting fans get back to their seats much faster.

But what happens when a fan doesn’t have a payment card? In October 2020, Yahoo! Finance explored the risks of a cashless society. These same risks apply at the smaller scale of an individual sports venue. In particular, Yahoo! points out that several demographic groups “have little or no access to electronic payments.” Sports are one of the few things that truly bring together people from all walks of life, so going cashless could exclude some fans.

One of the biggest players in global hospitality, Delaware North, will soon test a solution. They recently announced a partnership with InComm Payments to “implement cashless payment solutions at sports venues”. InComm will allow fans to exchange cash for a purchase card at the stadium. Fans won’t pay any purchase fees, and the cards can be used anywhere the payment network (such as Visa or American Express) is accepted. Since unused funds won’t be “stuck” within the venue, fans won’t feel forced to decide their max spend before their very first purchase. The partnership plans to issue and accept these network-branded cards in venues around the world—Delaware North operates concessions and retail for over 25 major professional sports venues in the U.S., and hundreds of entertainment facilities around the world.

All concessionaires stand to benefit from the influx of new data, but digitally tracking payments adds an overwhelming amount of data to process and analyze. Users of KORE Data Warehouse & Analytics™ can leverage the Insights layers to track and project not just F&B spend, but all retail data. Our tools enable reports to pull data from over 80 different integrations.

By integrating these different sets of data, organizations can bring together F&B spend, other retail spend, social media activity, game day and event data, and more. KORE’s tools then help you drill-down into your data. For example, one built-in report focuses on game-by-game sales with the ability to benchmark it across the entire season. In the example snippet below, we see the majority of in-stadium purchases happen within the first half hour of the in-progress game. These insights can be used for stadium security, retail staffing, and concession preparation.

The future is not necessarily cash-free, but there’s a strong trend toward streamlining in-stadium purchasing. Interested in learning more about how to process and analyze your F&B and retail data? We’d love to give you a free demo of KORE Data Warehouse & Analytics!

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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