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7 Key Principles of Prebook Parking

21 Feb 2019
Sarah Marks

The parking industry faces more challenges than ever before. Greater mobility choice, congestion concerns and rapid changes in customer expectations driven by industries like retail, have combined in a perfect storm to confront an industry that historically has been slow to innovate.

Parking has often been late to adapt, but technological advances and rate of consumer adoption are solving the one problem every owner or manager of a parking inventory knows about, that an empty space represents a loss of revenue. Ultimately, three main challenges are still as valid now as they were decades ago:

• Generation of revenue
• Cost reduction
• Maintaining or improving customer satisfaction

A price increase is likely to prove unpopular with customers, and building the inventory requires significant investment (and is often restricted by legislation), so the question is, how do you generate more revenue from the same inventory and yet still deliver an excellent customer experience?

Against the backdrop of a more fractured and increasingly complex economic setting, Deloitte recently published their 2019 Global Automotive Consumer Study exploring trends across countries and generations. One key trend that affects consumer behaviour directly has been the rise of ride-hailing services. Uber and its competitors have experienced a shift from regular users to occasional users, cutting those who use those platforms at least once a week in half and doubling occasional use.
One reason for the success of the ride-share apps, despite their own glitches such as driver availability and wait times, is that they were ahead of the game in exploiting the increased use of mobile devices.

Parking may not always be able to compete with ride-sharing apps on price, but it can win on convenience.

Ride-hailing platforms have caused younger consumers to question the necessity of vehicle ownership. Older generations still prefer independence and convenience. That is also reflected in loss of interest in cheaper ride-sharing solutions with 56 percent of Americans and 47 percent of German consumers preferring their own vehicles, choosing convenience over cost (Deloitte).

The different user profiles combined with a ‘digital-first’ mindset, challenge parking operators to build future-proof and sustainable services. The key is to focus on seamless and stress-free, customer-centric operations while keeping an eye on general trends within the industry.

The Parking Network identified Mobility as a key area for 2019, expecting developments within data analysis and yield management among others.

Here are seven key principles that make up the foundations of parking:

1.Know Your Customer

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.

“Some customers take parking availability for granted, but others are concerned that they won’t find a space so might miss the start of an event or a show,” says Neil Robson, Rezcomm’s Director of Parking.

“Parking is also perceived to be expensive, particularly in large cities and some venues. By creating an online channel addresses both of these issues and promotes both availability and usually discounted products to optimise capacity levels. Creating an online, mobile sales channel for off-street parking will both improve the options presented to the consumer and, if done properly, influence their decision on the type of transport they choose to reach a destination.”

Many drivers want peace of mind when it comes to parking at their destination, especially those who have an appointment to keep, catch a flight or have tickets for an event. Parking reservation solutions serve operators as well as customers.

Read more about creating a 360-degree view of your customers.

2. Make use of all data available

The car-parking industry is data-rich: Integral data points include payment transactions, occupancy data, sensor data and length-of-stay data. By using ‘Big Data’ and analytics, parking operators can optimise availability and pricing based on factors from the weather to special events, or for airport parking, flight schedules. The data can be used to create a dynamic demand-based pricing strategy similar to that used by Uber, and to offer promotions.

‘Dynamic Pricing: A New Revenue Stream for Parking’ explains the different pricing models on offer.

Big Data collates data from different sources to reveal patterns and trends in customer behaviour. It goes a step further than simply knowing your typical consumer persona by adding layers of data on top, personalisation is one use case that improves customer experience, sophisticated occupancy analyses another.

AI and Machine Learning will significantly improve the way parking operators will work with existing data points, enabling them to tailor digital experiences to individual parkers.

3. Build Customer Trust

Parking lots, and airport car parks are physical sites, a unique advantage they have over non-physical entities like websites. This is important as consumers instinctively trust these bricks and mortar sites over their digital equivalents, therefore there is already that bedrock of reassurance for the parking industry to build upon.

Digital engagement coupled with an intuitive, easy to use reservation system reinforces that innate trust and allows operators to further their brand and above all, learn more about their customers through that continuous engagement.

Building customer trust results in repeat usage of the car park, word of mouth referrals to reach other customers, and ultimately cash in the till. The better the experience both online and while parking, the greater the trust and this will lead to a cycle of loyalty that is essential for operators to gain and retain customers.

A CRM system supports data collection, build customer profiles and facilitates communication that deliver great ROI. Read all about key trends in CRM software.

4. Mobile

Less than a decade ago, the majority of parking revenue was generated from cash transactions. Today, credit or debit cards, mobile and online reservation are rapidly replacing cash as preferred methods of payment – a trend enabled by increased online accessibility and mobile usage. A study by Cardlytics found that smartphone payments quadrupled over the last two years, account for nearly 6% of all card transactions in the UK.

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.

For more insights on Parking Ecommerce Features head over to our blog ’10 Parking Ecommerce UK Features that Create User Flow’.

5. Smart Parking Technology

There are various levels of smart parking solutions, including vehicle recognition technology, valet apps creating real ease of use for the customer as well as digital signage. The aim is to create a seamless parking experience for the customer and real-time movement tracking for parking professionals. As this technology becomes the norm customers will come to expect it as standard, and parking operators that fail to incorporate ‘smart parking’ into their business risk a bleed out of customers to car parks that do offer this aspect of the experience.

Investing in new, ‘smart’ parking technology greatly increases revenue growth, especially when combined with a data powerhouse like Rezcomm. As mentioned in point 2, having such a comprehensive amount of data at your disposal is reason enough make use of these innovative new tools.

6. Concentrate on excellent customer service

A car park without customers is a car park generating no revenue, and a business without revenue is in trouble. Given the wide variety of options open to people wishing to visit a location, driving a personal vehicle and parking there is no longer the only recourse for customers. As a result, treating customers well and giving them a great experience, or at the very least not giving them a bad experience, is essential to generating return custom. Bad customer service will ensure that drivers vote with their feet and will simply not come back, even if the tech and convenience of the car park is otherwise good.

Customer service is not limited to staff for whom it is central to their role – all members of an organisation are responsible for delivering a high standard of excellence at every stage of the customer journey. That journey of course, often begins online far in advance of the actual date on which the service is delivered.

It follows therefore, that a car park operator has no purpose other than to deliver a parking service, everyone, from the CEO to the cleaning staff, should be geared toward providing the best levels of customer service possible.

Wondering how to place your customers at the heart of everything you do? We have some answers here.

7.Building a new digital strategy

The retail sector is focused on ‘omnichannel’, the way in which the different methods of shopping available to consumers (e.g. online, in a physical shop, or through an app) are integrated in to a seamless customer experience. Retailers study customers to predict shopping behavior, using big data to segment and target consumers, to increase revenue.

A reservation parking solution offers an unparalleled data-gathering tool, meaning parking operators can do the same and when this dynamically connects with a powerful CRM solution backed by a well thought out digital strategy, it provides parking providers with a powerful marketing tool and competitive edge to win the hearts and minds of customers.

Our Blog ‘3 Parking Marketing Predictions to Watch’ takes a closer look at marketing strategies for parking operators.

The more technology develops, the easier it is becoming to create the seamless experience that customers now expect. Clever use of digital technology will enhance the parking experience and enable parking operators to attract new customers, increasing revenue.
Digital integration will generate data and consumer insights, and customer satisfaction will improve as parking operators react to these insights in a proactive way.

If you would like to know more about how Rezcomm can help future-proof your e-commerce parking operation, or for advice on digital strategy for 2019, contact the team today.

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