Giving Your Facility a Competitive Edge
Parking is a competitive business. Parking garages and lots tend to be concentrated around cities’ downtown areas, businesses and business districts, entertainment venues, and other popular locations. As a parking owner or operator, you probably face a lot of competition.
What are the primary factors that lead a driver to choose one parking facility over another? Obviously, location is a big one. People want to park as close to possible to their ultimate destination, or close to public transportation outlets they can use to complete their trip, or at a convenient middle point if they have multiple destinations. If your parking facilities are in an attractive destination, you are likely to have competitors close by as well.
A second factor is price. Your prices are likely market-driven, as are those of your competitors. As a result, competing garages are often priced similarly. While you may offer specials to fill spaces during slow hours, for the most part your prices are likely dictated by the market.
The one important area where you can set your facilities apart, and give yourself a competitive advantage, is by improving the customer experience. Drivers want to get in and out of parking facilities quickly, conveniently, and safely. They don’t want a hassle when they park, and they will seek out parking facilities that they know are convenient. This is how you can attract new customers and, perhaps more importantly, build a stronger long-term customer base.
Drivers can be intimidated by the parking experience, particularly if they are using a large garage. Driving inside a parking garage is distinctly different from driving on outdoor roadways, where natural light improves visibility, pedestrians aren’t walking in driving lanes, and sightlines are much better. By allowing people to get into parking facilities conveniently and find available parking spaces more easily, you can dramatically improve the customer experience, and at the same time make your facilities more attractive to both new and repeat customers.
The best way to improve the customer experience is with technology. And when it comes to the parking experience, the most effective tool is parking guidance technology.
What are the most common complaints you hear from parkers? If your garage or lot is typical, it’s that it’s too hard to find parking, or it takes too long to find a space. Parking guidance technology solves that problem. In fact, some systems can reduce the amount of time it takes to find a space by 20 minutes or more!
To understand how parking guidance can improve your bottom line, you first need to know what it is. Parking guidance technology measures how many spaces are available in a parking facility by counting how many cars enter and leave and constantly analyzing this data. There are several types of guidance technology: single space guidance systems, loop counting systems, and the most recent to be introduced, intelligent camera systems.
Traditionally, the industry was dominated by single space guidance and loop counting systems. Single space systems feature sensors located above or in spaces that record whether that space is occupied and communicate that information with a system of lights located on that sensor. Occupancy data is also forwarded to signs at facility and floor entrances to let drivers know whether the garage has available parking and then, after drivers enter, how many spaces are available on each floor. Until recently, these were the gold standard because the best systems are 99% accurate. The problem with single space systems is that they are extremely expensive. It can cost a half million dollars or more to install the technology in an average sized parking garage.
In the past, the only affordable alternative was simple loop car counting technology. These systems count cars as drivers enter and exit, calculate how many vehicles are in the parking facility at that moment, and figure out how many spaces are free. They then transmit that information to signs at entrances. They come at a fraction of the cost of single space guidance, but they are notoriously inaccurate.
So, the choice has traditionally been between accurate guidance at an exorbitant cost or affordable guidance that’s not accurate. Or not installing guidance technology at all. It’s easy to see why so many parking owners have chosen not to install a parking guidance system.
Intelligent camera systems have altered the equation. Like some of the most accurate single space systems, intelligent camera systems rely on cameras to monitor how many vehicles enter and exit a parking facility. However, they are extraordinarily powerful and accurate, so these systems only require a few strategically located cameras. That data is transmitted in real time to cloud servers, where it is immediately compiled and analyzed and transmitted to monument signs in real time. The systems also have machine learning, so they are constantly improving to keep up with the introduction of new types of vehicles and driver behaviors. Intelligent camera systems enjoy the same 99% accuracy that single space cameras have always provided, at a fraction of the cost.
Gaining a Competitive Edge Without Breaking the Bank
The introduction of intelligent camera systems has leveled the playing field when it comes to parking guidance. No longer is the technology only accessible to the most affluent parking owners. Now any parking owner can enjoy the powerful competitive advantage the comes with offering parking guidance technology.