How Much Revenue Do You Leave on the Table?
It has been almost 15 years since Expedia.com turned the airline industry on its head. Formed in 1996 within a small division at Microsoft, Expedia was launched to the online world, giving consumers a revolutionary way to research and book travel.
Today, the Internet has become the predominant channel for airline and travel bookings. Consider these numbers: According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Foundation, about 182 million American adults (79% of all American adults) use the Internet. More than 58% of these users (105 million American adults) used the Internet to plan their travel during the past year. And 81% of the 105 million travel planners made travel purchases online in the past year, translating into 85 million online travel bookers.
For travel planners, the Internet makes it easy to find and book travel products or services. Much of the unknown is eliminated through comparison shopping, pictures, videos, online reviews and more, making consumers confident in their choices. Since 2000, the percentage of Internet users making travel reservations, such as airline tickets, hotel rooms or rental cars, rose from 22% to 52%.
While airline tickets, overnight lodging accommodations and car rentals are the dominant travel products and services being purchased online today, thereís an opportunity for the parking industry to take advantage of the blueprint crafted by the aforementioned industries to leverage the efficiencies and marketing reach of the Internet.
Yet, despite this opportunity, many parking owners and operators are turning a blind eye to the online world. Perhaps there is trepidation of listing parking rates online, lack of technology prowess, or misaligned interests between owners and operators. Whatever the reason, owners and operators are currently relying on inefficient ways to market their parking (e.g., rate boards outside a parking facility, guy standing in the street waving people in). This is not a good long-term marketing strategy and will result in significant revenue left on the table.
The Internet, unlike any other medium, enables you to effectively broadcast your parking facility to consumers 24/7/365. Whether you want to promote your hours of operation, location, pricing, services offered or allow pre-sales, the benefits of having an Internet presence cannot be overstated.
Think about it. If a customer goes online to find parking near your location and the competing lot down the street has an online presence and you donít, the chances of your getting that customerís business is close to nil. Your competitor may charge more or be farther away from the customerís destination than your facility, but if youíre not online, then, as they say, ďout of sight, out of mind.Ē
Now, creating a website isnít the end game. Just having a slick site promoting your facility isnít good enough. The real question is, how are potential customers going to find you online?
In order for customers to do that, you need to understand who your customers are. Does your parking facility attract customers looking for hourly, daily, monthly or event parking?
For example, if youíre located near a mall, a good strategy would be to approach the retail stores and restaurants within the complex to let them know of your competitive parking rates. To promote more foot traffic, local businesses may be willing to place a banner in-store, encouraging customers to visit your website for coupons or weekly specials.
Or perhaps your facility is within walking distance of an event venue. Event venues, like stadiums, recognize that parking is a crucial factor in filling seats, and are always looking for ways to improve the fanís experience in getting to the game. A partnership between your facility and the venue can result in its promoting your website. In addition, a few third-party websites that operate similarly to Expedia.com (e.g., ParkWhiz.com, of which Iím CEO) can effectively market your facility via the Internet and other channels to interested consumers as well.
The bottom line is that the airline, hotel and other industries have shown that having an online presence is crucial to increasing your parking facility revenues. However, that online presence is effective only if you can reach your potential customers and convert them into paying customers.
Aashish Dalal is CEO of ParkWhiz.com, which provides online tools to help parking operators earn more money from their spaces.