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Pay by Cell Phone The Need for a Frictionless Consumer Model

August, 2019

John Van Horn

This past month, Parking Today met with Roamy Valera, newly installed CEO for North America for PayBy Phone. Here is the result of that interview:


Tell us how the Pay by Cell services has changed since its inception well over a decade ago. Is the technology moving to become more user friendly to the parker?


Yes. At one point, Pay by Cell services may have focused on phoning-in. Now the focus is on the iOS and Android apps, which offer a simpler, streamlined user experience. Pay by Cell providers are also integrating more features within a single app. Examples for PayByPhone include:


The addition of the maps feature, which allows drivers to discover PayByPhone locations prior to leaving for their destination


The integration with Amazon Alexa, allowing drivers to use voice commands to pay for their parking with the app


The ability to park as a guest. This allows for quick, easy payments the first time a driver is introduced to PayByPhone.


The future belongs to companies who understand Maas—Mobility as a Service. The key to success is reducing friction and removing the pain associated with parking and mobility. If we focus on the needs of people, rather than cars, our opportunities for growth and innovation will be limitless.


“There are many interests trying to define the marketplace and what “mobility” is, but the true definition of mobility will be provided by cities adopting technologies and policies focusing on a frictionless consumer model. We want consumers to be able to decide how they start and end their trips, in addition to selecting a mode of transport they use to complete these trips. The payment platform will be at the center of the entire process.


One of the complaints about Pay by Cell Services is that if there are half a dozen companies supplying the service, a driver in some areas must have half a dozen different apps on their phone to use them as they drive from city to city. How do you see this issue being resolved?


The end game is for the services not to be exclusive, but rather an option for consumers to decide which brand serves them better. The consumer should have a choice and the choice to choose who and how they transact their journey. 


To what do you attribute the growth of PayByPhone? You are the largest provider by far.


Collaboration with our clients is key. When we collaborate closely, that is where we see the highest adoption rates.This collaboration can be in the form of absorbed fees. For example, the Seattle Department of Transportation absorbed the Pay by Cell fee in 2017. Combined with a marketing campaign, 6 months later, their transaction fees doubled. 


Often this collaboration involves PayByPhone’s Marketing Team working with our clients to help create hyper-local marketing campaigns. These campaigns help spread awareness of PayByPhone, and increase adoption rates. 


The Miami Parking Authority is another great example of collaboration. Miami residents who use the PayByPhone app receive a 20 percent discount on their parking, and regularly support PayByPhone usage at local events and on social media.


Our focus on the user experience also sets us apart. It is important that once drivers try the app, that they continue to use it. We see evidence of PayByPhone loyalty online - drivers have asked parking lot operators and cities to implement the service. We also have drivers who use the app locally and then when they travel.


Languages: PayByPhone has been conscious about adding support for a diverse group of languages within our app, increasing PayByPhone’s usability in the communities that we operate within.


Tell us about expansion of Pay by Cell services into off street garages. It would seem a natural extension of the concept.


Pay by Cell systems are located in the lots of many private parking lot providers. This includes Diamond Parking lots in Canada and the U.S., and Professional Parking Management lots (We just became available at 16,000 parking spaces at PPM lots in both Georgia and Florida).


In certain cities, PayByPhone is available on-street, AND within private parking lots. This helps provide a single, seamless parking experience for the driver. Seattle, Vancouver, and Miami are perfect examples of this.


What are the numbers? In a typical community what percentage of the onstreet revenue comes from Pay by Cell. How do you see this growing? 


Adoption Rates - these vary. Some examples we have shared are:


93% adoption rate in Miami


42% in the City of Burnaby


It should be noted that we also have clients who are Pay by Cell only. For example, Pay by Cell was implemented along the Galveston Seawall as the only payment method, and the first form of paid parking along the Seawall. Those without a phone can pay for parking by visiting city-approved vendors who use the PayByPhone app. The Galveston Seawall was able to bring in $200K USD in parking revenue collected in the first year. Today, PayByPhone is also found in Downtown Galveston, alongside pay stations.


Adoption rates are continuously growing across clients. This happens organically as the result of technology adoption and word of mouth, however, a continued, mutual marketing support between PayByPhone and the client plays a role in creating significant increases.


Your career in the parking industry has been in all aspects, on street, off street, consulting – how has this prepared you for your current role at PayByPhone?


It has allowed me to understand how to build high functioning teams with a focus on client relationships and consumer experiences. Although business growth is important (B2C), focus on the consumer allows us as a company to generate a brand awareness and consumer loyalty that is second to none. 


Your company’s headquarters is in Vancouver, BC – You live in Miami – tell us about that commute.


The commute makes it easier to find quiet time during flights to and from Vancouver. It has been a very productive eight months on the job and spending time with my collegues and team in Vancouver makes it all worth it. I have gotten accustomed to the commute and don’t see it as an obstacle at all. Technology gives us the opportunity to stay connected via other means and we make it work. I am responsible for U.S. & Canada, but PayByPhone has a global presence and that makes it much more fun. 


How can technology vendors like PayByPhone help in making the parking experience more attractive to the parker?


Technology vendors make the parking experience more attractive due to the level of convenience that the technologies provide.


The ability to avoid payment machine queues: In some situations, particularly at commuter parking lots, there are few payment machines and many drivers arriving at once. The MBTA commuter lots are an example. Drivers along the MBTA line can park with PayByPhone once they get on the train - helping them stay on time.


The ability to extend their time: Parking with a mobile app means that you don’t have to return to your vehicle to add more parking time. Instead, you can stay where you are and simply extend from your phone. 


Visibility of parking inventory: Allowing our consumers to view their parking choices and parking environment before they park.


Multiple-Languages: The ability to offer a community the opportunity to engage with our technology in their native language. The City of Miami has 50,000 downloads in Spanish. 


John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com



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