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Selling Parking Online?

April, 2016

Here Are Some ĎDoís and Donítsí

Tim Maloney

 We’ve all read a lot about online reservations as the future of the parking industry. After all, people do most of their purchasing online, and an estimated 50% of all purchases in the U.S. will be done via mobile by 2020. 

Why should parking be different? 

But once you decide to sell parking online, how do you learn best-practices and leverage your online reservation partner most effectively?

When I was EVP of National Sales at Propark, after having run operations for it for eight years, I came up with a list of “do’s and don’ts” to guide my team in getting the most value from an online reservation platform. 

Today, as Head of Sales at SpotHero, I share these guidelines with all the parking operators we work with so they can leverage our team for everything we can do. 

I presented my top recommendations at PIE 2016 last month, and will elaborate on them in this article.

 

The Do’s

How to Get the Most Value From Your Online Reservation Partner:

1. Sell unused inventory online, rather than miss the potential for more revenue.

Parking is a perishable good. Unsold stalls result in lost revenue that can never be made up. If you have unsold inventory, list it online to reach a new customer base.

2. Use an online reservation platform to raise your posted rates and maximize revenue per stall.

For example, use an online reservation platform to eliminate early-bird rates for drive-up customers. List a commuter rate online, and once volume hits a certain point, eliminate your drive-up early-bird. Any customers driving up during the typical early-bird window will pay the full rate, and you won’t displace the revenue you previously generated from drive-up early-birds.

3. Provide online reservation platforms with your expectations and goals for online sales.

If you have a budget for online sales at a specific facility or in a market, let your online reservation partner know. A good parking app company will take what you’ve given them and provide a proposal that maps out how you can reach your goals. Then schedule regular meetings with your online reservation partners to review progress towards meeting those goals.

4. Highlight your facility’s amenities online. 

Apps can help you broadcast to customers your facility offerings, such as carwashes, EV-charging stations, dry-cleaning services. These perks are often game-changers for people looking for parking online.

5. Use online sales to help meet your quota for monthlies.

There’s a huge online demand for monthly parking. Traditionally, customers have to pound the pavement and visit multiple garages to find the best fit for their needs. By posting monthly parking online, you can broadcast your facility to a much wider audience. It’s a no-brainer.

6. Use online customers as “secret shoppers.”

There has never been a time in our industry when we’ve had the volume of customer feedback that we do now because of parking apps. Many operators use third-party “secret shopping” services to gain insight into a tiny slice of customer experience, and they pay a premium for it. 

By leveraging ratings and reviews received by your online reservation partners, you can get great customer feedback at no cost. Include great ratings and reviews in monthly end client statements. Use poor ratings and reviews internally for training.

7. Leverage online reservations as a revenue driver when submitting proposals for new locations.

Clients expect you to show them revenue drivers in proposals. Parking reservation platforms present a unique opportunity to sell unused inventory online.

Research the locations you’re bidding on and see what parking apps they’re working with. Could they work with more? Should they be leveraging a different online reservation platform? Share your recommendations.

8. Use online reservations to help your facility get

GPC
-certified.

Using online parking reservations counts towards Green Parking Council certification. By selling parking online, you’re not only driving incremental revenue to your facilities, but also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

9. Take advantage of the marketing capabilities of your online reservation service.

It has a team devoted to digital marketing. Ask what your online reservation partner does to increase your visibility to people looking for parking online, and to direct their existing users to your facilities.

10. Vary your online rates.

One of the best uses of online reservation platforms is to experiment with dynamic rates. Most services are very flexible and allow you to charge customers the right rate at the right time. 

Test multiple rates to see what works, and keep what brings the

most revenue.

Don’t know where to start? Many online reservation platforms will also provide rate recommendations based on demand analysis.

11. Get rid of what isn’t working.

You’re not tied to anything – whether it’s a rate, a facility or a reservation partner. Maybe you’re seeing great results selling online reservations at one location, but another isn’t performing as well. Try rate adjustments first, but maybe online reservations aren’t right for that particular facility.

 

The Don’ts

Avoid These Mistakes When Working With an Online Reservation Platform:

1. Don’t initially do an “exclusive” with a parking app. 

Focus on revenue generation, not cost savings. Don’t lock yourself into one partner who may or may not be able to deliver. Make sure to give yourself time to figure out which online reservation platform is best for your business.

Start by casting a wide net and work with multiple online reservation providers. Track the success of each platform, and adjust inventory allocation based on which one is selling the most. 

One reservation service might be really successful at a certain

facility, while another does better elsewhere.

2. Don’t assume that what works on one platform will work on another.

Some will excel with specific customer types. For example, some online reservation platforms focus specifically on providing parking for events. Others will thrive by bringing you segments of customers that provide long-term value.

3. Don’t work with an online reservation platform you don’t trust or isn’t an active partner.

You should be working together to achieve your goals. Make sure you’re not working with someone that has the “set it and forget it” attitude – meaning they list your rates on their platform and you don’t hear from them again. 

Your online reservation partner should be measuring success and driving value, or you might want to reconsider that partnership. 

4. Don’t neglect your garage’s online reputation.

Yelp! and other Internet review services can be affected by both drive-up and online customers. Some reservation platforms even include customer reviews. What kind of message about your facility do you want online customers to read before deciding whether to make a reservation?

5. Don’t get hung up on your drive-up rates.

Online customers are often looking for something different from your drive-up customers. Set specific online rates to stay competitive with other parking options online, as well as other forms of transportation. People looking for parking online often have not decided to drive yet. Experiment with online rates to see what drives the most revenue.

6. Don’t charge online customers drive-up fees on top of what they paid online.

This practice will certainly lead to negative online reviews. That customer won’t be parking at your facility again. And anyone who reads those reviews online will think twice about making a reservation with you.

7. Don’t sell online inventory for rates above drive-up.

There are some exceptions here, like events or times with specifically high demand. Again, customers will have only a negative impression of the app and the operator if they arrive at a facility and see their reservation was more expensive than drive-up. This is not a good way to gain repeat business.

8. Don’t assume your facility is “full all the time.”

Test the waters by starting with selling just one spot at a time, if you’re concerned you don’t have the capacity. If you are full or close, you should consider increasing posted rates and selling excess capacity online at your previous posted rates.

9. Don’t blindly list inventory online.

Don’t list any parking spots online when you’re completely full. Review your posted and online rates often, and work with an engaged reservation partner that provides ongoing recommendations to maximize revenue.

10. Don’t let audit reconciliation questions keep you from selling inventory online.

There are many ways to make sure audit standards are met with the right online reservation partner. Online reservation platforms integrate into almost every PARC system, and the ones you partner with should have mechanisms in place to ensure the integrity of your audit program.

 

Online reservations are part of the future of parking, but they’ll work for you only if you know how to use them.

 

Want to talk online strategy or about anything related to parking? Please contact Maloney at tim@spothero.com. 


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