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Q&A with Paul Sidwell: IPI Conference and Expo and the world of parking reservations

Posted 23 June 2017, Australia

For four days in May 2017, New Orleans was the home for over 3,000 parking and transport professionals from all over the world. 

ADVAM’s Strategic Development Director, Paul Sidwell, soaked up the atmosphere as he presented to a busy room of eager parking peers on “Is your business ready for parking reservations?”

A few weeks on, we sat down with Paul to gain insights from his experience presenting at the world’s largest education and networking event for parking and transportation.  

Welcome back Paul. From participating at IPI 2017, what were the “most-talked about” topics in your opinion, in particular, on technology and innovation?

Paul Sidwell: The main buzz at the show relating to technology and innovation were the impact of mobility, the rise of driverless-vehicles, how ride shares/Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) are disrupting the parking industry and the latest trends on EMV and payments. There were also talks on the shift of parking from being a cost centre to a profit centre and building eCommerce into a business parking strategy through the adoption of parking reservation platforms.

The US is ahead in many areas in technology. You went to the IPI Conference and Expo with an idea in mind that the US parking market is evolving with respect to parking reservations. What do you mean by parking reservation platforms and how was your presentation “Is your business ready for parking reservations?” received?

Paul Sidwell: A parking reservation platform, simply put, is an online booking system that allows customers to pre-book their parking online and park on the day ticket-free and hassle-free. At the same time, it enables a parking business to create more relevant products and messages based on the insights the platform collects, allowing them to engage with their customers better.

As for my presentation, it was great to receive many insightful questions during the session. The US market is an interesting one. On one hand, some segments of the industry are in the early days of exploring parking reservation platforms, while others, such as SpotHero, Passport Parking, The Parking Spot (all off-airport aggregators) are well ahead of the US adoption curve in terms of parking technology like reservation platforms.

What were the particular topics of interest to your audience?

Paul Sidwell: There was a lot of discussion about the benefits of a parking reservation platform, managing customers, supporting capacity planning and the data that can be obtained; however, the two key areas which had the most focus were, first, the management of pre-bookings which involves how the platform directs customers to the right car park and how a business deals with customers who go to the wrong car park and second, the management of pre-payments.  What happens if a customer overstays? How does the customer get charged for it? How are refunds managed?

How do parking reservation platforms handle these types of activities?

Paul Sidwell: Parking reservation platforms cater perfectly for these complexities. Most parking reservation platforms can send booking confirmation emails which contain detailed instructions and maps to customers. It is also important to note that customers who pre-book have already considered the location of the car park before confirming their booking which essentially reduces the risk of them going to the wrong car park; however, it is inevitable that a few customers will still go to the wrong car park.

Many of our clients manage this by having clear car park signage and by ensuring that follow-up communications such as on the day reminders, are set-up within the reservation platform.

As for charging overstays, parking reservation platforms have integration with Parking Access Revenue Control System (PARCS) to handle overstays at the exit. If a customer overstays, PARCS will identify it and will charge the card accordingly. 

If a refund has to be made, this can easily be processed in the Admin portal of the reservation platform. Parking reservation platforms are designed to provide a seamless end-to-end parking experience to the customers.  

What do businesses achieve by implementing this technology?

Paul Sidwell: There is a great opportunity for parking businesses to move into the online world and take advantage of the strong loyalty and customer insight which can be generated by a well thought-out digital strategy. There is an opportunity to convert customers from being “unknown” drive-up users, to “known”, loyal customers with clearly understood buying behaviours.

Collecting this data is the real objective. By using the insights from this data, businesses can improve their capacity planning and will be able to develop products, communications and promotions tailored to their customers’ needs, delivering improved yield, loyalty, financial return and a better customer experience. This has been proven in the European and Australian markets.

What do you think are the barriers to implementing parking reservations?

Paul Sidwell: The two key barriers to implementing parking reservations in most businesses are;

  1. Failure to recognise parking as a revenue centre/generator - For many businesses, parking is seen as a service rather than an important source of revenue. This varies in every location and segment. For example, in many AU and EU airports, parking is seen as the largest source of non-aeronautical revenue. In many government or municipality run airports, the distinction has not yet been made. Until parking is recognised as a revenue centre, the value of tools like parking reservation platforms and more sophisticated yield management software will not be appreciated fully.

  2. Lack of a Digital Strategy or parking not being included in the Digital Strategy - It is important to recognise that the way end-users (parkers) engage with service providers has changed dramatically. The advent of the sharing economy (like Uber, AirBnB etc) shows that consumers search, explore and make buying decisions for services online and via applications. Parking is no exception. Not including parking in your business digital strategy means customers can’t find you.

What does the future hold for the parking industry in the US and in the global market?

Paul Sidwell: The next 2-3 year horizon is an exciting time for parking businesses in the US. There is significant value in the adoption of online commerce tools and customer data collection for US parking operators.

Globally, the technology landscape is changing each day, which continuously shapes consumer behaviour towards becoming more digital. Digital transformation is key to every business to keep up with this ever-changing world. For parking, this means establishing presence online through the implementation of a parking reservation platform and harvesting the benefits of the opportunities it presents.

Thank you Paul.

There is no doubt that technology is driving businesses today and changing the way consumers behave. This is evident from the discussions that took place at IPI 2017. It is now up to businesses to take the next step.

Interested in getting your business ready for parking reservations? View Paul’s presentation here

Tags:  altitudereservation / digitaltransformation