The “shopping season” is officially underway, as two of the top three spending events in retail begin this month: back to school and back to college, which are then followed by the quickly approaching holiday blitz. And the method by which consumers embrace these shopping events is transforming right before our eyes. Over the last few years, online retailers have dominated the shopping market, and last year was no exception. In the 2018 holiday shopping season, consumers spent a whopping $126 billion online.
As this shift continues and we increasingly see the closing of big-box retailers, it may seem like the future of brick-and-mortar retail looks grim. However, that may not need to be the case. While online shopping brings convenience to shoppers, such as avoiding long lines and the ability to shop day or night, an NPR poll shows that a majority of Americans who shop online actually prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store.
Therefore, it’s up to brick-and-mortar retailers to determine what they can do to win back their customers and streamline the shopping experience. One obvious, quick solution (that is likely top-of-mind for many consumers) is to improve the customer’s first and last impression of a store: parking. It’s common for shoppers to avoid traveling to a store if they know they’ll be endlessly searching the parking lot for a space. Fortunately, the latest innovative technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), enables smart parking solutions that simplify this experience and satisfy both the retailer and its customers. In fact, Smart parking doesn’t just simplify experiences, it creates real business value, in a variety of ways:
According to the aforementioned NPR poll, one of the most motivating factors for consumers to shop online is speed. The average time it takes to park at a shopping mall with old fashioned parking technology is 12 minutes. From the consumer’s prospective, in that same time, multiple online purchases can be made without the hassle and frustration.
Advanced smart parking technology reduces the time spent searching for a space, creating a happier customer and allowing them to spend more time in the store. And with an average of $1.29 spent per minute in an average mall, this also means more success for retailers. With a combination of real-time detection of available parking spaces and digital signage guiding drivers to open spots, time required to park can be reduced by 30% or more. In a shopping mall with 1,000 parking spaces, this improvement can result in annual revenue gains of more than $4 million.
Time savings from more efficient parking does not only generate more revenue, it also directly reduces vehicle emissions. Pollution from vehicles leads to poor air quality around the shopping area, and that pollution directly contributes to climate change. In that same shopping mall with 1,000 parking spaces, shoppers typically drive the equivalent of 75 times around the world each year simply searching for a spot. Imagine the impact of reducing this by 30%: 25 trips around the world are saved every year.
One of the key benefits of the IoT and the world of connected devices is the data that can be collected and analyzed. Data is incredibly helpful for businesses to better understand their customers and behaviors — information retailers are always craving.
Advanced smart parking solutions can provide retailers real-time data relating to various characteristics, such as the location of each car, parking violations, and how long each shopper spends in the store. Retailers can use this information to learn about their own customers’ behavior, measure effects of marketing campaigns, and plan more effective traffic patterns.
Starting and ending the shopping experience with seamless parking can lead to increased customer satisfaction, but new smart parking technology can take this a step further. For years, brands have created loyalty programs with rewards, bonuses and discounts, and now parking can become part of these efforts.
New intelligent parking technology, originally designed to act as a digital permit, can also be used to reserve parking spots in specified areas. Imagine VIP customers being able to reserve a space in advance, which not only maximizes their time spent shopping at the favorite store but also provides additional data to the retailer regarding the most loyal and top-spending customers, and allows salespeople to know in advance about the arrival of their best customers.
A comprehensive solution
Americans are estimated to spend $26.2 billion during the 2019 back-to-school shopping season, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars for the upcoming holidays. Brick-and-mortar retailers simply can’t afford to lose any more money.
Smart parking technology can be extremely cost efficient while increasing ROI for retailers, and improving our climate. It is a customer engagement tool, a loyalty tactic and a data collector all in one. A quick technology upgrade to the old-fashioned parking issue can better prepare a retailer or shopping center for the upcoming holiday season.