With retail giant and e-commerce pioneer Amazon celebrating its 23rd birthday in 2017, it’s no surprise that with the convenience and range of products offered, e-commerce has become totally integrated into everyday life.
According to Statista, the value of online retail sales in the UK in 2016 was estimated at a whopping 60 billion euros, and in 2015, e-commerce accounted for a 19 share of total business turnover, with around 80% of UK Internet users shopping online.
But e-commerce platform Shopify says the market is still in its infancy, with retailers constantly coming up with new ideas to test. The world of online sales is constantly evolving and updating to make the customer experience more convenient, more cost effective, more personal and more secure.
Despite nearly a quarter century of online shopping, the car parking industry has been slow to take advantage of the Internet culture. Even in 2015, major European economies were still heavily reliant on cash transactions for parking. Only recently has the industry woken up to the huge benefits e-commerce technology offers to both car park operators and customers.
As in any industry, success comes from an awareness of market opportunities. E-commerce systems facilitate pre-booking cost certainty, convenience, and data gathering, opening the way for more efficient car parks, fewer empty spaces and better revenue.
2017 is a great time to test new growth initiatives, implement new technologies, and improve customer engagement. So how can parking learn from retail and embrace the developments in e-commerce?
Mobile is key
Mobile e-commerce is a key growth sector, with the mobile share of UK online sales growing from 0.4% at the beginning of 2010 to 50% in the first quarter of 2016. Optimise your website for mobile and invest in good quality apps, ensuring that the mobile experience is streamlined for customers.
Provide a dynamic and real-time experience
Personalisation is now so familiar in online shopping that customers expect recommendations and customised offers. And with the rise of big data, 2017 will see the emergence of an online shopping experience that is unique to each consumer. Offers, add-ons and up-sells can be automatically presented to customers based on their preferences, location, demographic, past purchases and brand interactions.
A CRM solution like that supplied by Rezcomm can be customised from the ground up, providing actionable insights for car park operators. Rather like walking into a store where the sales staff know your name and what you like, this improves customer experience and ultimately drives both sales and loyalty.
Offer instant, intelligent interaction
Artificial intelligence in the form of the chatbot, a fully automated chat agent that answers questions and acts as first point of contact with a brand, is becoming a feature of lifestyle retail.
Chatbots are currently used to help customers to order the right takeaway or buy celebrity-inspired fashion. In 2017, many consumers will interact with a chatbot for the first time.
Chatbots will soon become as commonplace as automated phone systems, but they provide a more interactive customer experience that is less impersonal and much less irritating. They have also been shown to positively impact on sales, with live chat users spending on average 5-30% more, with a 5-10 times higher conversion rate following a chat session.
And consumers are already displaying a significant amount of trust in chatbots. In July 2016, the Independent reported that a chatbot designed to help people get out of parking fines had been successfully used by 160,000 people. Drivers turned to the robot to seek legal advice after receiving tickets they felt were unfair. Turn this around and the parking industry can see the chatbot as an unbeatable way to build customer confidence.
Cashless is king
Today’s customer can already make many purchases without opening his wallet. Upgrades to mobile devices and POS systems mean this trend will grow in 2017. Mobile payments are increasingly possible using more than just a smart phone with connected watches, rings and other ‘wearables’ now capable of making payments. Take advantage of this new demand for convenience by providing updated payment methods.
Walgreens Pharmacy in the USA runs an app that allows users to renew their prescriptions by scanning the bottle or box. The app is designed to change when customers are near a store, and again when they are actually in the store, offering exclusive features in each situation. This is a great example of a business leveraging the context aware features made possible by mobile.
Millenial generation consumers are primed by apps such as Snapchat to expect instant communication and experiences via mobile. RFID and mobile technologies create opportunities to offer specific customer experiences based on location, shifting analytics from the computer to the individual.
Retailers are no longer just selling products and services, they are providing experiences and interactions. Consider employing technologies such as license plate recognition to create real-time offers available only to the people who are there at the time.
Predict your customer’s spending
A major trend among online retailers is to exploit Big Data collected through interactions and customer profiles to better understand purchasing habits, preferences and future spending. Data collected through Rezcomm’s integrated parking solution can be analysed using a CRM system to predict customers’ parking habits and enable the car park operator to suggest offers, cross-sell or up-sell and to optimise revenue through yield management strategies.
Merge commerce with e-commerce
Parking is an intermediate activity. People don’t drive somewhere purely for the purpose of parking – they need to park to get to another destination, whether that is work, the theatre, shopping, eating out – parking is not the purpose of the journey. In order to encourage customers to drive and park, convenience is crucial. Seamless integration of e-commerce into your website adds an instant ease of use for the customer. Develop an omni-channel strategy with a centralised infrastructure.
Optimise marketing emails
A CRM system will enable segmentation of customers, meaning different people will receive individual, personalised, timely messages. Marketing emails can contain cross-sells based on seasonality and purchase, how-to videos and user guides, links to your car park’s mobile app and exclusive offers.
Be aware of micromoments
Micromoments are the tiny decision-making steps within a purchase when a customer can be influenced by timely offers and information. They are the I want-to-know or I want-to-go moments. They occur when a customer reflexively turns to a device (frequently a smart phone) to find out information, do something, watch something, or buy something. These are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped.
Make sure website and app content is relevant, up to date and engaging. You don’t need huge resources to launch a blog or create a product guide, but it does require a strategic approach. There is a whole world of competition for your customers’ attention and people have high expectations for what they’re reading, viewing or interacting with.
According to Gartner, 64% of people say that customer experience is more important than price point in their choice of a brand. Ease the online journey for your customers with the following steps:
- Remove any distractions from the booking process. Keep your customers updated as to their progress through the booking journey.
- Reassure the customer about security wherever possible
- Keep a compact view – don’t waste space on the screen. Customers prefer to have a good screen view of the transaction with no scrolling
- Consumers hate forms so use them sparingly. Adjust the length of fields to the content, arrange the form in a way that is easy to read, make sure it is instantly responsive and test it to make sure it works!
- In fact, test your whole e-commerce experience regularly from the customer point of view. It’s no good having great strategies and ideas if they don’t transfer to the customer experience.
**If you would like to speak to Rezcomm about our integrated e-commerce parking reservations solution and CRM systems, please get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you. **
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