Intellitix's Carlo Chiarello and Ryan Howes on Best Practices for RFID/QR Codes at Events, Ticketing Trends and more
Events Blog
June 16, 2023
Audience CRM

Intellitix's Carlo Chiarello and Ryan Howes on Best Practices for RFID/QR Codes at Events, Ticketing Trends and more

Ryan Howes and Carlo Chiarello have taken very different paths to Intellitix.

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Rod Yates
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Audience Republic
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Ryan Howes and Carlo Chiarello have taken very different paths to Intellitix, the all-in-one event platform for cashless payments, access control and ticketing.

Howes, Vice President of Business Development, got his start in the music industry at the age of 14, when he worked as a parking lot attendant at Lollapalooza in 1995. “I was just flagging cars in and out of parking lots for about 16 hours,” he smiles. “And I fell in love with it right away. And I wanted to learn everything about the industry, how it happened, what pieces needed to be put together.”

By way of contrast, Chiarello, CEO of Intellitix and CrowdBlink, has “been an engineering geek for as long as I can remember. And really, it's been more about how to solve problems utilizing effective application of technology.”

The duo’s interests converge at Intellitix, which utilizes solutions such as RFID/NFC and/or QR Codes on mobile devices to enhance the fan experience at events and empower organizers to make informed decisions on their events based on the data these platforms collect.

Here, Howes and Chiarello talk about the benefits of RFID and QR Code technology, best practices for their use, mistakes to avoid, and much more…

Statistics show that events that transfer from cash only or cash and credit to cashless events see growth of between 30-70% in onsite spending. Why?

Ryan: Well, in typical situations with RFID cashless, consumers will put funds onto their wristband prior to the event. When consumers [do that], they don't really have a second thought or a triple thought when going to buy that $40 T-shirt at the merch stand or going to buy more drinks for friends.

The ease of service is so simple that you're so focused on the live performance and all the experiential elements at the festival and hanging out with your friends and running around festival grounds and just making purchases.

Topping up prior to events is really key to helping increase spending on site.

How far in advance of an event do you recommend organizers launch the RFID capabilities so that people can preload money onto their wristbands?

Ryan: Usually festival promoters will lock in their RFID provider about eight months prior to the festival weekend, and then typically four to six weeks prior to the event fulfillment happens – the shipment of wristbands to the ticket buyers. 

Typically, 72 hours prior to the festival weekend consumers will start activating their wristbands and topping them up and setting up their accounts linked to their RFID wristbands. Then you'll see a huge influx in 24 to 48 hours prior to the festival weekend, and substantial amounts of funds get uploaded just within one to two days prior to the festival.

So from a communications perspective, you're not having to educate the fans months in advance, you're not needing to spend a lot of time and money and resources from a marketing and PR perspective. It's really instant, like the week leading up, and in those two days prior to the event happening.

Carlo Chiarello

What are the best ways to educate concertgoers about getting the most out of their wristbands?

Carlo: There are some best practices for sure, in terms of times you want to engage with the guest to ensure the best possible outcomes for the client and the guest experience. 

Some of the best practices are also putting some small incentives in place at times, in terms of the amount that they top up, giving some bonus dollars or some things that get added on. So there's a good regimen that we use with our clients in terms of email contact, touch points on that front.

And when you start thinking about the mobile app side, we encourage people to download the app at certain points in time. And then the app itself notifies the user automatically to do things, whether it be a great time to top up or add a payment, a credit or debit card, even Apple or Google Pay, into the app.

And then leading up to the event we like to give guidance about certain things that they need to do and so on. Those engagement points lead to better outcomes at the event in terms of per cap spending, and specifically having a great and frictionless experience.

"One of the major differences between RFID technology and QR code technology is there's a lot more infrastructure and staffing that comes with RFID."

Are there common mistakes you see organizers make with this technology?

Ryan: One of the major differences between RFID technology and QR code technology is there's a lot more infrastructure and staffing that comes with RFID. You know, setting up portal units and running cable and setting up the event and tearing it down.

The QR code option is much more turnkey than RFID solutions. And I think especially newer event organizers who use RFID technology, it's a bit of a learning curve as to RFID technology at a festival, whether it's access control or cashless.

In some situations with some of our clients, it's a major backbone to the actual event. Because when you look at revenue streams for events, ticket sales are number one, and food and beverage sales are number two, and then sponsorship generally is third. So, we're processing some of the largest revenue streams on site.

So there's got to be a lot of attention to detail, a lot of preplanning. And I think that, again, for younger event producers, they don't really realize the attention to detail that's needed.

Ryan Howes

Given that the QR code option is a simpler operation than RFID, does that open it up more to smaller venues?

Carlo: 100%. One of the reasons we undertook the evolution to the platform over the last couple of years is we had so many events knocking on our door, and they were looking for something more cost effective, something that they could manage for the most part themselves.

And so we undertook that specific focus around literally being able to go on the respective app stores – which you can right now – and download the Field Operations System (FOS) app that can work as a ticket scanner, a point of sale, a mobile box office. The patrons can download the Intellitix App to purchase tickets, transfer tickets, load up a credit card or a debit card to use for cashless.

You've really hit now this demographic that's grown up on mobile, and when you think about what's happened with COVID, and contactless payment acceleration…I won't characterize it as a revolution, but it's probably advanced two to three years faster than anyone expected in terms of people now using and feeling comfortable using credit, debit and QR code technology because of all the contactless elements.

So it's really great for smaller events that are just looking for a completely integrated, quick platform. And the beauty about it is you get insight from all that data collected from ticketing, to transactions to movement. All that information is made available to the event.

"One of the reasons we undertook the evolution to the platform over the last couple of years is we had so many events knocking on our door, and they were looking for something more cost effective..."

Collecting data is a huge benefit of RFID and QR Code technology…

Carlo: You just don't get that when you have cash at an event. Or if you just have a retail point of sale that you're using at that event. You don't have the ability to really align that data and look at individuals throughout the journey process. It's all very fragmented.

A number of ticketing companies and a number of other organizations out there, like the fragmentation because it allows them to keep that divide and separation in place. And what's really important is, how do you drive greater value? How do you drive per cap spend increases with individuals? Utilizing end to end information this year to improve the event for next year is key. 

You start to get a better picture of who these individuals are. What are they buying? How often are they buying it? Are they doing it between sets? Are they doing it after sets? Are they doing it at certain places around the actual event location?

These are all things that start to generate these higher value elements, not only during the event, when you're looking at the data in real time to adjust in the situation, but processing afterwards in terms of, who really did buy what, what are some of the demographics, and maybe the ethnographic sort of information that starts to come together around how purchases took place, or splits between male, female and things of that nature.

You want to create these great experiences and frictionless experiences. If you're using the application and the QR code approach, why not start sending out promotions and things during the event? Why not recognize what's going on maybe with a certain demographic at a certain hour of the day that you might have too much of, or something that you want to push, and start making it a little bit more interactive? Start creating those sorts of touch points even more with the audience.

Those are the things that start to get exciting about collecting that data. It becomes really powerful when you can see an individual from end to end throughout that journey.

Credit: Matty Adame (Unsplash)

What are the best ways of incorporating sponsors into RFID/Mobile activations?

Carlo: There are simple things in terms of on the RFID wristbands or visual touch points there.

If you think about financial sponsorships, there are things that you can do with the RFID interface points that you can badge or do things of that nature. Perhaps encourage loading funds with a certain sponsor credit card company that offers bonus dollars for example.

For us, everything is connected. So our mobile app and an RFID deployment are not separate things, and things can be even more dynamic, and that's exciting. You can have multiple sponsors where, depending on the situation, depending on what is happening, the right sponsorship opportunity or touch point comes out to the end user.

So if it's a certain product offer for a certain demographic it's one sponsor, if it's a different demographic and product, perhaps it's a different sponsor that comes out to them in terms of an offer. So you can envision that starting to take place now with a little bit more of a mobile centric approach. After all, many guests are on their phone at events taking pictures and on social channels during events.

"What we're seeing right now, especially post-COVID, is lots of event producers are looking for new ticketing options."

Are you seeing any trends in ticketing at the moment?

Ryan: I think what we're seeing right now, especially post-COVID, is lots of event producers are looking for new ticketing options. There are major ticketing companies out there, but the small to mid-size, the 5000 to 15,000 capacity per day event organizers, are looking for other options, lightweight solutions, lower ticket fees.

And we allow event producers to be their own merchant, which in turn means that they have access to their money sooner. We don't sit on large sums of money until post event. And in today's industry, all costs are going up – production costs as a whole are on average going up 40% across the board. And easier access and quicker access to ticketing sales sooner is helping event organizers operate and not have to close the doors.

So, just based off all of the sales conversations and inbound sales that we're experiencing, there's a lot of folks looking for alternative ticketing options.

What are the must-haves an event organizer should look for in a ticketing company?

Ryan: Really good customer service between the client and the ticketing platform. Low ticket fees – the cost of events is going up, artist guarantees are going up, so the lower the fees the better.

And more self-serve capabilities so that event organizers can within seconds change ticket pricing, change hours and dates on tickets, change quantities on tickets – you don't have to go through two or three or four different levels of client service managers within larger ticketing companies.

Everything is at your fingertips so that if you were organizing your own 10,000 person food and beverage festival, you could log in at nine o'clock at night and, if you're seeing certain ticket tiers not selling well, if you wanted to do like a bundle package or a certain promotion, you could change it at 9pm and start marketing it at 9:30pm.

Carlo:  The only thing I'm going to add to that is you as an event producer, event organizer, event owner, you're bringing individuals there, they're buying tickets. A ticketing company shouldn't be in the way of you understanding your data and your guests. So make sure you can actually see the data, make sure you can actually have availability to that information. That information isn't something that should be hidden or kept away from you.

"A ticketing company shouldn't be in the way of you understanding your data and your guests."

Are there certain things organizers should look for in an RFID or QR Code provider?

Carlo: I think there's a couple things. One, fulfillment is important in terms of the overall process. Someone with experience in knowing how to fulfill that RFID wristband, whether it's a mail out process, or whether it's on site.

There are market windows and things that make sense at certain times. So the fulfillment side of that I think is really important. And that's something that we've always done, and we have that available in North America and in Europe.

I think the second thing is, there are some interesting values that start to develop when you have the ability of that RFID element and mobile app.

Traditionally, if you do an RFID transaction, an email gets forwarded to you, you can track your transactions, and so on. But now imagine, you're going to multiple events throughout a summer or an event season and they were all using our solution, you'd see, as a guest, your entire set of events, transactions etc. from the application.

Of course if it is a QR code event with no wristband then you're using your mobile for all things. If it is an RFID event then you can do almost all of your own administration from our application, avoiding line-ups for things. You're not having to go look for a top-up station or a top-up location or anything like that.

So I think there's some really amazing things that are starting to happen when those two things get unified, where you can have either of those worlds or you have the best of both.

Visit Intellitix here. Follow Carlo and Ryan on LinkedIn.

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Intellitix's Carlo Chiarello and Ryan Howes on Best Practices for RFID/QR Codes at Events, Ticketing Trends and more

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