If one good thing came out of the pandemic, it was the shift to cashless payment experiences at sporting events. This trend was already underway, but the digital transformation taking place across the industry has only accelerated as a result with 82% of people viewing contactless and low-touch media as the safest way to order and pay1.
Cashless systems are fast becoming the norm in stadiums throughout the world, ushering in a new era of convenience and integration. For example, the King Power Stadium in Leicester City will now allow Premier League fans to purchase food and drinks without having to pay at a till using digital check-out-less payment technology.
Other UK stadiums have already gone cashless, including Luton Town, Leyton Orient and Derby County. This trend is expanding throughout Europe. Prominent stadiums, such as Ireland’s Croke Park Stadium and the Jahnstadion Regensburg in Germany, as well as sports facilities in Switzerland and Ukraine are all embracing the shift to digital payments.
Sports fans are increasingly demanding digital payment options at sports arenas too, as cashless payments can reduce transaction times by up to 50%2. With that, cashless payment options have been shown to lead to a 15-30% increase in fan spend, due to reduced queuing times and a more streamlined purchasing process, meaning that venues should partake in this trend of digitising payments3.
Cashless systems in sports stadiums offer a multitude of advantages. Fans enjoy a more seamless experience, removing the need to carry physical currency, which can be lost or stolen. By reducing reliance on cash payments, stadiums can process payments much more quickly, thus reducing the time customers are stuck in long lines at concessions. This efficiency also benefits vendors, allowing for quicker sales, smoother flow of service and the ability to sell more goods.
According to Sport Business, “Ask any fan – or indeed any facility manager – to name the biggest drawback of in-person event attendance, and it’s likely they’d name the time spent standing in queues. Smart stadiums could drastically reduce, if not completely eradicate, this frustration.” Digital payment options will be a key component of any smart stadium. maximising revenue opportunities through upselling and cross selling that appeals directly to consumer preferences.
Another advantage of cashless systems is the ease with which they integrate with loyalty programs, which enhance the fan experience. Digital payment solutions allow for greater personalisation of rewards and promotions that cater to individual consumer preferences.
Mobile wallets and dedicated apps are at the forefront of transforming transactions and fan engagement within arenas. These tools allow spectators to make purchases, accrue rewards, and unlock exclusive content—all from their smartphones. For instance, at Fiserv arena, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, orders initiated through mobile devices totalled 8-10% of order volume per game, a significant increase from about 1% prior to the adoption of cashless systems2.
When mobile ticketing and in-seat ordering services are integrated into payment solutions, stadiums can offer a more interactive and user-friendly experience. The ability to integrate both stationary and mobile POS terminals into a single platform is also attractive for arenas as it means a reduced focus on managing multiple platforms, which in turn allows operators to focus on what’s truly important – delivering the best fan experience.
One vital aspect of that experience is security. In digital transactions, maintaining stringent security protocols is imperative to safeguard fan data and ensure transaction integrity. Encrypting data, utilising tokenisation, and requiring multifactor authentication are just a few of the strategies employed to fortify security. There is a fine line to tread, however, between this needed security and customer convenience. Digital payments offer significant security protections that customers can bank on.
The transition to digital payment systems isn't without its challenges, primarily the need for infrastructural enhancements to support new technologies. Introducing next-gen digital payment solutions means deploying mobile payment terminals and embracing innovative payment methods. While there are costs associated with implementation, the return on investment is warranted. The improvement in sales, efficiency of payment processing and the overall enhancement of the customer experience clearly justify the hurdles in upgrading stadium payment systems.
Looking to the future, biometric and tailored payment options are set to revolutionise the industry. Biometrics offer a personalised and secure transaction method, while tailored systems like automatic user recognition and loyalty schemes promise a customer-prioritised progression. These technologies are still in their nascent stages within the arena setting, but their future is promising.
The shift toward digital payment systems in sports arenas is a critical evolution in improving fan experience, offering speed and personalisation, while also demanding attention to security and infrastructure. The move to a cashless environment is not just a trend, but a leap forward in enhancing the dynamic world of sports entertainment.