End-to-end Payment Ecosystems for Sports Arenas and Venues

David Johnson
Senior Vice President, Emerging Commerce Products
Posted on May 16, 2017



Providing the best possible consumer experience possible while becoming more efficient and saving money

Where would you like to see payment options be more consistent?

Sports arenas, concert halls, and theme parks remain a hodgepodge of diverse payment systems with inconsistent consumer experiences, coupled with a persistent over-reliance on cash purchases. This situation is compounded by multiple on-site merchant processing arrangements, often with different POS tools. If that wasn’t enough, the management of the facility and staff operating the location often are equally diverse, with complex expense management and labor-intensive manual payroll payment processes.

If the goal is to get more traffic through the doors, entice visitors to spend more and encourage them to return, there has to be a better way. A simplified, consolidated payment experience is the answer.

Diversity Is a Weakness

Consider a visit to a sports arena or concert hall. Tickets are bought either online in advance or at the gate. Once inside, the consumer stops by the merchandise area for some fan gear, then visits concession stands for refreshments. Later, they buy some more snacks from the vendor walking by their row and want to enter the 50/50 raffle held at the event. With each of these purchases, the visitor will likely be obliged to use a different payment type. With enough cash on hand, that can be ok for customers. However, many people no longer carry cash or only carry very little.

Meanwhile, for venue management, different payment systems cause their own problems. With so many options for customers – not to mention the support staff necessary to maintain the venue itself – each site needs an army of merchants and systems to support operations. And all of these employees come at a cost. Then, with the variety of extra purchases often needed, you may find the general manager sharing a credit card or having employees buy the necessary goods before being reimbursed via cash or check.

One Venue – One Payment Infrastructure

Advances in payments technologies now offer complete payment ecosystems – from buying tickets online or at the gate, to buying drinks and food during the visit on a mobile device and even paying the venue’s staff in real time. The result is a consolidated, end-to-end payment framework that ensures a consistent and simple experience for all. Such a set-up also can remove cash payments, which has been shown to increase customer purchase values.

Buying tickets, hot dogs, beers, programs, merchandise and other memorabilia can be conducted with a single card or through a smartphone app (linked to the card of choice). Even the cotton candy seller wandering through the aisles can accept the same card, as all points of sale are consistent throughout the venue.

With a single infrastructure and consolidated merchant processing infrastructure sitting behind it, the consumer experience is simplified, thus easing the spending of money.

Employee Expense Rationalization

Likewise, management would prefer to be able to pay all employees in real time to a prepaid payroll card that can be used anywhere rather than cutting checks that oblige employees to locate an outlet that will cash the check. With a simpler way to pay the ushers, concessions and parking attendants, (who may or may not have a bank account), the process becomes simpler and safer. For the management team, money is saved on cutting checks and hosting payroll pick up hours for the employees, while employees no longer have to worry about paying fees if they want to cash a check.

In addition to salary payments, managing the expense needs of venue staff can be problematic. If a vendor needs to urgently buy ice, plastic cups, and straws, prepaid card solutions bypass the need for cash and the hassle of reconciling a paper receipt. Simply push money from the master account to the employee card. The employee makes the purchase, uploads the receipt and the master account pulls the remaining funds back.  This reduces fraud, simplifies the reconciliation nightmare and helps keep track of the books with simple integration to accounting software.

Keep Them Coming Back

Consumers today expect rewards for payment activities, with a simple mechanism to redeem points. That’s why the impact of a strong loyalty program cannot be underestimated.

With venue-linked schemes, it is understandable that the points earned will be proportionally lower than more regular weekly payments such as fuel or groceries. Therefore, low-redemption schemes are vital to maintaining interest. Many sports and music venues can offer unique experiences that are beyond what other traditional retail outlets can offer. With low point totals, consumers could enter sweepstakes and auctions to allow them to win a chance to sit in the dugout, meet the band or win free tickets to another event.

Branding is also a vital component. Consequently, venues can offer customized, branded cards for the venue. This is a strong pull for community-based locations, which generates strong interest and reinforces usage.

The Power of One

One of the main reasons that sports and music venues have such complex payment infrastructures, from both a management and consumer perspective, is that they have been built haphazardly with a variety of solutions from multiple vendors. With a single vendor solution, the consumer experience is greatly enriched while the owners and managers save money. Become more efficient and focus more time on the #1 priority – the consumers visiting their venue.


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David Johnson
Senior Vice President, Emerging Commerce Products

DJ is the Product Division Lead over Loyalty, Prepaid, EBT – Government and Merchant Products. DJ joined FIS in 2007 and has over 20 years of payment industry experience with roles in product development, strategy, consulting and business development. Before FIS, DJ managed Online Banking and Bill Pay for a Top 15 US bank. DJ earned his MBA from Emory University and a degree in Finance from the University of Florida.