Henley smartens up its ticketing and gate access system
Henley RFC members have been able to enjoy all sorts of new privileges and features, thanks to the club’s determination to exploit online and mobile technology, described by the club’s membership secretary Martin Bidlake-Corser as their ‘working smarter not harder’ strategy.
At the beginning of last season, the club implemented a new EPoS system that used smartcards. This enabled each Henley RFC member not only to put money ie. funds on their card, pay for drinks and receive bar discounts, but also - and uniquely - to be able to top up their membership accounts online using their mobile device, a capability that was developed by Open Solutions for Henley’s electronic point of sale (EPoS) and loyalty card system from the same developer.
This ensured that the EPoS system interfaces seamlessly with the club’s membership database and secure membership portal. As a direct result of all the efficiencies achieved, the membership team’s workload has reduce significantly, an important issue as they are all volunteers.
As Martin says: “I haven’t seen the end of year results yet, but I can see I’ve already spent a lot more at the bar using my card and topping up my account than I did last year, and I’m quite sure that’s also true of a lot of our members! More relevantly, I also find I spend a lot less time doing paperwork, and I can optimise my time by remotely accessing the Club’s server and working from home. ”
He continues: “The software and the hardware from Open Solutions been brilliant and very robust, but even more relevantly, as we’re a community club and this sort of thing doesn’t come cheap, the uplift in sales promises to have a positive impact on the club’s overall profitability. Building on this success over the past season, we felt confident to exploit the smart card’s functionality in assisting match day gate management”.
Electronic ticketing and gate entry
In previous seasons gate stewards had to visually check each and every membership card. But with the new system, season tickets will be held electronically on the membership card and will now be ‘swiped’ at the gate. Paper match day tickets will still be used, however they will now contain a barcode which will also be recorded by a bar code reader on entry.
This approach has a number of benefits. Both risk and cost are significantly reduced by utilising the functionality that’s available in Open Solutions standard EPoS system. The system will now collect and store the vital ‘metrics’ for all categories of member and ticket types. This data, along with that collected on members buying habits in the clubhouse, can now be analysed together, giving Henley RUFC a much clearer understanding of their members’ profiles and visiting/buying behaviour.
As Henley RFC’s Commercial Manager Alistair Beynon commented “It’s not just streamlining the gate entrance situation, this development will allow Henley RFC to better understand its members and their requirements.”
“For us, it’s all about creating the right environment for members and visitors to enjoy the match day experience, and having the right data is crucial in allowing the Club to refine its offering to our members. We also expect to increase potential match day revenues as a result of enhancing the gate entrance procedures.”
Martin outlines the new electronic entry system: “Certain categories of membership such as Gold, Silver and Bronze include a season ticket. An allocation of entrances for scheduled home matches next season will be uploaded onto the member’s account on membership renewal. On match days the members go to our gate that’s got a smartcard reader, hold their card up to it and if they’ve paid, it recognises that and lets them in. Likewise if they haven’t paid, it won’t!"
“All the screens at the gates are linked to the club’s server which is shared by the EPoS system, hence delivering the ability to check both access and sales data for each member.”
“Paper match day tickets will be retained each for our ticket categories such as Adult Full, Adult Concession etc. These traditional tickets will now have bar codes printed on them. The bar codes are recognised by a bar code reader as being paid and allows entry. This replaces the ‘rip and click’ system with something that’s going to give us far more accurate metrics in terms of numbers and data. All entrances are time and date stamped, so we will also be able to track any inappropriate use and of course multiple entrances.”
More than just paperless tickets
As the club’s Commercial Manager, Alistair Beynon fully appreciates of other potential benefits: “Potentially, this will give us the ability to market more season tickets as well, and enable them to be bought online through the Club’s website by visiting fans. Even people who have been used to coming along for single match days can download them on their smartphone!”
“But crucially it enables us to get to know our members’ match day habits much better, as we can then match their match visits with their spending habits on the same days at the clubhouse.”
Alistair continues: “That will be valuable for our catering partner, as they can then look at developing special offers to encourage those coming to the matches to pop into the bars and food stations as well. We can also look at ways of setting up pre-paid orders to help reduce the crush at particular times.”
Martin explains: “We’re in the final stages of sorting out the gates’ hardware, based on initially two and then three gate entry points. Customised Epos till screens will quickly and clearly indicate to the gate stewards whether a member’s card is valid and has a season ticket allocation. Likewise the paper tickets, previously checked visually and then ‘ripped’, will now be scanned and any errors or misreads alerted.”
“Our final run through will be at a pre-season friendly match against Ampthill RFC, a club that also happens to use Open Solutions EPoS software. However the real test will be our first home match of the season, a local derby against Readingesians where we’re hoping to see around 2,000 coming along.”
Further developments in mind
Martin’s always looking to the next step, and he’s already got some plans: “Once we’re reassured the access system’s bulletproof, it is a logical progression to integrate the ticket office into the network.”
He explains: “Not only would this ‘tighten’ the whole ticketing process, but potentially the costly pre-printed tickets could be replaced by tickets printed on demand directly from the EPoS till printer. Open Solutions have also shown us an exciting mobile handheld device that can read both barcodes and smartcards – now that really would be very useful and could be readily integrated! It’s all about building and exploiting what we as a club have got – and working smarter not harder!”
“In the meanwhile, within a few more weeks we’ll soon see where things stand in terms of the new EPoS system’s impact on the club’s bar sales uplift, the impact on gross and net margins, and the fuller appreciation of the advantages we’re expecting to recoup with our paperless and cashless approach to match tickets.”
Keeping Henley RFC up with the future
Martin’s excited by the way that innovative use of technology can give exponential rewards, but his main focus is on the advantages technology can deliver for Henley RUFC, which as he’s indicated, is a community rugby club where the numbers really matter.
As he comments: “What we can say is that each step we take with developing new features with Open Solutions and our other partners, and each time we install new technology, our goal is to improve the bottom line and increase our productivity – as I’ve said, it’s about working smarter instead of harder.”
He comments: “It’s evolution not revolution, and as a club with bold ambitions but limited resources it’s all about getting the very best return on our investment. The Open Solutions recognise this and see value in working with us to make a big difference, a difference our members and visitors value.”
“Best of all, it’s clear that our members appreciate the way Henley RFC’s doing so much more online now, but which of course is no more than the younger – by which I mean anyone under 40! - smartphone-toting and app-friendly generations expect! This is vital if Henley RUFC is to engage with them and attract more of them in the future.”