Shaping an Evolving Parking Industry
Parking is an industry that works best when you notice it the least. Maybe that’s why parking operations are often overlooked, even in the ancillary services category.
And it makes sense – the best parking operators help guests find a spot and get onto their destination. But there’s more going on than you might think under the surface to provide a smooth customer experience. Here are five trends that are shaping an evolving industry.
1) An Aging Population: The median age is expected to rise 36% between 1971 and 2020, from 28 to 38 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Plus, 20% of the American population will be retirement age or older at that time as well. While the country gets older, they may opt to continue working and thus driving.
The percentage of workers over age 65 has increased by 50% according to the Population Research Bureau. Parking facilities may need to change to suit this audience. “Well-lit and accessible facilities are more important to [older patrons],” as Chuck Heskett, President and CEO of Annapolis-based Towne Park, told Parking magazine.
2) “Green” Parking: Consumers are more aware than ever about the ecological impact of their purchases. Some parking innovators such as Jeff Wolfe, Owner of Boise-based The Car Park (www.carparkusa.com) are listening to customer demand and creating partnerships to find consumer solutions.
“Bicycle parking has been a very impactful trend recently,” Wolfe said. “In new construction, we are solving for a host of challenges, including separate areas for bike parking; code designs needed to provide security; and access requirements, and other issues.”
EV-charging stations for fuel-efficient vehicles are another area of opportunity, as customer demands change with the times. “Make no mistake: Parking decisions are still largely determined by price and location,” Wolfe said. “But sometimes these other enhancements can come into play, especially with millennial consumers.”
3) Airport parking demand: The NPA’s new parking demand report shows that airport garage construction continues to grow at a rapid pace. The airport parking sector expanded three-fold in the past two years. Additionally, the U.S. Travel Association reports that both leisure and business travel continues to increase, keeping demand for airport parking high.
Airport parking operators use a variety of methods to move more cars in and out, while also differentiating themselves in the marketplace.
Wolfe said, “We’re seeing fantastic growth at ParkDIA,” Denver’s closest off-airport parking and a location managed by his company. Customers use the ParkDIA app to scan in and out, saving them time and hassle (www.ParkDIA.com).
“These customers want flexibility, want to use our EV-charging stations or have their car washed while they are gone,” he said. “Innovation plays a key role in the customer experience. Any time the consumer has options, we all benefit. Consumers can choose what works best for them.”
4) Mobile Payments: Consumer parking apps are on the rise as consumers acclimate to mobile payments.
“We see numerous apps come into play,” said Wolfe, citing Parking Panda, Spot Hero and Park Whiz as common players. “Overall, it’s had a positive impact. Anything that makes it easier for the customer is great. We want the transaction to be frictionless.”
Lori Gagnon, VP and Director of Customer Care at DC’s Colonial Parking, concurs in a recent issue of Parking magazine. Among the ways to make your business more customer-centric, she cited “[fulfilling] online parking reservations through a responsive design website and apps; [and using] your internal technology systems to provide customers with real-time occupancy and dynamic pricing.”
The intersection of customer convenience and actionable data for the business equals sure success.
Make your business more customer-centric by fulfilling online parking reservations through a responsive design website and apps.
5) Apps for Parking Operations Management: On the flip side from consumer apps, there also are apps helping to manage the parking operations side of the business. Many parking operations still use paper forms to manage the day-to-day work, providing no visibility
Apps such as Useful (www.GetUseful.com) help parking operations or anyone with a field service crew get off paper and become a more efficient business. “Useful helps us effectively manage our teams remotely,” Wolfe said. “It helps connect the crew and allows us to provide clearer instruction.
“Employees like the accountability. If they find a spill, they notify a manager to dispatch the closest team. Employees can immediately elevate problems to management, so we become more efficient together.”
Parking operations may have been a simpler business in the past, but in these rapidly changing times, even this industry has been impacted by innovation and evolving consumer demands. It will become ever more important to ensure that your parking operations stay current in this market place.
DJ Francis, Marketing Director of Useful Systems, through www.getuseful.com; and The Car Park Owner Jeff Wolfe through www.carparkusa.com.