Until recently, cash was the most common payment method at the dozens of stalls, but Kwaku transitioned to a completely pin-only event. Kwaku already had experience with cashless payment systems, but to enhance efficiency, they opted for an all-in-one partnership with CM.com for ticket sales and payments.
The origin of Kwaku is different from many other festivals. When Suriname became independent in 1975, many Surinamese people moved to the Netherlands. "During the summer holidays, they didn't go to France with a tent, but they visited each other," explains Frans de Vries. He is, along with three colleagues, a director-partner at Kwaku. "Eating, drinking, and playing games together was important. That children's soccer competition grew, and people began selling food from their trunk." In nearly 50 years, Kwaku has grown into a large and well-known festival in Amsterdam, "but the small vendors who want to earn something extra are still there. We make a great effort to keep the community engaged. Participation and culture are still important."
Kwaku wanted to keep the contribution of every vendor fair with the transition to pin-only. This eliminates differences between small and large sellers. Additionally, it's becoming increasingly common to only accept card payments at large events. It's more convenient and secure. The transition takes time, and Frans believes vendors are getting used to it. However, it's important to work with a system that is user-friendly for everyone. "CM.com, therefore, set up a user-friendly payment system," adds Rick Janse. Rick is the Key Account Manager for Music, Artists & Live at CM.com. To make the transition to pin-only easier for Kwaku, having an understandable payment system for the vendors is crucial. Rick explains how CM.com accomplishes this: "Each vendor receives their own card reader with a clear screen. With their unique login, they can handle everything from processing payments to checking their earnings. We also provide insights into what has been sold, so they can adjust their inventory for the following weekend. It's an intuitive system that works well for large and small vendors."
In addition to the convenience for the vendor, the connection with the organization is also important. The organization needs insight into all payment flows, but a vendor doesn't need to see what their neighbor is doing. "And then we also have one vendor who charges ten euros for a portion of fried noodles, while another asks for 11 or 12 euros." This was a challenge, as explained by Rick: "Processing 2,600 products in a payment system is a lot. For comparison, it's more than 10 times the number at the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix, which is the largest event in the Netherlands."
Before the start, Rick and the CM.com team conducted as many tests as possible. "But with so many products and flexibility, not everything can be thoroughly tested in advance." Between July 15 and August 6, 2023, it was time. CM.com and the Kwaku organization worked hard to keep all vendors happy and improve the system. Rick said, "After each weekend, we evaluated and identified areas for improvement, which we immediately implemented for the following weekend."
This collaboration extends not only to the payment system, but also to Kwaku tickets and everything related to it. For about five years, CM.com has been handling ticketing for Kwaku. Many tickets are sold at the box office as well as online. This involves additional integrations with partners such as the Amsterdam City Pass. Therefore, it's essential to provide different financial flows related to ticketing intuitively for visitors. Frans added, "What I appreciate about CM.com is that they continuously communicate with us and address issues promptly. Looking back at the last edition, we learned much and made the most of the possibilities throughout the weeks."
Where Kwaku previously had to deal with different companies providing ticketing and payment solutions, Frans is pleased that everything now rests with CM.com.
This way, we can compare a lot of data side by side. It certainly provides us with more clarity for a fairer contribution from the vendors. But we can also see how visitors move around the venue. We gain insights into flows, which allow us to collaborate better with the vendors. If we notice that someone isn't doing well, we talk to that vendor to see if they could perhaps be better positioned elsewhere. This way, we can offer a better festival for every community.
Frans is looking forward to next year for an even better festival. "Before COVID-19, there were certainly 150,000 visitors, but last year, the number dropped due to four rainy weekends." Rick is enthusiastic: "Bring on those one and a half times more visitors! Together, we will continue to grow and learn."
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