The recent Open Championship — the British Open — delivered an epic comeback for Jordan Spieth, who overcame bad lies (the golf kind) and bad luck to become the youngest golfer to win multiple majors. And, in surrounding concessions activity, it was a momentous event for fans of mPOS scorecards.
Mastercard brought its mobile wallet and payments system Qkr! to the Open Championship held at Royal Birkdale Golf Course in Southport, England, in an effort to cut down on lines — or queues, for those preferring U.K. parlance — at concession locations throughout the venue. Mastercard U.K.’s head of digital payments, Elliott Goldenberg, said it was part of a larger effort to get the mPOS system into the hands of fans at large-scale events, like sporting events or concerts.
But while Qkr! may not have been making its grand debut, there were new features on display at the Open Championship. For the first time, the system was used not just to speed up service or bust food lines, but also for concessions delivery, which posed new challenges and opportunities for the mobile payments system.
PYMNTS recently caught up with Goldenberg to discuss Mastercard’s recent mobile payments efforts at the Open Championship as well as other large-scale events — and about the company’s future mPOS plans.
Connecting at a championship (or concert)
Mastercard debuted Qkr! in partnership with U.K.-based restaurant chain Wagamama to help the company move customers in and out of restaurant locations more rapidly. After being deployed in 2014, the system quickly found success by allowing guests to pay bills faster, and Mastercard’s researchers and developers saw other use cases begin to emerge.
In fact, Goldenberg said he could see the possibility of using the mobile platform to serve large crowds at games, concerts and other big venue events.
Using the same mobile technology that allowed users to pay bills and leave restaurants expeditiously, Mastercard turned its focus on helping move event merchandise and concessions lines, giving fans better ability to get back to the action. The system was rolled out at sporting events — including soccer games across Europe and baseball games in the U.S. — along with concerts and festivals in the U.K. and abroad.
But while there were some obvious advantages to using the mobile payments system at large-scale events like the Open, there were challenges that went with it as well. These included making sure the mobile payments system could reliably connect to the internet, an especially difficult challenge in a large and spacious environment like a golf course. To that end, Goldenberg explained the company does not even consider using the mobile payments system at venues that do not meet a minimum threshold of connectivity. But, even if internet connectivity isn’t an issue, Goldenberg said, there are other pitfalls that can hurt the effectiveness of mobile payments.
“It’s great to bust a queue and all that, but these merchants have to be ready to get a rush of orders at one time, because there’s no line regulating how fast people can put orders in or anything like that,” he said. “So, we go through quite an intensive [trial] period with the merchant to make sure they are ready to deal with the demand that may come.”
That trial period includes introducing new technology to help receive and manage mobile orders and integrating it with existing POS or other systems. Mastercard also helps train employees in anticipation of demand during peak times at large scale events like the Open.
Straight to the seats
In addition to dealing with the challenges that come with using mobile payments at any large-scale event, Mastercard launched a new Qkr! capability at the 2017 Open Championship: delivering mobile orders directly to patrons in their seats.
And while this in itself could be an undertaking at an event like a baseball game — where fans are typically assigned seats — it was even more challenging at the Open: a general admission event during which fans can claim any seat in temporary grandstands erected in multiple locations around a golf course.
To aid delivery to customers at the Open, Mastercard prompted users to give their locations and stay there until their food arrived. They also conducted additional training with Open Championship staff and volunteers to ensure they were ready to quickly and efficiently pick out individual customers in crowded bleachers.
As Goldenberg explained, this kind of event concessions experience is almost entirely different from the traditional line-order-pay model.
“You’re going from an environment where you have someone behind a counter, taking an order from a customer, to one where someone needs to be focused on a tablet somewhere in a corner — and being able to fulfill the orders that come in there,” Goldenberg said. “From there, you have to make sure they have adequate support from a staffing perspective. Because when it’s done correctly, this saves a huge amount of time and effort for the consumers, but when it isn’t, it’s a real source of friction.”
Despite the challenges, Goldenberg said the efforts were successful and the mobile delivery capabilities had a positive impact on revenue collected during the tournament. He also noted that, much in the same way restaurants offering mobile order-ahead have seen sales boosts, the average concessions purchase at the Open Championship also experienced a lift at this year’s event.
“We found that order values were likely to go up,” Goldenberg said. “Also, customers using the Qkr! app were more likely to make repeat purchases or to order more — likely because they didn’t have to keep getting up from their seats to do so.”
Goldenberg said with the success of the the in-seat delivery features, he expects other venues and uses cases will soon see the introduction of mobile delivery services. Perhaps it won’t be long before in-seat service becomes par for the course at large events.
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