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Dynamic Pricing: A New Revenue Stream for Parking

15 Nov 2018
Marc Ive

Yield management is a pricing strategy by which any business that has a fixed number of products can optimise revenue. It is the process of selling the right product to the right customer at the right time. Already a familiar concept for limited resources such as hotel rooms, rental cars, train and plane tickets, with most consumers willing to pay different prices for the same product at peak times or out of season.

Ride-sharing app Uber uses flexible supply and demand pricing structures to manage revenue in peak times with surge pricing: Fare rates automatically increase as demand outstrips the supply of available drivers near the passenger’s location, ensuring a reliable service for those who are prepared to pay a premium. The app notifies those who choose to wait when the price drops again.

In the same way Uber and its competitors acted as disrupters, the next big thing to watch out for is automated vehicles which are said to come into play within the next few years.

Can it work for pre-book parking?

Availability in parking is defined by the number of parking spaces in a facility. This fixed number represents the inventory of that parking lot. A space can be used multiple times per day with fees charged in minute, hourly, daily or other designated time slots.

Traditionally there have been several ways to optimise revenue from car parking. Building car parks over multiple floors to maximise use of real-estate space, for example. Vehicle flow can be carefully planned, mapped and controlled allocate as much of the lot area as possible to parking. Some operators offer ancillary services such as car wash or petrol pumps, others hire out their facilities for makeshift commercial use like farmers’ markets, festivals and events. One Miami Beach car park has even been used as a wedding venue.

With digital transformation invading every space, modern innovation plays a part in optimising space too. The car park at Emirates Financial Towers in Dubai boasts the largest intelligent parking system in the world. Its automated vehicle stacker can manage up to 360 cars per hour, moving as many as 6 cars in or out every minute. The total capacity of the facility is a massive 1191 cars over 9 floors.

This changes the playing field somewhat: As car parks develop to integrate cutting-edge technology, two pricing models exist.

Fixed rate: The familiar parking fee; drivers pay the same price per hour to park whether demand is high or low.
Fixed rates are sometimes varied with fixed incentives such as early bird specials or event rates to help generate more revenue. For example, the town centre car parks in Exmouth, Devon UK, offer a fixed out-of-season day rate of £2, the normal charge for a two-hour stay, in an effort to attract more people to the local shops.

Dynamic Pricing: Prices are adjusted based on real-time supply and demand.
Cutting rates when demand is low can attract more drivers to park at the facility. People choose to drive and park rather than using alternatives such as ride-share apps or public transport. Rates can be increased at peak times when high demand places parking at a premium. This is proven to increase revenue from the same inventory.

5 steps to implementing dynamic pricing structures to drive revenue

  1. Forecast Demand

The starting point for successful dynamic pricing is to forecast demand for parking. Look for daily, weekly and monthly patterns, identify when occupancy is at its lowest and when demand is high. While you can make some reasonable assumptions about occupancy based on experience, accurate data makes it possible to see this information in real-time and to predict future use.

Historical data will allow you to see rises and falls in use by time of day, day of the week, seasonally, and around special events. Data can be collected through an online parking e-commerce platform like Rezcomm.

That same online platform enables the operator to set flexible rates which can be switched in an instant and measure the success rate of changes with integrated reporting systems. By working with an e-commerce partner such as Rezcomm, operators can integrate an online booking process into their website, offering certainty for the driver through pre-booking and making the most out of their available capacity. Dynamic pricing can be paired with digital signage to allow operators to vary rates for drive-in customers as well as online users. Other digital innovations like mobile-pay add convenience and improve customer experience.

  1. Understanding and using data

This data is only valuable if it is properly organised and interpreted.

A parking and revenue management solution should be fully responsive and allow the operator to use the data to build a yield management strategy that is accurate and revenue-focussed. The software enables the operator to:

  • Better understand customer behaviour and habits, such as entry/exit times, days, dates and duration
  • Quickly and efficiently distribute available parking spaces
  • Determine optimum pricing
  • Assess performance and return on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis
  • Accurately predict fluctuations in demand and determine corresponding price changes

It takes the guesswork out of pricing structures and makes the most out of the data available.

  1. Optimise demand

While it may seem counterintuitive to charge less when you are making less profit, empty spaces equate to lost revenue. Lowering rates when you have a lot of empty spaces encourages more people to park, increasing overall yield.
In reality, no car park is the same. Drivers look for parking that is near their destination. If a customer is going to the theatre, a car park across town from the Theatre District will never compete with parking right near the venue. Consider pairing with local amenities to offer a parking package with a theatre or cinema ticket.

Some car park operators price space according to convenience or size, with larger spaces or those in prime locations at premium rates. When all the standard spaces are full and only premium spaces remain these premium spaces are offered at a lower cost. Customers who expected to get a standard space get a nice surprise and a sense of good customer satisfaction.

There may be times you want to offer special rates and/or employ strategic and tactical controls as far in advance as possible. Perhaps your car park is near a major sporting ground that has just been chosen to host a large-scale event in two years’ time. It’s not too early to start planning your strategy for marketing and pricing to maximise the revenue from each space. As the event approaches, make use of the reports produced by your revenue management software to check the results of your yield management strategies, and be prepared to make adjustments based on both the success of your strategy and the success of your competitors.

  1. An Ongoing Process

Yield management is not a one-time job; it is ongoing throughout the life of your business. Monitor and review your strategies regularly and look for opportunities to improve revenue. Think of this as a chance to forecast future demand too. Be clear what your goals are and be honest about whether you have achieved them

  1. Keep Your Customers Happy

Within all the considerations of variable pricing and revenue improvement, it can be easy to forget that parking is a service. Customers – especially frequent or repeat customers – appreciate pricing consistency. They don’t like to see parking costs fluctuating too frequently or too excessively.

People like to know what to expect and to feel they are getting a good deal. Find a price point that gets drivers parking in your lot as consistently as is realistic, and design your dynamic pricing in a way that makes sense and seems fair to your customers.
Then work on the aspects of your business that make the biggest impression: Customer service and good quality, well-maintained facilities.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about dynamic pricing, if you would like to speak to Rezcomm’s parking experts about how we can help with yield management for your parking inventory, contact us today.

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