Pushing the RFID Envelope in St. Petersberg, FloridaMarch 17, 2011 By: Sean Evans
Nightlife will always require a handshake to greet you at the door – if you’d like to do it properly. However, there’s no reason you can’t also glean as much info in that quick meeting as possible. Enter the RFID, or radio-frequency identification, chip. These tiny implanted devices are currently in cell phones, credit cards, toll pass tags and more, but are relatively new to the nightlife scene. While it’s been an affordable and advantageous marketing tool for some megaclubs and national party and concert tour promoters, a drop in technology costs means it’s now a viable option for smaller venues, such as Push Ultra Lounge in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The 10,000-square-foot venue isn’t the only club in town, but Push is the only one set to roll out RFID-implanted hospitality cards to its clientele. Next month, frequent visitors will be able to sign up via the establishment’s website to have their card mailed to them. Then bring the card to the club, have it scanned by an RFID reader at the door and two things then happen:
“First, we text you asking if we can check you in on Facebook,” Push’s Owner and Operator Matt Donahue explains. “We like to ask beforehand because we don’t want to be too invasive. Maybe people don’t want others to know exactly where they are,” he laughs. “But if they agree, we check them in on Facebook. Next, as an incentive for participating, we send another text, which you can show to the bartender for a free drink.”
The rationale is simple. “If a customer is down the road at another bar or club and sees that five of his friends checked in, or that a group of 20 girls just arrived, he’s more likely to come check it out,” Donahue says. The concept is a similar format to Foursquare, which Donahue is quick to admit. The key is knowing which form of social media your audience most heavily utilizes. “Foursquare just isn’t big here. It could be great in New York, but down in Tampa, people love to use Facebook. You’ll see everyone scrolling through their newsfeeds while they’re out. So we wanted to tap into that area,” he says.
And, yes, you can simply offer patrons drinks for checking in on Facebook – and proving that they’ve done so by showing a phone. With that route, you’d still get the same word-of-mouth, trusted endorsement from a friend. The vital difference with Push’s system is gleaning the personal data from the patrons via the RFID chip. “Because they’ve elected to enter into this program, we’ll have all the info we choose to ask for. Checking them into Facebook as an end result is great, but now we’ll know exactly who’s in Push, their frequency of visiting, the average age of our customers and so on,” Donahue says. “The marketing and sponsor partnership relationships will be endless.”
The ultimate aim is to market the brand while being able to tailor future marketing efforts with better retention rates, conversions and database building, all of which is feasible with the RFID chip. “If we know you’ve been in for the last two weeks and your birthday is coming up, we can text you and offer a free bottle of Champagne for you and your friends,” he says.
The RFID system and technology is costing Push about $12,000; next month is the beta test. “We’re going to focus group with 50 regulars and do the troubleshooting now,” Donahue shares. “We want to make sure the system is flawless when we open it up to all our customers. All they’ll have to do is wave the card.”