The Times They Are a Changin’: The New World of Parking
By Aynsley Deluce
In today’s increasingly high-tech world, consumer expectations have changed. Companies are being forced to be more transparent, accountable and consumer-focused. The Internet has opened up an entire new world of communication that allows consumers to talk to one another, share their knowledge and take advantage of that which will benefit their lives.
The result is consumers’ expectation that the world really is at their fingertips. They want quick answers. They want immediate returns. Ironically, they are looking for simplicity amid the complex world that technology has brought – simplicity of the facts and simplicity within the options available.
The parking business is no exception.
According to statistics published in last year’s Colliers Parking Survey, monthly parking rates in North America’s urban cities grew an average of 4.4% in 2007 alone. About 60% of Canadian parking lots/garages have waiting lists, and that sits at approximately 20% for U.S. cities, with typical wait periods of six and five months, respectively.
Some cities such as New York are now witnessing monthly parking rates in excess of $600; Boston with monthly median parking hovering at $460; and even Toronto at a median price of $300 per month.
But consumers are not idiots; they know they have options. They are becoming frustrated with the ever-increasing costs of owning a vehicle. From insurance and taxes to the cost of gas, they are looking for alternative ways to manage their expenditures. So what are they doing?
Consumers are changing the game.
It began with the basic concept of classified ads. Paper-based, local newsprint began seeing personals for extra garage space. Next were signs posted in condo-building lobbies and grocery store community boards.
Then the Internet took over, and a whole new era of parking sourcing was born. From local websites to multinationals with local bents such as craigslist.com and kijiji.com, the game was skewing toward the consumer.
They were in control of their search. No longer dependent on driving around their place of work or home to find convenient parking, they were suddenly being funneled into online classifieds to help them source and post their available spots.
What has been lacking, however, is a central website for commercial property owners and residential parking owners to post their spots in tandem. An independent site that allows consumers to search for spots of their liking while allowing the spot owners and managers to use the Internet for what it was intended – connecting buyers and sellers.
While many of the larger parking conglomerates have recognized the need to offer online search tools, what they fail to factor in is that parking is not a branded exercise. Consumers do not talk about the commercial name of the property where they are monthly parking; they merely give the street coordinates or intersection.
Until such time as the investment is made in branding and, frankly, an increase in the parking experience offered by many garages, consumers will continue to focus on location and not brands. What impact does this have? They aren’t online looking for your brand, which means they most likely aren’t going on to your website until they have already rented in your garage and need details of some sort.
What they are looking for are one-stop solutions to their parking needs, and a number of formidable options are springing up around the Internet. One in particular that is beginning to see some serious traction is www.parkingspots.com. The website, which I co-founded, is designed specifically to manage mixed inventory of commercial and residential parking.
Currently focused on monthly parking, the site is designed to make the business of finding parking seamless and easy – exactly what the modern consumer has come to expect.
Bottom line, consumers are searching for quick and easy ways to solve their parking issues in North American cities and beyond. It’s time for the parking industry to take note of how crafty consumers have become and begin speaking to them where they are and in a way that takes the frustration out of parking.
The industry needs to embrace the new technologies that are out there and designed to help them market their parking spots to prospective renters.
What’s that old saying? Oh yeah: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Aynsley Deluce and her partner Matthew Ball founded www.parkingspots.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from July, 2008