Jika Jika!, Other U.K. Festivals See Boost in Spending With NFC

By Claire Swedberg

This summer's music festival in Northern Ireland experienced a 23 percent increase in sales per person, thanks to an NFC-enabled cashless payment system from Event Genius.

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Northern Ireland’s Jika Jika! music festival reports that it has boosted spending per attendee by 23 percent this year, compared to at its 2017 event, by employing an NFC RFID-based cashless payment system from Event Genius. The 2018 event took place on Aug. 25-26 in Derry, Northern Ireland. All attendees wore NFC-enabled wristbands for access control, while many also purchased pre-payment vouchers associated with the bracelets so they could make cashless payments onsite. Those who’d created a prepaid account could then simply tap their wristband against a reader with each purchase of a beverage, food or merchandise.

Event Genius, based in Leeds, England, has provided ticketing software in the British Isles throughout the past decade. In 2016, the company launched a cashless solution that could be used at festivals, separate from the ticketing system, says Lauren Lytle, Event Genius’s technical operations head. Lytle, who joined the firm that year, had previous experience in cashless payment systems in the United States, which the company has since leveraged at multiple U.K. festivals. “We felt this was a good time to get a foothold on cashless payments in the U.K.,” she says.

A bracelet used at the Jika Jika! festival

The Jika Jika! event featured electronic music acts such as Denis Sulta, Octave One and Green Velvet. Guests can pay for food, beverages or other items with cash or credit cards—which, in the past, has led to longer delays at queues, as well as potentially limiting the amount of spending. This year, however, with the NFC-based system in place, the festival sought to make purchasing easier and more convenient for ticket holders.

Guests bought tickets from a separate online ticketing solutions provider, then were invited to create a prepaid voucher for an NFC-enabled ID&C wristband using the 13.56 MHz ISO 14443 protocol. With Event Genius’s software, users could enter a credit card number and specify a cash amount, which would then be deducted from their account, after which they were sent a prepaid paper voucher.

Guests presented their vouchers upon arriving at the venue, then were provided with an NFC-enabled wristband. Staff members used a Famoco Android-based device, running an Event Genius app, to scan the printed bar code on the voucher, and to then write the prepayment amount to the bracelet’s built-in tag via an NFC transmission.

At each vendor’s kiosk, a user could place an order and present his or her wristband to the Famoco handheld reader. The amount of the purchase would then be deducted from the prepaid account in the back-end software, and would also be rewritten to the wristband. With the account balance stored on the bracelet itself, the system can be used even without a connection to the back-end software—in other words, events without a Wi-Fi or stable Internet connection could still utilize the technology.

If a guest drained his or her balance and wanted to add credit, he or she could proceed to a top-up station, where as many as 15 staff members were on hand during peak times. The workers could accept cash or credit-card information, and could use the handheld reader to update the wristband’s balance. Any guests with remaining funds on their balance at the end of the event could go online to request a refund, or have an employee provide a refund onsite.

Event Genius’s Lauren Lytle

During the event, there were approximately 200 Famoco Android-based devices used at bars, vendors and top-up areas. Readers were deployed by approximately 10 vendors, including at two large bars across the site. None required early installation or integration. “One nice part about our solution is that there’s no need to do any installation ahead of time,” Lytle says, such as running power cables or connecting readers to the Internet. “It’s all about training the staff,” she adds, and the system is then ready to go live.

Event Genius also provides a suite of reporting features, so festivals such as Jika Jika! can view spending activities with the wristbands. “That gives them a view of spending patterns over time,” Lytle explains, as well as specifics such as sales at particular times or locations.

The average increase in revenue at events using the company’s cashless solution is about 25 percent, Lytle reports—In the future, the firm plans to offer an integrated system for both cashless payments and ticketing. “I think the more you can integrate, the more valuable your data becomes,” she says. For instance, the flow of people into the event could then be compared to subsequent sales.

Jika Jika!’s management did not respond to requests for comment for this story.