Much like the holidays, the approach of summer sparks all kinds of trips down memory lane, such as thoughts of all those outdoor music festivals people attended back in the day. They tend to recall the amazing performances, the crazy outfits and the sense of excitement descending upon thousands of like-minded fans as the sun set behind the main stage, a refreshing breeze began to blow and the headliners came out from behind the curtains to roars from the crowd.
Some of us at PYMNTS like to indulge in such remembrances, especially during this Memorial Day weekend, but we also have a job to do – one that requires demolishing any nostalgia, at least when it comes to more mundane parts of those music events. In the olden days – say, 15 years ago – attending one of those fests often meant the use of cash.
And by cash, we mean bills made soggy by sweat, spilled beer and humidity. We means funds retrieved from distant ATMs that often broke down. We mean frustration about not having the foresight to bring enough paper money to cover that last overpriced beer, or buy a band T-shirt with an astronomical profit margin. Sure, cards eventually took their place at those festivals, but even that was often a friction-filled hassle, given the very long lines in the hot sun for food, beverages and souvenirs.
But this summer promises to bring that friction down a notch, thanks to the ongoing spread of contactless payments – including via wristbands with RFID. In a new PYMNTS interview, Carlo Chiarello, CEO of Intellitix, talked about the ins and outs of providing contactless payments and access control not only at summer outdoor concerts, but at a host of other events, including trade shows, conferences and food and beverage gatherings. The interview took place not only at the unofficial start of summer, but also during a time when contactless payments in general appear to be gaining steam in the U.S. after already taking off in much of the rest of the world.
“I’m a big believer that there is still a tremendous amount of opportunity” for such wristbands and badges, “and not only for music. It’s much broader than that.” Not only that, but when asked about where RFID wristband payments stand – that is, how much the technology has developed and gained mainstream use – Chiarello said “there is still a lot of runway.”
Pretty much every summer since the end of World War II – since the rise of modern consumer and pop cultures – has had its signature songs, movies, fashion and sporting events or streaks. That seems certain to repeat in 2019. But summer in recent years has also become a kind of showcase for payments – in large part because of the crowds at outdoor concerts and other events, as well as baseball games – and that seems all but certain to be true in the coming months. The main theme, perhaps? Further development and consumer acceptance of contactless payments.
Take just one recent development as evidence for that point. As PYMNTS recently covered, Visa is launching a contactless pilot on May 31 that enables consumers to use their Visa-branded cards (or other devices) to pay fares on New York City subways and buses – as well as to make retail purchases. The effort is meant to reduce friction for mass transit fare payments, and to encourage more retail spending at shops near stations and stops. This push comes as more merchants are looking to embrace contactless payments after making the big shift to EMV.
As for RFID wristbands and badges, they do indeed boost spending at events, according to Chiarello. He told PYMNTS that, on average, the first year that an event adopts such contactless payment methods, total spending increases 46 percent, at least according to his company’s experiences. Consumers using those payment methods set up a digital account with the company and load funds onto the wristbands and badges via their payment cards or bank accounts. They can then top off those accounts via the company’s mobile apps or, at some events, at booths where they can pay cash for top-offs, he said.
The RFID wristbands and badges do more than enable payments for foods, drinks and souvenirs – they can carry tickets, and enable concertgoers access to special areas, he said. As well, age verification is in play – there is already a physical-based system in play in Switzerland with the company’s devices, Chiarello said, but eventually that could all be handled in a total digital way. “ID verification providers are getting much better and more available,” he added. Such an age verification could serve “as an extension” of the current RFID wristband and badging system.
Allow us at PYMNTS to wish you a happy holiday and a fun, prosperous summer. And don’t forget – summertime, much like the holidays, is not a time to make new memories, but a period in which digital payments tend to make meaningful advancements.