The British Racing Drivers’ Club has revved up its loyalty scheme with a new smart card-based cashless vending system.
It is good practice for any club to encourage its members to make full use of its facilities. Increased activity means growth, more revenue and, above all, more satisfied members. Many technologies exist to enable and enrich incentive schemes. The most successful schemes, however, are those where the technology used complements existing automated systems.
At the British Racing Drivers’ Club in Northants, UK, a new incentive scheme has been implemented which builds on its existing access control system. All members are issued with personalised cards which allow entry through the turnstiles through proximity technology. These cards, supplied by identification specialist Databac Group, have now been enhanced with a contactless smart chip to function with the club’s new cashless vending system. This allows members to purchase food, drinks and merchandise at the BRDC club house.
The British Racing Drivers’ Club owns Silverstone Circuit and is presided by Sir Jackie Stewart, with HRH The Duke of Kent KG acting as president-in-chief. It organises many of the race meetings held annually at Silverstone, including four World Championship events (Formula One, Formula 3000, GT and World Sports Cars), as well as six race meetings at other circuits.
The BRDC counts among its members such racing legends as Stirling Moss and Martin Brundle. There are over 800 members, all of whom have access to the facilities at the F1 Silverstone Circuit, which comprise a gift shop, a restaurant and three bars. Until recently, paper vouchers were used, along with cash and credit/debit cards, to make purchases at these facilities. All members were issued �50 worth of vouchers as part of their membership package. Besides being time-intensive, this method also saw funds leaving the club. “Members would often spend a small amount in the club house using their vouchers and take away the change, which would likely be spent elsewhere,” said BRDC Club Secretary Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott CB. “Up to £40,000 per year was leaving the club in this way. We decided to look for a method which would ensure that these funds remained within the club, while encouraging members to make more use of our facilities.”
Formula One cards
The most logical move was to utilise the members’ cards, which are issued yearly. The cards were used not only for member ID, but also for access to the Silverstone grounds. They integrated with an access control system installed and managed by Databac, who also produced the cards. “Databac’s effective management of our access control system led us to assign the implementation and management of our loyalty application to the company as well,” said Lane-Nott. The BRDC therefore contacted Databac to explore the possibilities.
A smart card-based cashless vending system was identified as the best solution. Such a system would automate the vending process, allow for flexible reward schemes, provide greater visibility of spending habits and confine spending to the club. Databac would incorporate a chip into the following year’s cards and it put forward three systems for consideration, based on functionality and budget. A G2 cashless vending system was selected as it offered the greatest price/performance. Databac project managed the installation of the system, which comprised a card loading station, five touch screen tills and Windows-based management software. Implementation took two weeks, including staff training. Databac also started preparing the new cards. In addition to HID read-only proximity technology, these now included a contactless read/write Mifare 13.56MHz chip to work with the new system. All cards were personalised for each member and encoded with their access rights.
At the start of the following season, the BRDC launched the new scheme. Using the loading station, it credited £50 onto each card. To encourage usage, it offered an incremental discount with increased spending as a further incentive.
Members – all successful former and current racing drivers – reacted favourably to the new scheme from the outset. They use the card to purchase food, drinks and merchandise at the restaurant, three bars and gift shop, and at the Marquee during the Grand Prix.
To make a purchase, members present their card to one of the five tills. Each has a user-friendly, graphical interface, accessed via a touch-sensitive screen, as well as a vending interface which reads and writes to the card. Staff hold the card up to the reader and the till displays the value of the member’s account. The purchase is entered into the system – staff simply touch the corresponding item on the screen – and the amount is automatically deducted from the card. A receipt is then issued for the member which shows the account balance. Each till can handle up to ten transactions per minute, allowing greater throughput.
A loading station housed at reception enables members to transfer funds onto the card. This station is equipped with a contactless smart card reader, with a POS terminal to read credit/debit cards if members choose to pay that way. BRDC staff hold the card up to the reader to verify the account. The member’s record is pulled from the cardholder database. Once verified, payments can be made by credit/debit card or cheque or in cash. The chosen amount is entered into the system and the value credited to the card. There is no limit to the amount which can be credited and the whole process takes a mere 60 seconds.
The cashless vending system and card holder database are controlled using Windows-based management software. This allows the system administrator to manage the issuing of cards, till programming, stock control, sales reporting, audit trail compilation and system security. Using the Microsoft SQL database structure, the software stores till configurations, the product database and details of card holders and of pricing, tariff and discount schemes. Comprehensive reporting, including financial audit reports, provides a clear overview of card usage, spending habits and other management information.
Research has shown that paying by card increases sales on average between five and 10 per cent. Since the system’s implementation at the BRDC, however, spending has already gone up 11 per cent, surging during peak times. “One member loaded £600 during the 2003 Grand Prix to buy lunch for himself and his guests,” said Lane-Nott.
Members have embraced the scheme wholeheartedly. The discount scheme has been very popular and the card has become the standard method of payment. In the gift shop, 85 per cent of all purchases are now made using the card, a dramatic increase compared to the voucher-based scheme.
While revenue has risen, savings have been made in terms of labour and time. As the system is automated, formerly protracted tasks such as handling cash and paper vouchers have been accelerated. Greater throughput at the tills has increased staff productivity. The management software brings improved control and is providing valuable information essential for informed management decisions on running the club. By using a single card to function with two systems, the BRDC has also exploited the multi-application potential of today’s cards.
Improvements to the incentive scheme are under constant review but, for now, the BRDC is extremely satisfied with the system’s performance. Lane-Nott concluded: “After less than a year of operation, the new scheme has been very successful and has operated without a hitch. The system has, without doubt, prevented club account funds from leaving the club. Our members are satisfied with the cards – they find them easy of use and are happy to receive a discount. We have achieved a 35 per cent return on our original investment already. By the time we reach full ROI, the system will have more than met its objectives.”
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