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How Checkout-free Retail is Shaping the Future of Live Sporting Events

Krishna Motukuri Dec 15, 2020 7:45:00 AM

The NBA season is starting on December 22 amid the challenges of COVID-19. The question of whether and how to accommodate fans at live sporting events during the pandemic has been a constant preoccupation for sports teams, venue operators, and local governments. Many NBA teams are going to allow a limited number of fans to attend games at the arenas. 

For many live events facilities, the pandemic has opened up new possibilities for how to manage crowds, reduce lines, and provide a better event experience by using checkout-free retail technology. Zippin has already been working with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. We partnered with them to create the world’s first in-arena checkout-free convenience store at the Kings’ Golden 1 Center. 

Based on this experience, and our recent work with the Denver BroncosEmpower Field at Mile High, we see a few top-of-mind trends that are driving the future of sports as the NBA season gets started: 

1. Fans Are Reluctant to Attend Games

A December survey from Tappit found that only 27% of sports fans are looking to go to a sporting event in the next six months, and 52% said that “long lines at concession stands” were a factor in their decision about whether to go back to attending games. 

It’s possible that the arrival of Covid vaccines could improve this number and make people more likely to attend a sporting event. But it’s clear that the pandemic has caused many fans to feel apprehensive about cheering for their favorite teams in-person anytime soon. Sports teams and events venues need to address these concerns and be proactive about developing solutions. 

2. Checkout-free Technology Can Help Fans Feel Safer at Games

Checkout lines are part of the challenge for sports teams in creating an environment that fans feel safe to go back to during the pandemic. Reducing or eliminating checkout lines can help fans feel safer at games.

Want to reduce those checkout lines? Use checkout-free retail. The Tappit survey also found that 56% of American sports fans would feel more comfortable if their team's stadium implemented contactless payment options. Checkout-free technology can be part of the solution for creating a safer gameday experience, reducing crowds, and helping people keep a safe distance at arenas during the pandemic. 


And even aside from the immediate safety concerns during the pandemic, there are big benefits from using checkout-free retail that will help sports facilities even after the pandemic ends.

3.  Frictionless Shopping Helps Deliver An Enhanced Fan Experience for Post-Pandemic

Even after the pandemic ends, arenas are going to continue the best practices learned in 2020. Checkout-free technology and frictionless shopping can help improve the fan experience at sporting events in several ways: 

  • Help people get their concessions faster - no waiting in line 
  • Help venues anticipate demand for popular products
  • Restock store shelves faster during less-crowded times 
  • Give people an “Instagrammable” high-tech shopping experience that they will be intrigued by and eager to share on social media

Checkout-free technology is the way of the future, not only during the pandemic and this unusual moment of “social distancing,” but for better days ahead when stadiums and arenas can return to 100% capacity. Even before the pandemic, forward-thinking sports teams and venues were already implementing checkout-free technology. The pandemic has validated the benefits of this technology in multiple ways, as sports teams and venues look to keep innovating and offering an elevated gameday experience. 

Jay Roberts, General Manager of Empower Field at Mile High, said during a recent panel discussion that the pandemic “put a booster rocket under what we were already doing” with frictionless shopping and cashierless payment options. There are many ways that checkout-free technology can deliver a better gameday experience for fans and better efficiency, profitability, and insights for sports teams and arena managers.  

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