E-commerce has transformed the way people shop. Worldwide retail e-commerce sales in 2017 accounted for $2.3 trillion U.S. and Statista predicts growth will continue, reaching $2.8 trillion in 2018 and almost $4.9 trillion by 2021. And digital payments are becoming the norm. Cash transactions will make up just 21% of sales by 2026 (The Guardian.
The retail industry has had to adapt to meet the expectations of today’s digital consumer, and industries such as parking are following suit. Innovations in smart parking have caused a cultural change. For several years now it has been possible for drivers to find and pay for parking spots using mobile apps, and parking operators can now focus on convenience in a way that just wasn’t possible with old-style ticketing.
But despite parity in the online booking funnel, parking differs from retail e-commerce. For the customer travelling to a sporting or music event or arriving at the airport at the start of a holiday, parking is a transient process, not the end product.
This is good news for venues. By taking control of on-site parking and using e-commerce principles to optimise the potential of parking facilities, parking goes from being an afterthought to becoming an avenue for strong revenue growth and visitor engagement.
How to Ace Parking E-Commerce
Drawing on years of experience partnering with parking companies, Rezcomm’s Parking Services Director, Neil Robson, shares his insights for e-commerce success. Whether your business centres on parking or car parking facilities are ancillary to your main ‘gig’, these tips will help you optimise space, regulate tariffs and get the most out of your parking app, providing the best service to your customers:
- The car park should never be full. When you reach 95% of capacity and people are still coming, either the price point is wrong or there is no alternative.
- The car park should never be empty either. If the car park is empty, you have a poor proposition and there are plenty of alternatives. Price your products and services accordingly.
- Optimise your price point using data. Big data collected from customers who book using your app can be analysed using the reporting tools in a CRM system like Rezcomm. These reports will provide a detailed view of information such as customer booking behaviours and capacity. This allows you to set tariffs which can, for example, encourage more bookings at low use times or set premium rates during peak hours.
- Don’t get into a price war unless you absolutely need to. Value your proposition.
- Always deliver the best possible product service. Remember, a customer’s car is normally their second most valuable asset. It’s important to provide an environment where they feel their car is safe, at a price point that represents your brand and the services you have on offer.
- Learn about your user-base. Look at your customer demographic. Who parks at your facility? You can focus on specifics such as whether they are shopping or parking to work, and identify general traits like gender, income level, age and interests. Use this information to personalise communications so you can really speak to the individual customer when telling them about your facilities and services.
- Take care of the basics within your car parks. Make sure that the site surface is sound and safe, and keep the lights working well so that customers feel secure. Stairwells and lifts should be kept clean and useable, and there should be staff on hand to help, either locally or remotely.
- Your technology should work and be reliable. There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than being faced with an ‘easy’ option that actually makes life more difficult.
- Make sure you have enough staff to serve the customer, whether locally or remotely. By using data in a CRM system like Rezcomm Shop to determine peak and quiet times you will be able to build a real-time and projected view of use and will be able to manage resources appropriately.
- Make sure your support services are up to standard and suitable for the majority of your customers. Customers don’t want to wait for ages for a shuttle bus transfer or stand at an intercom ‘help’ point for many minutes while you struggle to get a response to them. Convenience and quick problem solving/response times are vital when it comes to customer satisfaction and making the customer feel valued.
- It’s easy to overlook the importance of clear signage and legible directions. Make sure that wayfinding is clear and guides the customer through the journey.
- The car park is a means to an end, facilitating an onward journey or service; it’s not the final destination in your customer’s journey. Provide as much information as possible about the parking facility to remove any possible stress. Make sure the information is easy to find and clearly explains your products and services.
- If you get the other attributes of your parking proposition correct, the price should be 3, 4 or 5 on your list of priorities. Value is significantly more important than price for the majority of parking customers.
- Enhance your offer with value-added services that appeal to your customers based on customer demographics/user profiles. These could include car wash, valet, drop-and-go, and load my shopping options.
- Convenience can be critical. For many drivers, particularly those driving for business, time is money. Consider tailoring your offer at a premium to exceed expectation.
- When a new retail establishment is developed that includes an excess of parking spaces, oversupply can be a killer for existing car parks. Get smart: Stack it high and sell it low. You won’t win over every customer who prefers the convenience of the on-site parking, but you can use data to work out the tipping point between being a cheap option/a reasonably priced overflow and being the only option.
- During times where there is high demand and under-supply of parking spaces, you can price the product accordingly. But don’t get greedy. If the driver is forced to make a ‘distress purchase’ you will soon lose customers if there is an alternative place to park.
- Share product/pricing policies with your customers that they recognise and trust. Incentives could include loyalty points or a loyalty scheme, fixed low-cost tariffs, early bird booking deals or last minute discounts.
- Use availability rules in your online reservations software to personalise the product in the search tool. Offer deals such as weekend specials, business packages, holiday value and more.
- The fundamental objective for any parking asset owner or operator is simple: Rent a space as often as possible for as much as possible!
- Utilise cost-effective channel partners and manage them well, technically and commercially. Never let them manage you!
- Never underestimate the power of digital. Technology is fundamentally disrupting parking – take advantage or get left behind. A parking reservation e-commerce solution like Rezcomm Shop offers a flexible, cost-effective, quick-to-market solution for any garage or car park asset owner wishing to realise optimal asset performance and maximum customer satisfaction.
- The real world and the world of pixels are more intimately tied together than conventional wisdom might have you believe. Your digital and on-site branding should be consistent to build customer trust, and the functionality of your parking app should represent your full product and service offering.
- Digital sales are fast becoming the norm, but it still pays in terms of customer acquisition, retention and spend to invest in good old-fashioned customer service. According to American Express, 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service, and Temkin Group reports that a moderate increase in customer experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues.
- Word-of-mouth is a powerful thing. People far prefer genuine recommendations to direct advertising. In fact, 84% of consumers say they trust peer recommendations above all other sources of advertising. Take advantage of user-generated content by adding a credible review platform like Trustpilot or Reevoo to encourage new shoppers to convert. As it says on the Revoo website, “Customers convincing customers. That’s not marketing. That’s life.”
Incorporate the reviews into your venue’s internal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and offer incentives to customers who help you to achieve a 5-star review profile.
Rezcomm is the partner of choice for parking, e-commerce, travel and CRM solutions for Parking Companies. If you would like to know more about our reservation e-commerce solutions, contact the team today.