2015 was tipped to be the year of the cashless event in the UK (admittedly, mainly by the PR machine of the suppliers producing the RFID solutions which make it possible). Last year, several of the big US festivals, including Coachella and Lollapalooza, introduced cashless payments using the RFID entry wristbands, which have been a mainstay of festivals now for some time. This year in the UK, Download was one of the first to try it, with mixed results. They made it compulsory but the system buckled under the weight of users and party-goers were frustrated to be unable to buy anything, with no contingencies in place to revert to cash. Inevitably, they took to Twitter to share their pain and negative tweets ricocheted across the networks.
Undoubtedly this is a step backward, but probably only a small one. With digital payments overtaking cash transactions and the rapid advancement of the internet of things, where everything from bread makers to automotive systems are connecting into networks, it seems pretty likely that cashless payments will soon become de rigueur at events – albeit with some modifications and developments to minimise some of the challenges of such a change.
We provided connectivity earlier this year to enable cashless payment at the Drifters Festival, a VIP music festival on Osea island in the Essex Estuary. It partnered with Cake, a relatively new payment app, which enabled visitors to easily pay with their mobiles and was a real success – we were very impressed with the operation of this innovative payment solution and suspect we will be seeing more of them on the event scene in time to come.
These sorts of technologies aren’t necessarily significant just for the high-footfall events like festivals and sporting events, they also present opportunities for brands that are creating pop-up experiences or activations, and for brands that exhibit at consumer events and need a way to process payments quickly and seamlessly, such as pop-up restaurants, temporary retail units and product launches where the brand wants to add an easy instant purchase option – it will be really interesting to watch this space and see what develops.