49ers score big with mobile payment app

Located in the cradle of technology, Levi’s Stadium may be one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world. The $1.3 billion dollar home of the professional football team, the San Francisco 49ers, comes with nearly every bell and whistle a stadium could ask for, and the most interesting feature may be the availability of mobile payment features.

Instead of building a stadium and then figuring out how to enable it with technology, Levi’s Stadium was designed with wireless networks in mind. Opened in 2014, the venue opted for internet access points to be placed underneath seats instead of the traditional placement below decks above users, as the shorter distance leads to better service.

Levi’s Stadium also features mobile payment capabilities throughout the stadium. According to Roger Hacker, director of corporate communications for the San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium is one of the first venues in the U.S. with a mobile payment infrastructure embedded throughout the venue. Powered by Visa Checkout, fans can purchase concessions using Visa-supported mobile wallets from designated walk up windows.

Although mobile payment functionality is a great feature, the most unique element of the stadium is a state-of-the-art app meant to enhance fan experiences. Developed by VenueNext, the Levi’s Stadium mobile app was an essential part of stadium design, since fan experience is essential for repeat visits.

“We always want to make the event experience more enjoyable and convenient for our fans and we were able to build Levi’s Stadium with those plans in mind,” said Hacker. “As our leadership team was envisioning the type of stadium and fan experience they wanted for 49ers fans, it became obvious that the Levi’s Stadium App would be the key to creating that environment.”

What Levis stadium ended up with is an app that provides multiple fan services, including mobile payment capabilities, like ticketing management and purchasing parking passes. However, the most interesting feature may be the ability to purchase food, drinks, and merchandise for express pick up or in-seat delivery. By linking their credit cards to the app and ordering concessions in advance, fans can bypass lines and get the most out of their experience.

The mobile app may be essential to overcoming the biggest obstacle facing stadium attendance, the comfort of home. To convince fans to watch games from a seat in the stadium instead of their couch, the 49ers utilize technology to provide a can’t-miss live experience.

“Stadiums in every sport are being forced to confront the comfort of the in-home viewing experience and many organizations and venues are looking to enhanced technology as a means to keep those fans coming to the stadium on a regular basis,” remarked Hacker.

Not everything has been smooth sailing for the Levi’s stadium app. In February, the NHL Stadium Series outdoor hockey game took place at the venue, and there were reported issues with connectivity. One fan’s account details issues that limited the ability to log onto the stadium app. Once users got connected and placed food delivery orders, fans experienced long delays, mostly due to the system getting overwhelmed with order volume that was 50% higher than normal. According to Hacker, the issues were never experienced at any other event and were corrected by the stadium’s tech staff.

On the other hand, the potential of the app was perfectly showcased at last year’s Super Bowl. Even though attendance was similar to the trouble-ridden hockey series, connectivity and mobile app usage at the Super Bowl worked very well. According to networking partners and industry experts, over 10 TB of data was transferred during Super Bowl 50. Levi’s Stadium also set a record for Wi-Fi speed in a stadium, hitting 3.67 Gbps and continuous speed for 3.0 Gbps for more than four hours.

In terms of users, the app saw a 46% adoption rate, and 3,284 food and beverage orders were placed, up 67% from the previous high, with a median time-to-deliver drinks to fans in their seats at less than 10 minutes. The stadium also saw strong purchases for mobile merchandise, selling out inventory before kickoff with an average order size of $212, compared to the previous best of $77 at a concert event at the stadium.

“The performance of Levi’s Stadium’s connectivity was nothing short of amazing,” said NFL chief information officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle. “It blew away all our previous records and provided strong consistent connectivity for our fans to share their memories. We were very pleased.”

As the at-home experience becomes more “real”, stadiums are developing experiences that attempt to lure fans away from their big screen TVs and surround sound systems. An integrated mobile app is a feature other stadiums are taking a hard look into. After its work in San Francisco, VenueNext has already signed agreements with the Orlando Magic, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Yankees to develop new stadium apps.

Mobile payment capabilities and the integration of in-seat delivery are important parts of the fan experience stadiums want to provide. The comfort of food and drink delivery is great for fans and increased revenues are great for the stadium. As more venues integrate mobile payments and unique apps, it will be interesting to see how much of a staple a solid mobile app will become to arenas. Soon, the integration of mobile payments into stadiums may be as important and common as the Jumbotron.

Photo credit: brandonzeman via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA