Reimagining NFC payment apps for all customer interactions

Technologies rarely revolutionize how we interact with the world overnight. Near-Field-Communication, or NFC, is a technology with the potential to make so much happen like magic, expanding on the potential of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. But in 2017 it was still new to most mobile phone users. If people used it at all, it was likely for touchless payments via services such as Apple Pay.

That’s not a bad use case, but it’s not living up to the technology’s potential either. Often, all the experiences around paying for something have room for improvement as well. Take live events — sports, music, anything on a massive scale. Even a minor inconvenience becomes a major source of pain when amplified across tens of thousands of people.

This is where Pronto saw an opportunity. The founders knew going to a sporting event at a stadium held a lot of pain points, from ticketing to gate entry to paying for concessions and merchandise. Sports teams and stadium vendors, meanwhile, weren’t collecting key data on who was coming to the events and what they were doing — leaving peak marketing opportunities on the table.

"Table XI challenged us the most on our ideas. We believed that they could add the most value to our development."

Conrad Caplin, CEO of Pronto

Pronto looked further into the future and saw the broader opportunity to help users through every interaction within a stadium. A mobile, wallet-based customer experience platform could solve some of the friction for users and capture valuable data for arenas and performers.

The team approached Table XI to envision and build a platform that would connect spectators seamlessly with stadiums, creating a much better experience with people at the center. The possibilities for that platform could then be extended, from arenas and sports to restaurants and travel, any business with a high volume of customers to manage.

Cataloguing the customer journey to create a contactless experience

Working with the Pronto team, we catalogued the pain points in a live event attendee’s journey, looking for ways Pronto and NFC technology could help smooth the interaction:

  • Parking or taking public transit to the stadium: Often, cash is the only way to pay for parking, despite fewer people carrying cash. And most fans arrive all at once for a single start time, clogging trains and busses and making it hard to direct people to available parking spaces.
  • Buying tickets and entering the stadium: Lines to get day-of tickets can be long and slow. Getting into the stadium with a scan of physical tickets also slows down lines.
  • Finding seats: Often, numerous stadium entry points are accessible, and people pick whichever one is nearest to where they are, not where they need to go. Once inside, finding the most efficient way to your seat can feel impossible.
  • Buying merchandise or food: Lines for both backup during any break in the action, and fumbling for cash or cards only makes it worse. Plus, no rewards programs keep fans from earning discounts and keep owners from knowing more about fan habits.
  • Engaging with sponsor attractions: Clothing, drink and other sponsors often provide photo or give-away attractions at the event in exchange for registering. But registration is a laborious process.
  • Leaving the stadium: Leaving an event can be even more of a crush than arriving, creating delays and making it impossible to find the best and fastest route back toward the car or to public transit.

Creating an NFC app that worked for everyone involved

Live events involve many different players — not just venues and teams, but ticketing companies, gate access control companies, concession vendors, merchandise vendors and any number of promotions or event-specific charities or corporate sponsors. Pronto had to unite all of these stakeholders to create a truly seamless user experience. Leave even one out, and people would be stuck fishing for cash in one place and their phones in another.

To get everyone involved on board, Pronto had to:

  • Deliver a fundamentally better experience: The platform had to be seamless, effortless, fast — capable of keeping crowds moving and spectator satisfaction high.
  • Sell the product while building it:  As we were building the platform, Pronto needed to generate excitement with prospective customers via live demonstrations of the solution. We needed to carefully balance building features to use in the sales process while staying on the path to developing the full solution.
  • Provide value to any player: Would the first buyers be teams, stadia, access control companies or someone else? Pronto didn’t know, and we had to build something that would appeal to any one of them.

To prove we could create a better experience for any person or company in a stadium, we worked closely with Pronto on ideation and development. As the team met with stadiums and teams that might buy the tool, we tapped them for real-time feedback to improve the product as we went.

"The team helped us think creatively about which features to build first, and how to get the best results with minimal custom code. They saved us time and money and spared us from bloated code."

Conrad Caplin, CEO of Pronto

We quickly pivoted, working toward the ultimate vision but adapting in response to sales opportunities. We were able to create lightweight demonstrations of the technology, backed by production-worthy software. This gave buyers a tangible experience, and confidence that the technology would work when extended to an entire stadium. Everything we built was strategically chosen to serve the sales process and the final product, giving Pronto the ability to line up buyers without needing to create throwaway demonstration software.

Bringing NFC tracking and ticketing to other interactions

Pronto reimagined how the customer experience could change for sports and live events, but the learnings we collected weren’t limited to that. There are lots of businesses that could benefit from better data on customer behavior, and plenty more that need help managing customers as they move through physical spaces.

The technology we built for Pronto was part loyalty program, part payments, and part ticketing. Any one of those could make for a solid business, particularly when you provide contactless experiences.

"Table XI brought lean startup and agile development principles along with a lot of discipline for executing them. "

Conrad Caplin, CEO of Pronto

Pronto quickly saw an opportunity to offer the same customer experience improvements to other industries. Restaurants could use Pronto to manage loyalty programs and payments, helping to move high volumes of people through their space while creating personalized interactions. Travel was another clear extension — as anyone who’s fumbled through printed out ticket PDFs can no doubt imagine. We’ve been able to help Pronto realize those opportunities, taking the platform and tailoring it for customers far beyond the original market.

Innovating in well-established industries with new NFC technology

While live events, restaurants and travel are all well-established industries, NFC in mobile phones is not. It’s a new technology, and Pronto was among the first to expand it beyond NFC payments. This put us at the bleeding edge of the technology, working directly with Google and Apple to identify new features and bugs. It also gave Pronto’s customers an opportunity to be out ahead of their competitors.

As new partners and users interact with the application, our understanding of how people want to use NFC technology grows. We can work those insights back into the solution, creating a product that’s constantly innovating. 

Today, Pronto works with some of the best-known names in professional and collegiate sports, at a time when touchless interactions couldn’t be more important. Table XI is proud to have helped the team realize its vision, and to be a partner in Pronto’s success.

"Table XI doesn’t just take requirements — they work with the client to make sure that what we’re building makes sense. It sets them apart from other shops I've worked with."

Conrad Caplin, CEO of Pronto

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