The parking industry faces more competition than ever before. Greater mobility choice, congestion concerns, and rapid changes in customer expectations driven by industries like retail and ecommerce have combined in a perfect storm to confront an industry that historically has been slow to innovate.
Today, parking operators face several challenges, including:
However, arguably the biggest challenge of all is the rise of ‘ride-hailing’ companies like Uber, which enable customers to book a customised journey from a personal driver through a smartphone app. It’s reported that 15 million such rides occur every day, which is predicted to skyrocket to 100 million by 2030, in line with a decreased rate of automobile ownership among millennials.
With on-demand ride-hailing companies offering an easy and convenient way to get from A to B, parking operators must explore new opportunities to stay relevant to customers’ developing needs and continue to profit.
It’s also worth considering the effect the recent COVID-19 pandemic has had on how people travel. With perhaps more people choosing to use their own vehicles instead of taxis and ride-shares, now is the optimal time for parking operators to raise their game and win loyal customers.
Below we’ve shared some of the key principles of prebook parking to consider when improving your operational and marketing strategies.
Parking is largely anonymous – ‘strangers in a spot’. Operators know very little about the people who park in their lots; who they are, how often they park, where else they park, where they go and what they do once they have parked. So, how can you get to know your customer?
One way is through prebook parking. Offering an online reservation system where customers can prebook a parking space is a great way to build up a database full of insightful parking data that you can use for dynamic pricing and revenue generation. In addition, it will make your car park more appealing to the organised drivers out there – those concerned that they won’t find a space so might be late to an event or miss the flight they’re catching.
Another way you can get to know the people who park with you (along with their motives for parking and preferences) is through customer feedback. Using Rezcomm’s KPI & Feedback product, it’s easy to collect customer feedback at various points in your parking lot using simple QR code scanning.
Online parking reservations and customer feedback also help you gather customers’ marketing permissions to send them personalised content and offers.
While prebook parking systems are great for collecting personalised data about customers, there are several other integral data points to consider, including payment transactions, occupancy data, sensor data and length-of-stay data, all of which prove useful in decision making.
By using Big Data and analytics, parking operators can optimise availability and pricing based on various factors, from the weather to special events or, for airport parking, flight schedules. This data can be used to create a dynamic demand-pricing strategy, similar to that used by ride-hailing apps, and offer timely discounts and promotions.
To clarify, Big Data is data collated from various sources to reveal patterns and trends in customer behaviour. However, it goes a step further than simply knowing your typical consumer persona by adding layers of data on top. The adoption of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning also make significant improvements in how parking operators work with existing data points, enabling them to tailor digital experiences to individual parkers.
Parking lots and airport car parks are physical sites, which gives them a unique advantage over non-physical entities like websites. This is significant as consumers instinctively trust these ‘brick and mortar’ sites over their digital equivalents, establishing a bedrock of reassurance for the parking industry to build upon.
The key to building trust is to seamlessly connect customers’ digital experience with their physical experience of using your car park and ensure it is seamless. The online reservation system must be every bit as easy and convenient as parking in your lot. Additionally, the booking journey, and digital engagements, like marketing emails, must be tailored to individual customers to nurture the relationship and build trust.
Building customer trust results in repeat usage of your car park, word of mouth referrals that reach other customers, and ultimately more revenue. A great experience with your business will feed customers into the loyalty loop – essential for retaining customers and winning new ones.
Less than a decade ago, most people paid for their car parking with cash. Today, credit or debit cards, and mobile and online transactions are rapidly replacing cash as preferred payment methods – a trend enabled by increased online accessibility and mobile usage. A recent report by UK Payment Markets found that the number of people registered for mobile payments by the end of 2020 increased by three quarters in the last year to over 17 million people.
Cashless payment systems add customer value by reducing delays and making life easier. But mobile is more than just a payment option. Parking providers should consider the entire customer journey. It is possible to leverage data from parking apps to deliver targeted, relevant offers such as monthly discounts, loyalty programs and rewards. Smartphones open up new ways to generate data and revenue.
Read our blog, ‘10 Parking Ecommerce UX Features that Create User Flow’ for more about building a mobile-friendly customer journey.
Today, various smart parking solutions are available, including vehicle recognition technology, parking reservation and space allocation apps, and digital signage, all of which can be integrated to create a seamless parking experience for the customer.
But it’s not just customers that benefit from smart parking technology. The data it supplies parking operators is invaluable to dynamic pricing, yield management and customer relationship management.
As this technology becomes the norm, customers will expect it as standard, and parking operators that fail to incorporate ‘smart parking’ into their business risk losing customers to those offering a more digitally-connected experience.
Investing in new smart parking technology unlocks new revenue opportunities, particularly with a data powerhouse like Rezcomm. As we mentioned in point 2, having such a large amount of data at your disposal is reason enough to use these innovative new tools.
An empty car park generates no revenue, and a business without revenue is in serious trouble. It’s important to remember that when it comes to mobility, customers have a lot of choice, from driving their own vehicle, to using public transport, or booking a journey through a ride-hailing app. As a result, you need to give them a reason to choose to drive their own vehicle and park with you. The way to do it? Through offering a great experience of course!
No matter how convenient your car park is, or the smart technology you invest in, if you don’t offer good customer service, people won’t return to park with you again. Every part of your parking business, from the online reservation system to the employees who clean your car parks must be geared towards delivering an excellent customer experience.
So make it easy to park with you, offer parking at competitive prices, send personalised offers to loyal customers, gather customer feedback, and ensure any issues are dealt with in a timely, professional manner. Encourage customers to revisit your parking lot and shout about your business for all of the right reasons.
Now it’s time to bring all of the points mentioned together and integrate them into a fully-fledged digital strategy.
As technology advances, the easier it is to create the seamless, omnichannel experience customers have come to expect. Clever use of digital technology, like Rezcomm’s powerful Reservations, Customers and Marketing modules will enhance the parking experience, enabling parking operators to attract new customers, improve customer loyalty and increase revenue.
Digital integration has a lot to offer in terms of generating data and consumer insights, improving satisfaction and supporting businesses in making profitable decisions. It is, therefore, something that all parking operators should proactively pursue from this point forward.
Download our brochure to learn more about our parking reservation technology, and book a team with Rezcomm to build a new digital parking strategy for your business.
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