Cashless payments dramatically improve water parks experience

As the northern hemisphere melts down under the mighty sun I had the greatest idea ever (not!): why don’t I write an article about cashless payments for water parks and how the industry adapts itself. Because what can be cooler (pun not intended) than documenting exotic water parks while you ride a crowded subway to work? But this article walked me around the world, helping me discover incredible destinations, epic constructions, and some interesting ways of using cashless payments within water parks #tech.

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I found up some interesting facts about water parks:

The Waterpark Capital of the world is…Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. But although Wisconsin is home to the biggest water park in the U.S.A. (Noah’s Ark Waterpark) and has more water parks per capita than any other place in the world, the state of Florida leads when talking about the number of attendees; the biggest four locations gathered over 7.2 million people in 2016.

The first indoor water park was built in Edmonton, Canada, in 1985 and was the biggest indoor waterpark until 2004.

The biggest indoor waterpark in the world is Tropical Islands, situated 60 km outside Berlin. The building was initially designed as an aircraft hangar and it’s one of the biggest self-supported halls in the world (the dome is 107 meters high)… It’s spectacular! Tropical Island Resort also opened an outdoor section which helped them bring in over 1.1 million attendees in 2016 (a spectacular 13% increase if compared to 2015).

Speaking of leaps forward, another European Waterpark holds the record for the biggest percentage increase: Siam Park, located in the Canary Islands, opened its gates for over 1 mil guests in 2016, a 15% increase if compared to 2015.

When speaking of the total number of guests the gold medal goes to Chimelong Water Park, from China, which had over 2.5 mil attendees last year; that’s about 600.000 more than South America’s most visited water park, Thermas dos Laranjais.

As I was saying…it’s hard to concentrate when things are melting down around you. Fortunately, there are plenty of places that can help us overcome the heat, and water parks and pools are there to help. But you know what is not helping? The need to carry cash and/or cards when we are in our bathing suits…

I’m an advocate of using NFC technology for water parks, a technology that can make the experience a better one for attendees. How? By linking the wristband to a customer account and crediting it (so there will be no need to carry cash around or periodically visiting the locker to grab some more). Also, the wristband can replace the key to the locker, helping attendees concentrate on the only thing that should be important while they are on site: having fun!

“Paper and coin currency in water parks will go the way of the dinosaur,” said Buddy Wilkes, from Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Florida. And I totally agree.

Let’s review the major benefits of cashless payments for water parks:

To business:

    • Reduced cash handling by employees (so cases of fraud or human error are out of the question)
    • Improves transaction speed (a report from American Express states that “contactless transactions are 63% faster than cash and 53% faster than using a traditional credit card”)
    • Order value increases by over 30% (customers have instant access to their money, eliminating the extra step of walking to the wallet will increase the number of purchases)
    • Information about guests
  • Ability to prioritize clients (that pay extra for different benefits)

To guests:

    • Possibility to receive preferred customer benefits (this is the kind of experience that is hard to forget)
    • Reduces the risk of losing the ticket (or the cash/personal card)
    • Eliminates the need for holding separated tickets for different areas on site (the wristband can store all the access information)
    • They can keep track of family members
  • No more need to wait in line

The idea of using a wristband for contactless payments isn’t new and the technology has been used for some years in the industry but this year we witnessed something great. Orlando Volcano Bay, opened in May 2017, took the technology one step further: their waterproof wristband, Tapu Tapu, announces you when it’s your time to use a ride; this smart wearable it’s not just for cashless payments, it also waits in a virtual line for you, so you can do something else until it’s your time to use the ride.

There is one more great benefit of using wristbands for contactless payments (and also to store access credentials and to unlock your locker) and I let it last on purpose; not because it is not important, but because I want it to be the idea that you’ll stick to: going paperless will make a big change to the environment. This totally slipped my mind, but the guys from Waterbom Bali helped me realize how important this benefit is to us all. It’s been over 7 years since they first started using waterproof wristbands for cashless payments and are happy about the improvements made: because they are aiming to be #1 water park in the world that cares about the environment. Maybe this is why people love them some much and voted them as the number 1 water park in Asia in the Tripadvisor TraveleresChoice ranking. You rock, guys!

P.s.  For more statistical data you can check out Statista, Wikipedia or http://www.teaconnect.org/images/files/TEA_235_103719_170601.pdf, that’s what I did :).

How do you prepare for a cashless event?

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Last week was a full one for us here at Oveit; on Wednesday we visited the lovely city of Riga to participate at We are Museums event WAM 2017 – Tech loves Culture, where we met many museums professionals eager to use #tech to offer their customers a better experience; Thursday and Friday were reserved for ICEEfest, Interactive Central & Eastern Europe, one of the biggest  tech-related events in Central & Eastern Europe. At ICEEfest we were in charge with the registration process and also implemented the cashless payment system, offering attendees the possibility to pay using their wristbands. Everything went as smooth as it can so we thought that would be nice to share some insights that can help you to implement this cashless payment method for your next event.

Here are some hints for a better workflow:

Use the right tool, so you don’t have to use 2 of 3 different software products for one event (our friends used Oveit to sell tickets, check in attendees, print badges and set up the cashless payment system). We used our software “as a hole” and made it really easy to associate the NFC wristbands to an attendee and credit his/her account.

Test your hardware. For this event, we used 24 laptops, 10 NFC readers, and 6 thermal printers. It all worked well but you can be sure that we didn’t wait for the first guests to arrive before we (individually) tested every piece of hardware that we were going to use for the big event. We checked and double checked so when the guests started to arrive we knew that everything is in place and any malfunction that may occur can be easily fixed.

Make sure you have enough power supplies and a strong internet connection (it is strongly recommended to use a private network for your apps, different from the one used by your guests).

You will need to host 2 different training sessions for people operating the software: one with the cashiers (that will credit your attendees’ accounts) and one with the vendors. It’s incredibly easy to use the NFC cashless payment system (at least ours is) but you must make sure that everyone knows how to use it (don’t assume that they don’t need to test it first).

Have a crew on site that knows how to use the software and can be of help if needed. If you have access credentials for each selling point it would be best if the “guys on sight” have the ability to reset them (they are there as a backup, to fix any problem that may occur). If someone has trouble remembering how to log in (or what’s the correct password) – they will have someone to ask for help. You use NFC to improve the general experience so make sure that you have someone on site for this sort of problems.

Conclusions

Using cashless payments was a bliss; there were attendees from all over the world at ICEEfest, so you understand why using cash would’ve been a problem. First, not everyone had the time to stop by an ATM and withdraw cash; second, the queues would’ve been huge with hundreds of people trying to figure out which bills to use. This system allowed everyone to use their credit/debit card to top-up their accounts and a simple tap for pay at all the 8 stores available on site. The result?

A payment system that was very easy to use and no more queueing.

 

If you still have doubts about the NFC technology and how it can help you offer a better experience for your attendees I encourage you to read this article, where you will find (almost) all the right reasons :).

Use long tail keywords to promote your events

Did you know that almost half of the world’s population (and over 75% of the population from Europe and North America) has internet access? And that on a daily basis Google and Bing gather more than 5 billion online queries? If so many people use online searches for information (and to actually buy products/services) what can we do to get a slice of this big pie? The short answer would be Search Engine Marketing; SEM has different areas to focus on but today I would like to tell you more about long tail keywords and how they could lift up your business.

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What is Search Engine Marketing? 

SEM is the form of internet marketing that has the purpose of increasing a site’s visibility in search engines results pages.

The two main components of SEM are Search Engine Optimization  and Pay Per Click, both of which I’m sure you have heard of, so I’ll just mention how each work (as a short reminder):

Search Engine Optimization- the process of increasing your site’s visibility in the search engine machines by:

  • Selecting  good keywords and focusing on them
  • Creating good and unique content
  • Creating a good structure for your website
  • Building links (internal and external)
  • Including the selected keywords in your site’s title, pages, articles, Meta Tag Title, meta description etc
  • Providing best possible user experience (speed, cross-device compatibility etc.);
  • and more.

Pay Per Click: or cost-per-click (such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads), paid search advertising where you select the keywords for which you want to be listed (when someone searches for them) and pay when someone clicks your ad. For the search engine to determine which ad appears where the process includes an auction (you select how much you’re willing to pay for every click) and a quality score (how useful is your ad for the user: relevance, landing page etc.).

What are keywords? We use the term keywords for words or phrases that people search for online, through search engines. So what you type in the text box when you use Google, Bing or other search engines falls into this category.

The generic term keywords has 2  categories:

Head (or short tail) keywords:

Keywords that are most frequently searched for (usually the “head” has 1 or 2 words)

and

Long tail keywords:

more specific keyword phrases (usually the long tail phrase has more than 3 words)

But if head keywords have hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of searches each month why would anyone concentrate on anything else, right? Well, here are some advantages of using long-tail keywords, especially if you have a smaller event planning business.

75% of the search queries use long tail keywords 

This means that there are some keywords that can be found in hundreds of thousands of searches each month but most of the searches contain more specific long-tail keywords. So while the main focus is on one-quarter of the pie, there are still 3 quarters left for us to work with. There are tens of variations of a long tail keyword and each of them can bring you tens or hundreds of visitors that are further along in the buying cycle.

Search Engine Marketing is a very competitive field

SEM is a process that takes time and involves a lot of work if you want to make it in the “big league”. If you construct your keyword strategy based on a very popular head keyword you will be in direct competition with all the big event planners all over the world, even if they are not your direct business competitors.

SEO – bigger companies have more resources to invest in their websites and it is easier for them to generate more content (and search engines love sites that have more pages). 

PPC – an important part of PPC is the auction for keywords and a very popular one can become extremely expensive.

If I search for “event planner” there are 28,700,000 relevant results on Google…it is hard to compete with all of them.

Let’s say that you organize leadership conferences and work in the UK. And you want people to find more about what you do, when is your next event and other useful information. If you focus on “event planner” as keywords you will enter a ferocious competition with companies all over the world for a keyword that surely is more relevant for others than for you.

Long tail keywords have a better conversion rate 

Using the same example as above think that someone uses “event planner” for an online search. That person may look for information on how to become an event planner, or he/she may look for someone to plan a wedding in Japan, a business summit in India or an Indie concert in Kansas City.  It’s true, there are tons of searches for “event planner” each month, but this is because “event planner” can mean different things in online search terms. On the other hand, if someone uses  “leadership conference in England” or “leadership summit 2017 Merseyside” for a search he has a real interest in your type of event.

Using long-tail keywords you can focus on what really makes you stand out from the crowd. For example we, at Oveit, know that our feature that allows you to use cashless payments at your events represents our advantage; so we tend to use it more than the classic “online tickets”. Use your strengths when you communicate your message and you will have the perfect match for your customers.

How to improve attendee experience with a smooth registration process

It is known that in business the first impression can be a deal-breaker, especially if you are a small company trying to work your way up. But does this rule apply to the event management industry? Do you think that an attendee’s first impression about your conference can affect your business? Well, the answer is yes!

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And even though it’s fair to say that the very first impression may occur when a customer tries to buy a ticket, let’s talk about the greeting and the registration process (and how to make sure that your attendees feel welcome).

Here are some insights:

Use the right software

It is impossible to ensure a smooth process if you need 3 minutes to check in or register each attendee. Here are some things you might do to welcome your guests: search each guest by name, look for their printed badge, collect their data. All these things add up to the registration time. But if you use an effective app, you just need to scan a barcode or a qr code to identify and welcome your guest. Here’s what you might do afterwards: check in, collect data into your database and have the badge ready for print. Easy enough when you have the right tools.

Make sure everything is functional

As Kelsey Ogletree said, technology has a dark side and I think it’s safe to say that a registration system crashing in the morning of your event falls into the not-so-bright category  . This is why you should always triple check your registration systems prior to your big event (and all the switches/cable). And also make sure that everyone who is involved in the registration process is well trained in using the registration software.

Divide the check in process into tasks

If you want to save some time with the registration process (and who doesn’t?) you should encourage the registration team to work with predefined tasks. For example, here’s a way of splitting responsibilities among three team members:

    1. One staff member scanned the ticket and verified access credentials
    1. One staff member printed the badge
  1. One staff member assisted attendees with the wristbands

The result? It takes a lot less time to check in/register each guest.

And some more tips for a perfect start:

Keep your team informed

Make sure your staff members know the basic information an attendee could ask (where is the wardrobe, where are the restrooms, which stairs to use – if there are any etc). On the other hand it’s wise to have an info point with permanent assistance for more specific questions and/or complaints (although you might think everything is in place – and maybe it is – chances are your guests will be at times in need of assistance).

Check in has it’s peak point.  Adapt

Keep in mind  that technology cannot solve all issues, so for the registration peak point you should open some extra check in points (most of your attendees will arrive 30 minutes prior to the start, so make sure you have some extra registration points in the first part of the day). Afterwards you can close some of them and your team members can focus on different tasks.

Take care of your team

Let me just quote sir Richard Branson on this one: “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers”. Make sure your team is fully prepared, motivated AND happy (yes, it is hard work, but you can still have fun doing it). Your attendees will be greeted with a big natural smile and that’s always the best way for them to start the day, and they are more likely to overlook any shortcomings that may occur later.

Not everyone will respect the schedule

Some of the participants may arrive earlier than expected: some traveled from out of town and came directly to the venue, some are just impatient and some misread the schedule… Don’t forget they are your guests, so treat them right. Ask them in, offer them a cup of coffee/water and explain that they will have to wait for registration. Keep in mind this is a very important part of your customer care process.

Water and coffee for everybody

Make sure you have plenty of water and coffee for all your attendees. It is best you let them accommodate with a welcome coffee; you will also need coffee breaks every 2 hours or so, otherwise your attendees will lose their focus.

If you host a full day event you be sure to include a lunch break in the schedule (if you don’t cater the lunch at least offer some information about restaurants nearby).

Don’t be afraid to get creative

Let’s admit it: we all love cool stuff. So do yourself a favor and use a cool badge (use a registration software that offers you this feature)  and nice colored wristbands. Trust me, your attendees will notice your attention for detail and will help you spread the word about your “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” event  by posting photos on social media.

There are many aspects that you must have in mind when planning an event, from the speakers  list to venue and suppliers. But don’t forget that the registration process is a an important part of your guest’s overall experience and keep in mind that a very good first impression works wonders.

Technology changed the event management game

The world has changed.  Maybe Galadriel smells it in the air (and tastes it in the water...), but event professionals face the changes in their unceasing efforts to deliver the perfect experience. Day by day. And even though technology has a nasty habit of getting you distracted (you get like 12 emails, 8 phone calls and 37 FB/Twitter notifications per hour), it also offers a lot of help when organizing an event. So let’s see how technology changed the event management game:

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Access to real-time data

“Un homme averti en vaut deux” (an informed man is worth two), claims a French saying. And maybe the math is not quite right but we all know the importance of information when planning an event. Luckily today’s apps let you know every minute how many tickets you’ve sold and to whom (through the right tools, such as Oveit’s event registration software ).

For example most of the seats are empty 10 minutes before the posted start time? Verify the app and see how many people checked in. If 80% of the ticket holders already checked in (maybe they are in the lobby)  you’ll only have to deal with a small delay, not a fiasco. Using an event management software keeps you well informed.

Yes, we mind waiting

Time is money (for everyone). Professor Richard Larson, from MIT, has estimated that Americans spend about 2 years of their lives waiting in lines. Even sadder is that often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself” and people tend to overestimate the waiting time by about 36%. Today you can use an event management app that allows you to use any smartphone for ticket scanning and registration, making the queues go a lot faster (you can extend the scanning points with as many as you want; all you need is a smartphone).

Social media helps you meet billions

There was a time when word of mouth was the only way to communicate your event. Today, 3 of the most important social media platforms gather more than 2 billion unique monthly visitors; modern technology gives you the opportunity to market the exact demographics that you want. Although this is not the answer to all of your prayers it clearly makes it a lot easier when you want to make yourself heard.

Keep everyone engaged

People spend around 2 hours a day touching their smartphone’s screen and  85% of that time is, in fact, spent using applications. So we can understand why more and more #eventprofs are using applications when it comes to engaging participants. See for example TONOMAT, an app that allows everyone to be the DJ at your party, helping even the shyest to make himself/herself heard (via his/her favorite band).

You should always follow up your leads

62% of the leads are not followed up after an event. I really hope this is not the case for you. You invest a lot of time and money in planning your event and you should interact with everyone who registered. If someone spent the time to register for your event it means that they are interested in what you have to offer (not to mention those that actually attend it). So keep in touch with them!

Modern-day apps let you know who arrived and who didn’t, so you can follow up by segmenting your audience with different messages. Here are some examples:

“Thank you for attending …”

“Sorry you didn’t made it, here is what…”

Let the world see you shine. Live

40% of world population has access to the internet. Maybe the venue has a capacity of only 500 people, but today you can sell an unlimited no. of tickets for an online experience (live streaming is way cheaper than it was a few years ago). So, just like a big football match, your event can also be watched by millions for a few bucks (ok, maybe not millions, but you get the picture). You can sell live online access for a small price and/or you can even ensure a VR experience for those who cannot attend in person. (this is not something new but today the technological leaps make it possible for anyone to broadcast an event)

Replace cash payments to grow the order value

Carrying a lot of cash is not really fun (especially in crowded places where they sell alcohol). Use NFC technology to replace cash payments and you will have:

    • No more pickpocketing
    • Less queueing
    • 0 cash loss
    • 30% increased order value
  • Happier attendees

Oh, and by the way…

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Charles Darwin

Further reading:

    • http://www.preoday.com/blog/the-changing-scene-of-consumer-experience-in-festivals/
    • http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/opinion/sunday/why-waiting-in-line-is-torture.html
    • http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites
    • http://blog.mobilosoft.com/blog/e-tickets-vs-m-tickets-difference-and-benefits-for-consumers
  • http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/exhibitions-and-events/exhibiting/planning-your-follow-up-after-an-event