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Fully Cashless Smart Stadium Concept

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FinTech Business

We are paving the path for a cashless society in Japan. A large cross-company project that presented a new value for Rakuten.

Japan is frequently called an underdeveloped country in terms of cashless payments. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has set a goal to increase cashless payments to 40% by 2025*. Rakuten, which offers a variety of cashless payment methods (Rakuten Card, Rakuten Edy, Rakuten Pay, Rakuten Point Card, etc.), has launched a project specifically to promote a cashless society in Japan. This endeavor is called the “Fully Cashless Smart Stadium Concept.”

*Source: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Cashless Vision (Summary version) 6 Future Initiatives PDF

MEMBER

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Rakuten Pay Manager

Tom

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Rakuten Payment Strategy Office Leader

Sachiko

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Rakuten Edy Manager

Yossie

Navigating a business through uncharted territory.
This project aims to create value that only Rakuten can provide.

The project took place at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, the home stadium of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles professional baseball team, and Noevir Stadium Kobe, the home stadium of the Vissel Kobe J1 professional soccer team. The project started in October 2018, targeting the start of the 2019 season.This project was only possible because Rakuten offers an array of cashless payment methods.

 I felt that Rakuten was determined to lead the way for Japan becoming a cashless society.

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Yossie

Yossie said.

The project involved Rakuten Eagles and Vissel Kobe from the Sports Business Department, and Rakuten Payment Strategy Room, Rakuten Pay, Rakuten Edy, and Rakuten Card from the FinTech Business, with key people from each business assigned to the project. To achieve the project’s goal, it was essential to know how to incorporate each payment method, put it all together as one product, and present it as a whole.

The most important thing is to avoid causing inconvenience to customers at the stadium. To that end, cooperating with the Sports Business Department was necessary, so we decided to team up with them in this project.

To show that “Fully cashless=no cash accepted,” we used “X (no) cash” as an easy-to-understand phrase in a variety of media, including in the guidebook on going entirely cashless, in informational emails, on websites, and in an official Twitter account. We collaborated with the Sports Business Division to discuss whether any expressions were difficult for customers to understand.

In addition, we have prepared Rakuten Edy cards and charging stations for those who come to the stadium with only cash on hand. We made sure to set up a system that allows customers to go completely cashless on the spot.

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Anticipating and preparing for the unpredictable.
Working together for mutual success.

The most challenging part of the project was imagining and preparing for the operations of the first initiative. Although we were well informed, we could not know how much information we would have, so we gathered many Rakuten Pay and Rakuten Edy employees at the site to prepare for every possible situation.

For those who had no knowledge about going cashless and had not used cashless payment methods before, a help desk was available to answer questions about which cashless option was suitable for them and respond to common inquiries.

We explained to Rakuten users who are able to use Rakuten Pay that it is an app for cashless payments, showed them how to install the app, and set up the Wi-Fi for installing the app. Looking back on that day, Tom laughs, “I ran around with pocket Wi-Fi from all network providers to explain the app to people.”

For those who only had cash on them, we prepared original Rakuten Edy cards and charging stations. We set up about 70 machines at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi and about 60 at Noevir Stadium Kobe, with staff members standing by the machines to explain how to charge the cards at them. “I was so focused on showing people how to charge their card that I eventually realized that 4 hours had passed. I was standing there for so long that I couldn’t bend my knees,” Yossie said. emphasizing the success of the opening day.

Sachiko, the leader of Rakuten Payment Strategy Office and who was in charge of the entire project, looks back on this project in collaboration with the Sports Business Division.

 Thanks to the tremendous cooperation of the Sports Business Division, we were able to pull off our first cross-company project for a cashless service. Working together as a team on this project is one of my fondest memories.

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Sachiko

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Delivering a “strong all-around performance”
to lead the way to cashless culture in Japan.

As a result of various initiatives, 95% of all visitors to the opening game were aware of our fully cashless system (based on a random sampling survey conducted at the site on April 3 and 4). Not only did official attendance go up 8.7%, sales in the stadium also went up 17.1% for merchandise and 21.1% for food and beverage.

Project members received many comments from attendees, one of whom said, “spending time at the stadium was much more convenient now that it’s cashless and we don't have to exchange physical money.” Merchants were similarly delighted that they “don’t have to reconcile totals by hand at the end of the day.”

Although the project itself has come to an end, we gained significant insight from it and expanded Rakuten’s potential even further. Initiatives to create new value like we did in this project will continue to emerge from our efforts in the future, such as rediscovering what only Rakuten can do, demonstrating the social value of cashless projects, and developing marketing measures using cashless payment data.

Cashless payment systems are a business that will surely improve people’s lives. This project has proven it.

Yossie explains how interesting working at Rakuten and creating new value for the world is.

 The most interesting thing about working at Rakuten is that you can work collaboratively among different businesses, as we did in this project. This sort of collaboration is possible because Rakuten has many assets, and is something I think is unique to Rakuten.

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Yossie

By working on this project to promote a fully cashless system, we ourselves were able to experience firsthand the meaning of going entirely cashless for the first time by witnessing the joy of users and merchants with whom we usually do not have face-to-face contact with. We expect ourselves to further develop Japan’s move toward cashless payment systems, which started with the team spirit forged by the challenge of first establishing Rakuten Payment Inc. with high hurdles and demanding time constraints.

*This article is based on the information at the time of the interview.

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