Expert: Parking industry needs marketing expertise

February 14, 2014

In the United States alone, the parking industry generates roughly $8 billion annually, said First Research in a report released late last year. Think how much more it could earn with improved digital marketing, says expert Neil Robson, parking services director for Airport Direct Travel, in a recent article for Parking-Net.

A veteran of the industry, Robson notes two developments that have changed the market irrevocably. The first is a shift away from owning assets—electric vehicle charging stations, land, garages, and the like—to leasing and management contracts, which generally lowers profits for operators.

parking garage

According to one expert, competition to provide parking spots for motorists is starting to heat up – so they’re going to need marketing. From blipsman.

The second development that has changed the industry is the introduction of rapidly evolving technologies that have introduced new methods, products, and channels for reaching customers. Dynamic, real-time pricing; mobile payments; and apps are just a few examples of offerings now available to customers.

These changes dramatically raise the importance of the consumer, Robson argues, reminding readers of the five factors that most influence a driver’s decision in choosing parking:

  1. Location or convenience;
  2. Security and well-being;
  3. Availability;
  4. Price; and
  5. Habit and routine

But how well do any parking operators really know their customers? How many have created customer profiles based on direct communications or social media efforts? Robson believes compiling customer data and engaging with consumers long-term are what will drive revenue in the future.

Crucial to that goal is allowing customers to book parking in advance online, he argues. Already some operators in the UK are seeing eyebrow-raising results, such as like-for-like growth of more than 80 percent. Some have also been able to convince customers of pre-book parking, which has contributed to 80 percent of revenue. This has meant six- or seven-digit profits in both cases.

Online booking, already a mature sector in the UK, could see more growth across the pond. Opportunities abound for connections between drivers, their destination, and the potential car lot or garage. For instance, if the motorist intends to visit a retailer or attend a stadium game, promotional offers from the retailer or ticket sales for a future game may be combined with the website or app offering the pre-booked parking.

Such initiatives are further powered by pay-per-click and search engine optimization, digital marketing techniques that off-site airport parking providers — generally viewed as cheaper than their on-site counterparts — have used to competitive advantage. Owning a robust customer relationship management (CRM) platform is also key for digital marketing, writes Robson. A good CRM platform that captures customer data such as gender, spending habits, vehicle type, and the like will allow parking operators to serve up the best and most relevant content to drivers in a timely manner.

Other trends to note for the future include the incorporation of “in-car” services such as autonomous navigation and cashless, ticketless transactions, says Robson.

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Category: Parking Tech