Technology / 02.23.18
Using RFID to Improve the Customer Experience and Generate Revenue
RFID, or radio-frequency identification, is one of the hottest trends in ticketing and live entertainment. First introduced on the festival circuit, events of all shapes and sizes are now implementing RFID technology and leveraging advancements in the field to transform every aspect of the guest experience. An obvious example is RFID-enabled wristbands, which are increasingly being used in place of paper tickets to speed up the flow of customers into a venue.
But as attendees at the 2018 INTIX conference in Baltimore discovered, that’s just scratching the surface.
RFID is everywhere. Tiny scannable tags and chips, some as small as a grain of rice, are found on security and backstage credentials, passports and credit cards. They’re embedded in clothes to manage inventory and they’re in cell phones, car keys, casino chips and even pets. Indeed, RFID has come a long way since it was first used in World War II to identify friend or foe planes. Today, it has the potential to keep track of everything and everybody.
In Baltimore, Andrea Flowers, national account manager with Microcom Corp., educated conference attendees on different ways RFID can benefit ticketing and beyond. The real-world concepts she presented can be applied across various venue types, genres and industries.
When using RFID technology in conjunction with a registration system, museums can create extremely accurate customer profiles.
“Your guests add data to their profile every single time they walk into your museum,” says Flowers. “Days, time visited, how long they stayed. Whether they ate in the café or dropped into the gift shop. The technology can be used for membership discounts, loyalty rewards and much more.”
At the same time, RFID can provide museums with detailed information on the popularity of exhibits by tracking the movements of guests and the time spent in any location. Knowing the traffic flow through an exhibit can help the museum curator determine future layouts.
Flowers also points out RFID benefits for international guests who could, for example, interact with exhibits using their smartphones to receive a live stream of data in their native language.
Stadiums and Arenas
One of the primary uses of RFID in stadiums and arenas is access control ― not just entry into the venue itself but also into club seats and VIP sections. RFID cuts down on lineups and helps reduce fraud because the chips have a unique identifier that makes them very difficult to duplicate.
“You can’t just print them out and gain access that way,” says Flowers, who recalled an incident at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas a couple of years ago where some fans were gaining access by copying PDF tickets or buying cheaper tickets and accessing club-level seats. (The stadium no longer accepts PDF tickets.)
Flowers also points to the role of RFID in secondary market ticket authentication. “Theoretically, the venue would be able to see the ticket’s unique identification number and trace it from the initial purchase at retail price through the transfer to the new customer at the scalper price. This data would be helpful for venues to determine future ticket prices for similar events,” she says.
In a similar fashion, chips can be embedded into official game balls and team jerseys to ensure their authenticity on resale. Even guitars played at a concert or a piece of scenery can be tagged to aid in tracking.
For convenience, Flowers suggests stadiums and arenas can provide convenient access to WiFi by asking guests to simply tap their phones over a pre-programmed sensor. “They don’t have to worry about a password, typing things just right and so on. Just hold the phone over the sensor and bop, you’re in!”
Another way RFID can help improve the guest experience is by having additional purchases pre-loaded on an event ticket. “If you are over 21, your ticket could have two beer purchases pre-loaded. You could get your drink by simply tapping it at an unattended beer station. The same concept can be applied to food and merchandise,” says Flowers.
As with stadiums and arenas, RFID allows quick entry into the festival venue or grounds. This is especially important when multiple entries are required over the course of several days. RFID also provides a reduction in human error during the entry process and decreases fraudulent tickets or wristbands.
At larger festivals, jugglers, acrobats and other independent performers are often hired to engage the crowd and add to the overall atmosphere. RFID technology can be used to see in real time where festivalgoers are congregating — then you can send the performers there.
When it comes to the festival attendee experience, Flowers suggests having a check-in area tied into social media accounts or a photo booth that offers a digital record of time at the festival and different concerts each guest attended.
Another opportunity is to add payment information to an attendee’s RFID tag or wristband. This eliminates the need to carry a purse or wallet, which is easy to misplace or lose. For an added layer of security, event organizers can add a secondary form of identification, such as a pin or fingerprint scan. If a guest does lose their wristband, it can be deactivated and reissued.
At large festivals, it can be difficult to measure the ROI for certain stages, booths, independent performers, food trucks and more. “RFID technology would allow you to see the popularity engagement of each area without having to be there yourself,” says Flowers.
In cases of extreme partying ― or even extreme heat — RFID can provide valuable information about an individual to emergency medical personnel.
Theaters and Cinemas
When it comes to small-to-medium-size theaters, Flowers believes the more you know about your attendees, the smarter you can be when beginning a seasonal marketing campaign.
“RFID is a must to grow your theater,” she says. “You’ll always know which shows your patrons attended so you can market to them more effectively in the future.”
There is also an opportunity to provide more engagement between attendees and sponsors who typically have their ads printed on the back of a ticket or on the playbill.
“With a little creative thinking, a venue could instead enable sponsors to reach patrons through a QR code or NFC chip, which would display an ad or take them directly to their website,” says Flowers.
There are some practical applications for RFID technology in cinemas too. Scanners at entrances could help cut back on double dipping ― when patrons go from theater to theater to watch other movies after watching the only one they’ve bought a ticket to see. Flowers says this could also prevent underage patrons from getting into movies geared toward adults.
And how about NFC tags on lobby cards and posters that, when scanned with your mobile phone, will play a trailer? You could even incentivize it by offering a prize after you’ve watched a certain number.
Electronic wristbands allow efficient access control in theme parks too, reducing the need for an attendant to hand scan every ticket.
“The patron simply waves their RFID-enabled item over a reader and gains access to the park. This allows you to reduce the number of attendants you have at the gate and utilize your talent elsewhere,” says Flowers. “It also works with VIP access to various parts of the park and with fast passes and return-time tickets when there are lineups to certain rides or attractions.”
Once in the park, RFID technology provides almost real-time information on every patron’s pathway through the grounds, allowing staff to adjust attractions on the fly. You can anticipate when and where there will be long line-ups, giving you time to dispatch mobile line-busting units or concessions, perhaps with free water on hot days.
One of Flowers’ favorite uses of RFID technology in a theme park lies in the ability to trigger an interactive attraction or event.
“Let’s say your theme park has a fountain — when a certain number of people gather in the area, it could be prompted to turn on lights, spray water and play music,” she says.
Another surprise element could involve animatronics. Flowers envisions scenarios where a dragon or some other character picks up a signal from you as you walk by. From your user profile, it knows your name, what rides you like, even what you ate for lunch. Suddenly it’s asking you if you liked your Reuben sandwich!
According to Flowers, rides and attractions also offer a variety of gamification opportunities. Perhaps, if patrons tap a sensor at every ride in the park, they win merchandise.
“The idea is to come up with ideas that get season ticket holders to keep coming back for things they haven’t seen before or even expect to see.”
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Tags: Paperless , Wristbands , INTIX 2018 , Secondary Ticketing