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Bringing fans back to sports requires rethinking payment technology

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COVID-19 has accelerated the move to cashless systems across the world and across industries, but it hit the events industry particularly hard.

The entire industry came crashing down in a matter of days, as there was no immediate solution to bringing large groups of people together safely. But a few months into the crisis, some sectors within the larger space have found creative ways to bring athletes back into their profession. The NBA plans to return this fall in a closed capacity, and golf tournaments have been back in the swing of things without spectators.

Next, the industry needs to figure out how to bring back fans — and one of the biggest things they can do is completely rehaul their payments processes, both to increase health and safety precautions and understand their returning fans better through payment data to create better connections and more invested fans.

The sports, entertainment and events spaces around the globe and particularly in the U.S. have seen a huge increase in interest around payment systems that can minimize spread of coronavirus, and reassure fans and staff that they can return to large events without worrying about their health or the spread of disease. Sixty-three percent of fans have increased event health and safety concerns, and 66% of fans are more worried about venue hygiene.

While temperature checks and sanitizer stations are helpful, they are only a start to the amount of solutions that should be implemented to keep people safe, and putting contactless payments in place is one of the many effective ways to keep the spread of disease at bay. Often in the face of huge adversity comes the greatest opportunity for innovation. However, purely focusing on COVID-19 as a determining factor in choosing a payment solution is shortsighted.

If organizations choose their cashless solution correctly, not only can they minimize the risk of contracting the virus, but more fundamentally, they can ensure the sustainability of their business. The right solution provides not only contactless payment capabilities, but also powerful data and insights about the fans. This data delivers operational efficiencies, increases customer spending and most important, enables a full view of each and every fan — including their spending and behaviors before, during and after the event. For instance, Tappit has seen the inquiries about our white-label cashless solutions skyrocket in the last couple of months.

And this is where the true value lies. Purely by going "contactless" (i.e., using a bank to deliver your payment) rather than seeking out "cashless" solutions (yes, there is a difference) that give businesses control of their systems, organizations lose out on the incredibly valuable data. Sports and events organizers need to really consider the full suite of benefits available from a cashless payment solution. Which solution not only addresses the safety concerns around COVID-19, but also helps to support your business in the long run?

Quick fixes like reverse ATMs and protective gloves solve certain immediate consumer concerns, but even contactless card payments — which require strategic and commercial consideration — will simply not provide the data to empower your organization to become even more successful. Once COVID-19 becomes a lower priority for customers, what other benefits will your payment option provide? The decision needs to be made wisely.

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