Sports arenas and stadiums need to tech-up!

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Sports arenas and stadiums are in an enviable position – week in week out, hundreds and thousands of people gather to cheer on their favourite team or go to a big event.  This captive audience want to make an occasion of it and having a drink and bite to eat is all part and parcel of the experience.

But they don’t want to wait. Recent research conducted by CGA, on behalf of brand design agency Harrison, has revealed that lengthy queues are still a major frustration (38%), with more than two-fifths of customers being dissatisfied with the premium price of food and drink.

This is supported by Zonal’s GO Technology tech tracker that reveals almost half (47%) of the 5,000 UK adults polled still cite speed of service as their biggest frustration when eating and drinking out.  And this is only heightened when you don’t want to miss that all important goal or performance.

Today’s consumers hate to wait and expect to be able to use technology to speed up payment.  Their smartphone has become their order pad and wallet, with 36% (source: Zonal’s GO Technology) of consumers keen to use their mobile device to pre-order and pay for food and drink so they can move on quickly.

With high street brands now embracing such technology, consumers’ expectations for speedy and quality service is only set to rise further.  In the past 12 months, pre-order and pay apps have become mainstream on the high street, yet stadia are languishing in the relegation zone.

It’s not entirely fair to tar everyone with the same brush but overall it does seem like an own goal that is so easy to rectify.

Zonal has been working with a number of stadia including Newcastle United, Trent Bridge and Ageas Bowl, to introduce hospitality-dedicated tech, to deliver a premier experience across multiple outlets within a large venue.  By investing in connected EPoS and supporting technology applications, such as cashless transactions to ordering channels, and from pricing to visibility of stock, these stadiums have improved the speed of service, so more people can be dealt with by the same number of staff in less time.

“The Zonal team is extremely knowledgeable and is able to serve up solutions that meet our very specific needs.  They are always on hand to offer support and are very much part of our team”

Claire Appleby, Commercial Manager, Newcastle United

Most stadiums have embraced the benefits of offering payment solutions that support contactless, in order to drive large volume sales in a short period of time. In today’s connected world, it’s what customers expect, as they wish to ‘wave and pay’ or ‘tap and go’ by using cards or smartphones.  This is supported by figures from UK Finance who last year reported contactless payment card transactions almost doubled to 5.6bn, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of people using contactless and around 3.4m people almost never handling cash.

However, by investing in integrated EPoS technology, such as Zonal, it’s the live data that is proving so helpful in supporting the customer experience.  A great example is Newcastle United FC, which attracts an average weekly gate of 42,000 people, plus hosts other high crowd-pulling events, where Zonal’s EPoS has revolutionised the service they offer fans and corporate guests.  By having access to live data, the hospitality team can respond to specific needs as they arise in the ground, by moving staff around to peak areas and shifting stock items, such as hot dogs, if they’re proving more popular on a particular station.

The reality is, that to avoid an own goal, stadia need to respond to this shift, and respond quickly. For those venues that have already made the change, feedback speaks volumes, with improved customer satisfaction levels and increased sales.

Also, through technology integration, stadiums can connect other platforms such as loyalty programmes giving them powerful insight into customer data, enabling them to operate tailored programmes around preferences, frequency of visits and products purchased.

There is no doubt that if stadia want to be top of the league, they need to invest in the technology that is now so familiar to consumers to not only create memorable experiences but also boost the bottom line through sales and bespoke rewards.  By connecting technology with an improved customer experience, there is no doubt that they will be on to a winner!

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