Point-of-sale competition in the stadium payments space is becoming almost as pitched as the play on the field.
Payment processor Fiserv and integrated payments company Shift4 have both notched wins in the stadium space recently, and now power payments at hundreds of point-of-sale devices in stadiums or venues. Both are gunning to grow their share of the market as stadiums seek to revamp point-of-sale technology.
Mega-processor Fiserv offers its services in restaurants, stores and stadiums alike through its Clover brand, which serves small and medium-sized businesses. Meanwhile, upstart Shift4 mainly focuses on hospitality, stadium and retail sectors. While the Clover Sport arm lets stadium operators choose the third parties or apps they want to use, Shift4 bundles its services together for a more streamlined, integrated approach.
Earlier this month, the Cleveland Browns, a team in the NFL, tapped Clover for payments services throughout the team’s stadium, including for mobile ordering and contactless payments, Fiserv said. Meanwhile, Shift4 landed the St. Louis Blues, an NHL team, in August for payments hardware and processing at two venues.
Other rivals in the stadium POS and payments field include big tech company Oracle, startup SpotOn, Block’s merchant business Square and the large processor Global Payments.
Stadiums are increasingly seeking to modernize their technology, primarily because frictionless point-of-sale can speed up the checkout process, reduce staffing costs and increase sales. Sports and music fans benefit by missing as little of the game or concert as possible.
Stadiums want to ensure their payments systems are easy for employees to use, said Sandeep Bhanote, vice president and general manager of Clover Sport. Labor shortages have also made unattended checkout systems more crucial, he added.
The range of services payments players provide the stadium or team varies by situation. For the Browns, Fiserv is handling food and beverage point-of-sale and payment processing, and providing the team with data and analytics, a Fiserv spokesperson said.
For the Blues, Shift4 will process food and beverage payments at the arena, including point-of-sale, kiosk and mobile transactions, and power the team’s mobile wallet and loyalty offering, according to a news release.
Shift4 currently has about 150 sports and entertainment venue clients. The company declined to provide a target number of stadium clients by the end of the year.
The Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company bolstered its position in the market through its 2021 acquisition of VenueNext, a point-of-sale provider for venues.
The mobile ordering capabilities Shift4 offers “starts the conversation,” CEO Jared Isaacman said during a Sept. 14 UBS conference appearance. From there, the company tries to get stadiums to sign on for more services, such as point-of-sale operations for food, beverage and merchandise; processing through a team’s ticketing platform; and a parking company integration, he said.
“Where we become really sticky is that we provide the whole commerce experience,” said Dustin Alpert, head of sports and entertainment, restaurants and e-commerce at Shift4. Competitors, however, “have to compile a bunch of different technology software providers” to create the same experience, he contended.
Shift4 aims to replicate its approach in hotels, where the company has focused on providing a “bundled go-to-market for these big, complex customers,” the company’s president, Taylor Lauber, said during last week’s conference presentation.
Rival Clover Sport takes more of an open approach, offering a framework that allows clients to select third-party integrators or apps of their own choosing. That might include a service provider offering biometric payment capabilities that a stadium or team can integrate if they desire, Bhanote said.
“There’s power in being able to give your customer the flexibility to choose the best of breed,” he said. “We know that Clover can’t be everything to all people, so we want to be the operating system that allows the stadiums to choose what technologies they want.”
That approach also benefits Brookfield, Wisconsin-based Fiserv, Bhanote said. “It gives us an opportunity to prioritize where we invest, because not all technologies, not all ideas are billion-dollar wins,” he said.
“So for us, it gives us the ability to see, what are good opportunities,” he said. “Some of these things are nice to have, but they’re not necessarily killer revenue generators for us.”
Fiserv is still handling the processing, meaning the company gets a percentage of the revenue that runs on its rails. “Ultimately, those transactions have to feed into one system of record, and that’s typically us,” Bhanote added.
About 300 sports and entertainment venues in the U.S. and Canada currently use Clover Sport; about 50 of those are major sporting venues, with others being minor league or collegiate stadiums. A Fiserv spokesperson declined to identify a number as a specific growth target.
Bhanote said the business is pursuing growth by getting existing customers to add more services and tools, such as tacking on an alternative payment type, or adding mobile ordering.
Fiserv Forum, where the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks play, is an example of such extensions. At that arena, Fiserv started with concessions and then built out the capability for fans to order from their seats, the company’s CFO, Bob Hau, noted during a Sept. 15 Autonomous Research conference appearance. In some situations, stadium operators have added Clover to stadium retail stores after starting with food and beverage point-of-sale, Hau said.
Expansion game plans
Additionally, “landing and expanding into other areas” such as Major League Soccer offers another opportunity, as professional teams pop up in more cities, Bhanote said.
Shift4, too, is gunning to add more revenue streams that the teams control. Ticketing is a “huge focus,” Alpert said. The company has completed an integration with Ticketmaster, which will begin ramping soon, he said.
Additionally, “every single team in the sports and entertainment space has their own nonprofit,” Alpert noted. That provides another possibility for processing payments in an ancillary revenue stream, he said.