Bridging the Physical and Digital World of Parking
Posted 5 February 2019, Australia
The parking business has come a long way – from the first multi-storey car park built for the La Salle Hotel in 1918 to the first working parking meter built in 1920’s/1930’s to regulate parking time in Oklahoma City.
Fast-forward almost 9 decades later, parking is still parking but now there are more aspects to it. It is no longer only a physical experience but is now combined with the digital experience as well. What makes up the physical experience? This involves entering the car park, finding a parking space and paying at the station. What involves the digital experience? This involves creating an account, pre-booking a space, paying and managing your account online. How do you ensure that between these two aspects is a seamless experience for your customers? How does an industry which relies so much on physical experience innovate and become competitive?
The challenges of the parking business today
Back in the day, there was no way of telling who parked in the car park, how many times that person parked and if they would park again. With the rise of digital platforms, you can get to know your customers better.
While this is now possible, the challenge remains for a lot of parking businesses. It is one thing to gather data but it is another thing to turn that data into customer insights that can be utilised by the business. How is this achievable in an industry where a common buying journey is transactional?
Another key challenge that parking businesses face today is ensuring that the overall experience of a customer with parking is seamless, that the transition from the digital experience to the actual physical act of parking is a hassle-free end to end process – from booking a parking space online through to being identified at the entrance up to making the payment at the end.
Converting Transactional Purchases to Relational Purchases
There are various digital parking platforms available now in the market that you can implement in your parking business. Digital parking platforms include: parking apps that can assist users to find a car park and pay for their parking; account-based ticketless parking platforms that allow users to create and manage their own account with their parking provider of choice and also automatically takes the payment from their account seamlessly; and parking reservation platforms that allow users to reserve, pay and manage their parking online.
By implementing the digital parking platforms in your parking business, you are able to gather real data about the movements of your customers and use the data to tailor your offerings. For example, with account-based ticketless parking platforms, you can get the data on when and how frequently a customer parks. You can also integrate the system with rewards programs, using the customer insights to drive further loyalty incentives.
Another example is using pre-booking platforms. As pre-booking platforms give you a digital touchpoint before the physical parking experience, you are given the opportunity to provide options to enhance your customers’ experience. You can offer an option to book a car wash service or give your customer an incentive to upgrade to valet parking during the booking process. The best thing about this is that whatever option your customer chooses, it is all recorded. This means that you can build a profile of what is important to your customers as individuals and use the platform to engage with them to further build on your relationship and in turn improve their loyalty.
Let’s get Digital and Physical
How do these digital parking platforms work? What is the bridge between these platforms and the car park? These digital parking platforms are heavily integrated with Parking Access Revenue Control System (PARCS). The digital parking platforms use an identifier such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) or licence plate recognition (LPR) or loyalty cards. These identifiers link the digital accounts of the customers and provide the customers access to the parking area. It opens and closes the boom gate and does the calculation of the length of stay in the back end.
It is important that a parking business selects a digital parking platform that integrates well with the whole ecosystem of a car park so that there will be no gap between the digital and physical experience of your customer.
Integrated Parking Experience: The value for your customers and your business
An integrated parking experience is more than a seamless end to end parking experience. Apart from the ease of searching for a parking space, booking one, making a payment, entering the car park, accessing the add-ons purchased, and exiting the car park; an integrated parking experience involves the overall feeling a customer gets from the experience. An integrated parking experience, leaves the customer feeling satisfied, valued, with a sense of belonging and ultimately loyalty to that company.
To have an integrated parking experience, your parking business must have a digital presence by having pre-booking or account-based parking platforms and must utilise the data gathered by these platforms to ensure that each parking experience is tailored to each customer.
Now that there is more to parking than just the physical experience, bridging the gap is very important. You have to get the bridge to the digital aspect right to not be left behind in this fast-paced technology driven world.