Parking is an industry that is sometimes overlooked, even in the ancillary services category, simply because it, by its nature, provides a means to an end, facilitating an onward journey or experience. Nobody ever just pops out for a drive so they can enjoy the car park.
However, today’s digitally savvy customer still expects a parking experience in-line with the changes driving retail e-commerce and a convenience economy.
What’s changing in parking?
Innovation plays an important role, and as people acclimatise to mobile payments, parking apps are on the rise. These allow parking operators to fulfil online reservations through responsive design across devices, using internal technology systems to provide customers with real-time availability and dynamic pricing. These online parking reservation systems have the dual benefits of satisfaction for the customer and actionable data for the business.
Other factors at play in parking e-commerce include an aging and increasingly mobile population who engage with environmental issues.
- According to the Office for National Statistics, 18% of people in the UK are now aged 65 and over and 2.4% aged 85 and over. This older generation demands well-lit, accessible facilities.
- Consumers are more environmentally conscious and interested in greener solutions too. They want to cut their environmental impact and get from A to B without wasting time and fuel.
- Demand for airport parking is high. According an NPA report, airport parking sector grew three-fold in the last two years, with both leisure and business travel still on the increase. These customers want the flexibility to use add-on services such as EV charging stations or to have their car washed while they are away.
What about operational innovation?
As well as the plethora of consumer apps, there is increasingly sophisticated software available to manage the operational side of the parking business. As the parking industry is impacted by evolving customer expectation, it is more important than ever to stay current in the market place, and these e-commerce CRM systems offer visibility and accountability.
There are many e-commerce website apps on the market, offering features to facilitate the smooth running of your parking business. E-commerce apps allow you to increase sales and open up new revenue streams. They allow you to provide your customers with the information they need to make the best purchase decision for them, and crucially they make it possible to keep track of stock quantity and value and see which products are the most popular and profitable.
However, parking is different from retail in that sales are based on a set inventory of parking spaces in a single location. The car park won’t come to the customer, and the customer won’t park miles away from their ultimate destination. Consumers demand easy access, choice and value, but at the same time, they are happy to spend more for good service.
Because parking has a unique range of challenges, it’s important to choose an e-commerce solution run by a team who understand the industry. Rezcomm Shop is backed by many years of parking industry experience. Used by leading car-parking operators, it offers flexible, cost-effective tools to maximise digital parking sales and improve customer satisfaction.
So what should you look for in a parking e-commerce system?
Keep it mobile
The number of smart devices continues to rise, as does the amount of sales that take place using these connected devices. The last three years have seen significant changes in the area of mobile payment. There are now at least ten different options to pay for products and services online, including Google Pay, created by the recent merger of Android Pay and Google Wallet. The consumer is shifting ever further from physical cash, embracing digital currencies.
A study completed by the University of East Anglia in January 2018 showed that 46% of all e-commerce sales in 2016 were made using mobile devices. While general retail sales still show higher conversion rates on desktop, parking is unique in being location based – prime for the mobile user. An integrated car booking system like Rezcomm Shop offers a customisable online storefront with built-in mobile commerce facility, so your online booking is available across devices.
Automate important emails
A CRM system like Rezcomm that offers integrated marketing as part of the car booking process allows you to develop targeted e-marketing strategies. The system allows you to automatically identify what individual customers need and personalise messages that up and cross sell products like car wash or EV charging services.
Recover abandoned checkout
Cart abandonment is major issue across online retail, and parking is not immune, despite the fact that it is incredibly location specific. According to Statista, the online cart abandonment rate in the travel industry in 2016 stood at a whopping 82.2% with reasons including off-putting extra costs, the system requiring the customer to create an account and overly long and complicated checkout processes.
A study by Optilead of 50 of the UK’s biggest parking companies found over a course of 200 test transactions that only 14% of companies tested responded to abandoned parking applications with an average cost per lost booking of £170.26. While the optimum response time for an abandoned transaction is around 15 minutes, the average time it took for each company to get back in touch with the customer was over 15 hours!
An e-commerce system that works in line with your needs as a parking operator will help you to recover lost sales by automatically sending an email to prospective customers with a link to their abandoned shopping basket, encouraging them to complete their purchase. This can be easily set up in your e-marketing dashboard to catch the customer within the crucial 15-minute timeframe.
Stay user-friendly and attractive
With so much competition and distraction coming from other app notifications on a mobile device, it’s important to create a smooth, good-looking online shopping experience that encourages repeat visits and purchasing.
A high-quality e-commerce platform can transform the experience for your customers. Providing visitors with a simple booking experience that is intuitive, corresponds with your brand aesthetic, loads quickly and is easy to use is imperative. These details will ensure your online booking offering is a success, and will avoid the frustration of abandoned transactions. If a customer has a pleasant and easy experience using your e-shop to park, they are more likely to choose your parking facility next time.
Link up with local business and venues
Even with your parking inventory running to optimum capacity there are opportunities to increase revenue through advertising. An online platform like Rezcomm Shop allows you to offer advertising space where you can monetise your visitor traffic and promote complementary products and services. If your parking asset is based at an airport, you can partner with airlines to advertise new destinations or with retailers and food and beverage concessions to promote special offers and personalised product recommendations.
A pricing structure that works for your car park
An e-commerce provider who understands the parking industry will help you to manage availability and capacity and view live occupancy, to compare gate prices to pre-book prices and identify the prices that will encourage your customers to book in advance. This allows you to build a pricing structure where multiple tariffs can apply to the same parking space depending on seasonal or event-based demand, or on real-time availability.
Measure your performance
By using operational reports that show real-time visibility of the arrival and departure associated with each customer’s visit, you will be able to plan for peak times and determine how much resource is required to manage visitor expectation and experience. The inbuilt reporting system in an e-commerce shop should also be able to forecast real-time revenue projections, track sales and referrals and create bespoke reports. You should also be able to connect to your own ERP system, making it possible to export reports into your favourite spreadsheet tool for analysis where necessary. These reporting functions are all integral to better operational efficiency and revenue growth, because they make it possible to see and act on exactly how your inventory is working in real time.
Will e-commerce software work for you?
If you haven’t yet explored the world of e-commerce for your parking business, or if you’re already online but would like to know if there is more you could be doing to optimise both revenue and customer satisfaction, consider implementing an industry-tailored software like Rezcomm Shop.
If you aren’t sure where to start or how to improve your current system, Rezcomm offers a free e-commerce Healthcheck. The Healthcheck is a bespoke report that shows exactly how your current system is performing. This will highlight ways in which you can improve your booking journey and checkout process, suggest strategies proven to work in the parking industry and offer help to generate more site traffic and increase revenue.
If you would like to speak to Rezcomm about our integrated e-commerce solutions and how we can help your car parking business realise its potential, contact the team today.
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