Zippin’s Checkout-Free Technology Will Prevent Sports Fans From Missing Out on the Action

Buying food and drinks at a sporting event can be an expensive endeavor. Take last month’s PGA Championship for example, where even star golfer Justin Thomas was blown away by the $ 19 beers being sold at the tournament. But the price a fan pays to leave their seat for a concession stand cuts far deeper than their wallet – it can also mean they’ve missed a key moment of action.

Those are the moments Zippin aims to give back to fans. The company’s 50 autonomous stores include 25 locations inside sporting venues such as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Empower Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento and NRG Stadium in Houston. Sensors and AI cameras inside the stores allow guests to pick items off shelves and walk out without waiting in line for checkout or engaging with a cashier.

Zippin's AI-driven technology helps cut down shoppers' checkout time to just 30-45 seconds.

Zippin’s AI-driven technology helps cut down shoppers’ checkout time to just 30-45 seconds.

“Ultimately, these are designed to allow people to see more of the game and less of the back of the person in line,” says Gary Jacobus, Zippin’s SVP of business development. “If you think about it, there are very few places you go, where they say,‘ I know you spent a lot of money to see something, now I’m going to ask you to turn your back on that to go eat and drink and miss a certain portion of what you went to see. ‘ It’s a weird thing. Where else do you see that, where what you paid for you missed a third of it, 20 minutes, or whatever it is? ”

Jacobus gave SportTechie a tour of Zippin’s four stores at Barclays Center during a recent WNBA game between the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun. “We’re probably taking anywhere from a five to 10-minute average start to finish down to 30 to 45 seconds,” Jacobus says of the average traditional concession transaction time compared to Zippin’s stores.

One of Zippin’s four concessions at Barclays is the American Express store, whose shelves are filled with snacks, merchandise, drinks and hot food. That store is an outlier for Zippin, as its exclusive to American Express members. Guests insert or tap their Amex credit card at a kiosk as they walk into the store, but Zippin’s other stores accept all major credit cards.

Customers tap their credit card at a kiosk to initiate the seamless shopping experience.

Customers tap their credit card at a kiosk to initiate the seamless shopping experience.

“When people walk in together, they can shop together on one card, which happens a lot when a mother or father walks in with kids. The kids follow in and all three are shopping on the card, ”says Jacobus, who came to Zippin after working at venue food services provider Aramark. Before that, he was VP of global marketing for the NBA. He’s scheduled to speak at SBJ’s Brand Innovation Summit June 13-15 in Chicago.

Ceiling-mounted cameras inside Zippin’s stores use artificial intelligence to track guests as they enter and shop. Customers can select the item they wish to purchase and simply carry it with them as they exit the store; no checkout is required. When they leave, the purchases will be automatically charged to the customer’s credit card and a receipt will be made available online.

“We put a rectangle around your head and shoulders. So There’s no facial recognition, ”Jacobus says. People are shopping, they’re picking things up, they’re looking at snacks. So you went from a transactional experience to a shopping experience. ”

Overhead tracking shows how Zippin's technology is able to track your virtual cart as you move through the store, preserving privacy.

Overhead tracking shows how Zippin’s technology is able to track your virtual cart as you move through the store, preserving privacy.

Sensors are embedded into the shelves hosting items, which syncs with Zippin’s back-end software that store managers update with the shelf location of each item. In the case of the Amex store at Barclays, the team at the concessionaire partner Levy is operating the software, which Zippin charges between $ 25,000 and $ 30,000 annually to license, according to Sports Business Journal’s Bret McCormick.

During a Nets game, Jacobus says the Amex store has processed a high of about 1,300 transactions during three hours. The Amex store at Barclays doesn’t sell alcohol, but Zippin’s The beer-stocked concession store at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, home to the NBA’s Hornets, has reached $ 30,000 in sales during a concert.

“It’s just a matter of time before every arena and stadium says, ‘How can we live without this?’ Because as a consumer, you do this once and you’re like, ‘What am I doing standing in line ?.‘”

Zippin plans to open more than 100 stores in sports facilities by the end of this year, and Jacobus said he ‘s had talks to install the system at stadiums for English Premier League clubs. Zippin is as building a weathered structure of its storefront that would enable its cameras to not be obstructed by snow. The update would be particularly useful at outdoor concession stands at MLB stages, says Jacobus.

At a store in Japan, Zippin offers palm-recognition for entry, which autonomous store competitor Amazon also offers at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Jacobus also says that he’s had a conversation with biometrics company Clear about integrating facial recognition into Zippin’s stores. The addition would eliminate the relatively frictionless step of shoppers needing their credit card to enter a Zippin store.

“Really it was a decision on the privacy because people bring that up all the time, ”Jacobus says of the facial recognition dilemma. “If people I think eventually want to opt into that, we can do it. I think there’ll be a time where it’s all facial. It’s whatever the consumer wants to do, and what the customer feels good about. ”

MLB’s New York Mets are offering Wicket’s facial recognition system to enable facial ticket entry at Citi Field. The American Hockey League’s San Diego Gulls offer facial ticketing and concession payments at its venue through ASM Global’s deal with verification company PopID. TendedBaran automated cocktail machine, uses facial recognition to process beverage orders at select PGA Tour events.

“It’s a little funny when you really break it down,” Jacobus says of privacy concerns related to facial recognition. “You walked to this arena outside, 20 or 30 cameras followed you into the arena. There’s cameras along the concourse. But you’re afraid if you walk in here [Zippin’s retail store]they might know who you are? ”

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