Editor, Parking Today:
I read with interest the article “Unpacking Online Reservations: From Misconception to Strategy” (PT 12-2016) by Susannah Rubinstein.
Like any marketing vehicle, there are many different strategies one can employ to increase revenue from online parking reservations. But what I did not see mentioned in the article is the value of “customer acquisition.” Gaining a lifetime customer through payment to a third party, which had found that customer who hadn’t known the parking lot existed, could generate revenue for many years to come.
The cost of acquiring that customer was minimal compared with the potential revenue that could be generated. Once a parking lot gets a new customer through online reservation, the focus should be on retaining that customer through a completely different marketing effort.
What other advertising vehicle charges you only when the customer shows up at your lot? Not newspaper, coupon mailers, billboards, etc.; you pay a fee and then hope they drive enough customers to cover the cost of the advertising.
Also, when you use traditional marketing in your local market (usually some kind of discount), you are offering that discount to your regular customers. The online customer is looking for a parking lot because they don’t know where to park; a regular customer of that lot would not be looking unless they were unhappy.
Reservations appeal to the motorist who is unsure if there will be parking at their destination and need the peace of mind that they have a guaranteed spot. Once in the lot, it is up to the parking company to make them a repeat customer.
Seventeen years ago, it took us four months to achieve critical mass and a profitable business. Today, we are a multimillion-dollar business and growing every year, with 80% of the lots still on the site that signed up 17 years ago — because it works.
Tom Lombardi Sr.