Magazine

The Amateur Parker

Think Bigger

RelayRides has been featured in Wired magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine ju

Melissa Bean Sterzick

Technology might be a huge factor in the evolving requirements and capabilities of consumers and the parking industry, but attitudes toward consumption and convenience are influences as well. New ideas can seem capricious when you’re used to doing things a certain way, but keeping current is vital to success.

Maybe you’ve heard about a new ride-sharing program that lets airport travelers rent out their cars to other travelers. The peer-to-peer car rental service, called RelayRides, connects those who need to leave their cars at the airport with people who need to rent a car. Other locations are also available, and rental arrangements vary, but the company provides insurance, billing and roadside support.

RelayRides has been featured in Wired magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine just this year. A star in the new “sharing economy” genre, it offers its services in Los Angeles, Boston, Honolulu and Miami, among other cities. Its leadership is quoted as saying that it expects 50% of its business to come from airport customers.

RelayRides could have an impact on airport parking and the car rental business, or maybe not; it remains to be seen. But even if it’s just a flash-in-the-pan trend, it seems wise for the two industries to examine this new development.

We’ve all seen businesses that miss an important transition and go the way of the dodo.

During the last few years, we have watched our local Blockbuster video rental stores become extinct. One by one they disappeared, and now there are none in the vicinity – killed off by cable on-demand, Netflix, online streaming and, my favorite, Redbox.

What I’ve wondered is why Blockbuster didn’t see the tide changing and dive right in. The company could have phased out its storefronts and phased in boxes or drive-throughs. It could have noticed its business evaporating and considered the changes in peoples’ approach to renting videos.

People don’t want to spend 40 minutes in the aisles of the video store on a Friday night. If Blockbuster had caught it soon enough, it might still be a viable company. But, then, I’m no accountant, so I can’t be certain.

What I am is a journalist, and over the course of my career, I have seen the strict and principled daily news industry shrink and then morph into a 24-hour online news cycle with heavy coverage in all areas and little ethical accountability.

I’ve seen writing and editing quality plummet and newspapers and news magazines die off. I’ve seen the hand-written letter reduced to a two-line text, and heard rumors that schools will soon stop teaching cursive. I miss the way it was, but I won’t let that stop me from having a place in the new landscape of publishing.

A company that has capitalized on its users’ evolution is Pinterest. The sharing network lets its users create pages of images they love – like a virtual “inspiration board.”

Victims of the most recent natural disasters have used the website to display their wish lists. They “pin” clothing items, housewares, personal hygiene supplies, and any other thing they might need so the charitably-minded can donate what’s needed and not bother with the rest.

Instead of balking at this unorthodox use of a site initially populated by wedding planners and home decorators, Pinterest leadership accommodated this new approach whole-heartedly. Why not evolve with your customer base?

It’s the same in many areas of life. Change is the constant, and adaptability is the answer.

Maybe you are a tried-and-true airport parking technology provider, but why not mix it up and beat RelayRides at its own game? Maybe you run an airport parking company – couldn’t you fit in a little ride-share or car-trade enterprise concurrently? You already have the infrastructure and the clientele in place. Don’t let the new guy tap into your profits.

Consumers’ ideas about how they want to be served are more elastic, imaginative and informal than they were in the past. Evolve with them. Think bigger.



Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from September, 2013




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