Can PARCS Keep Up with the Tide of Change?
The connected car. Online sales platforms. A dizzying array of emerging and developed customer-identification technologies. The Parking Industry is changing; however, right now this change is one-sided. Venture-backing has promoted the growth of consumer facing technologies, which is no surprise as we are in the midst of a sharing economy which translates to an on-demand world. Despite the reality that the customer is now smarter, armed with location, pricing, and the ability to purchase a space in one click, parking facilities are far behind and lacking technological sophistication to truly benefit from this demand shift.
We are at the beginning of a new cycle in parking and a multitude of factors have been thrusting it in this new direction well before parking apps like SpotHero, ParkMobile and others hit the market.
Consumer access to information via smartphones, Google, or other sources has globally shifted and forever altered consumer behavior. This shift not only allows them to compare and purchase parking 24/7, it establishes a new world of expectations for how these products are consumed. Translated to our Industry, the availability and purchase side exists through a variety of apps, albeit these current technologies are the tip of the iceberg, yet the consumption side is at the garage level is where our Industry fails us miserably.
There are many parking professionals today that believe consumer facing, app-based parking technology cannibalizes garage revenue. In addition, many parking professionals believe these apps are eroding pricing by offering discounted parking. Although this may be true in certain circumstances or even in certain markets, these assumptions completely ignore the reality of the previously mentioned global change in consumer behavior and the powerful momentum behind it. Moreover, this presumption doesn’t stand up to the most basic economic principles of supply and demand.
In yesteryear, differentiated customer sources, needs, and expectations weren’t even on the table; and the reigning strategic assumption was that customer behavior trended with real estate’s golden principle: location, location, and location. Thus, the #1 marketing tool was the biggest, brightest rate sign that would usher customers to the garage like runways for airplanes. Operators and asset owners now face the need for flexible technology that allows them to rapidly adapt to the demands of an ever-changing marketplace – technology that promotes the supply side of the equation, working in tandem with the demand side to ensure that maximizing value, not erosion, is the net result.
There are many parking professionals today that believe consumer facing, app-based parking technology cannibalizes garage revenue.
Demand is winning today because UBER and others are adding alternative choices that swell the supply-side of the equation, distracting the inventory of potential parkers. We must get the demand back and this requires different strategies at the core of our operations.
Yesterday, parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS) had clocks for brains: many of these machines were only asked to be glorified punch-clocks or beefed-up FOB access control systems. Today, your PARCS need to have the technology to serve as a hub for all garage operations: access control, real-time transacting by remote staff, historical data, predictive analysis, instant connectivity to varying revenue channels, and full visibility over your live operations and customers. Just as customer demand and expectations have shifted, so have those of owners and operators: on-demand parking requires the power to see, control, and analyze activity in real time and over time.
Sadly, most PARCS have a long way to go. At their most basic level, the majority of PARCS are static solutions that force owners and operators to make bets on a future no one can fully see, and what you buy is what you get until you pay to upgrade it or buy something else. The market is starting to see certain PARCS providers release “cloud solutions.” Although seemingly a move in the right direction as the “cloud” should offer a real-time, ever-improving solution, many of today’s versions merely provide limited access to reporting and data while lacking real-time connected control to the customer or more importantly, the equipment. What the market requires is a Cloud Platform.
A Cloud Platform combines cloud data with extensible software and live hardware that flexibly connect with other real-time solutions, and evolve across their life cycles to generate additional value from new solutions as they emerge. A Cloud Platform is dynamic, offering transactional control, credential flexibility, customer-oriented integrations, yield management and hardware connectivity to support this, and more. Such an agile platform allows a garage to proactively drive profitability: maximizing inventory utilization through pricing and vehicle turns hasn’t changed, only the means by which customers see and consume parking has. The only way to price your parking at a requires real-time knowledge of your online and offline inventory. With garage operations trending toward asset management and away from the role of staffing companies, Cloud Platforms offer realistic means to cost-effectively manage portfolios of assets from a systems-based approach where instant, actionable data and real-time decisions are pushed from the supply side right into the customer’s lap. And these solutions exist today.
It will not be long before the car you enter will ask you where you are going or what you are doing:
“Hi Harlan, where to?”
“The King and I at the Lyric.”
“If you need to park, there are 15 garages within 5 blocks with prices from $8 to $35. How far would you like to walk?”
The information powering this experience will come from a variety of places, including your PARCS. Perhaps the purchase will be made via ParkMobile, Inrix, SpotHero/ParkWhiz, or Apple/Google. Regardless, your garage will be the epicenter of information for these providers and the access control point facing the customers they bring you. Whatever the vehicle or customer credential—barcode, RFID, LPR, Bluetooth, or something else— the PARCS at your garage will be the “final mile” that will enable the seamless, frictionless experience today’s parkers expect, thereby completing the purchase in a fully automated way. Make no mistake, the experience at the garage is critical. Without it, these convenience-based customers will search for alternatives until their needs are met, just like UBER did to taxis.
Today, many see using apps to offer discounted parking as a race to $0 and destructive to parking valuations. Yet in a world where information is accessible to customers 24/7, parking spaces that would otherwise have been left vacant will be sold strategically at market value, which may be the exact value others call “discounted.”
Change is here, and it is time to operate differently. Parking is part of a greater global economy that has already seen unprecedented shifts in customer behavior. To compete, we must use the flexible array of tools before us—both app-based customer-centric solutions and flexible PARCS platforms—to see around corners.
After all, in this new world of parking, the only thing certain is the uncertainty of tomorrow.
Harlan Karp is CEO of Parkonect. He can be reached at email@example.com
Parkonect empowers parking asset owners and operators to open vital new sales channels, maximize utilization and revenue, and streamline operations and management—all with a cloud-native platform that universally performs alongside any existing PARCS system. Our solution combines proprietary cutting-edge hardware with real-time cloud software and analytics tools, creating opportunities for owners and operators take full advantage of the massive shift toward real-time transacting. With Parkonect, app-based consumers enjoy a revolutionary “UBER-like” parking experience while you maintain the highest level of access control with a proven platform that reduces costs, provides a sustained boost to garage profitability and gives you the necessary information to strategically manage your parking assets.
Parkonect is at the forefront of the parking app revolution with the most diverse multi-vendor third-party parking integrations, including SpotHero, ParkWhiz, ParkMobile, Zipcar, Parking Panda, and many more. Not only is Parkonect’s cloud-based solution able to instantly adapt to changing conditions without the need for any garage-level reconfigurations, we are working with emerging businesses and technologies, including Bluetooth low-energy products, LPR and connected-car solutions that, together, will advance “demand-based” transportation solutions industrywide.
Parkonect is based in Chicago, hell-bent on driving continuous revenue growth to our clients, and proudly assembles 100% of its products in the U.S.A.