Can Smart Parking Help Save the Brick-and-Mortar Retailer?

Smart parking could be key to bringing back customers to physical stores by providing seamless parking and data that can improve business KPIs, improve the customer experience and reduce emissions.

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Illustration: © IoT For All

The rise of connected devices has shifted the conversation across a number of industries, and retailers are feeling the crunch. As the Internet of Things (IoT) is widely adopted — 25 billion devices are expected to be connected by 2021, according to a 2018 Gartner forecast — it’s driving efficiencies across numerous industries, and retail is most well-positioned to benefit.

While online retailers have previously been the leaders in adopting new technologies, IoT presents enormous opportunities for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. One such opportunity is reinventing the parking search.

Shopping at a brick-and-mortar location starts with looking for parking, and the average driver wastes 12 minutes finding a spot at the average mall. With artificial intelligence (AI)-powered IoT devices, the parking search time can be dramatically reduced, helping to reinvigorate brick-and-mortar retailers.

Smart Retail – Customer Satisfaction

A retailer’s parking situation is the first and last impression made on a customer. A negative experience searching for a space can set a negative tone for the entire trip, reducing time spent shopping and negatively impacting the brand experience. The same goes for when a customer is leaving the store: a productive and enjoyable shopping trip can be soured by forgetting where the car is parked or having to spend extra time trying to exit the area.

Smart parking technology that guides drivers directly to an open parking spot eliminates the frustration and increases customer satisfaction with their entire shopping experience. Overhead sensors mounted on lampposts can gather information on available and occupied spaces in real-time and then transmit that data to digital signage that easily guides drivers.

Advanced Data for the Retailer

Customers aren’t the only ones that stand to benefit from smart parking technology. Parking operators can gain increased visibility into their operations through real-time data collected within the backend of the software platform. This information can provide operators with information such as how long a car has been parked or if there are any parking violations such as unauthorized use of loading zones or handicap parking. This empowers the retailer to better understand one of their greatest assets and make quick and educated decisions if needed.

This data also goes beyond the ability to analyze parking trends and can help management learn more about their organization and marketing efforts. For example, the average length of stay of customers at the retailer can indicate which marketing strategies are working and when the best times are to promote sales.

Creating a Rewarding Experience

Many large retailers leverage credit cards or rewards programs to provide a discount, bonus or gift to customers based on their spending habits, but this type of initiative doesn’t have to be limited to shopping. Imagine going to a shopping center during the busy holiday season and pulling into a parking spot that was specifically reserved for you ahead of time.

Advanced smart parking technology facilitates the creation of temporary parking permits that streamline management and guidance for surface lots and parking garages. Through a single card and mobile application, customers can receive a message detailing which spaces are available as they approach a lot, reserve a space before arriving and even make payments if necessary. This seamless process will encourage drivers to choose retailers that care about most.

Reduce Emissions

The search for parking also creates an incredible amount of pollution. For example, in a 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. This also dumps around an estimated 524 tons of unnecessary CO2 emissions into the environment. Smart parking using live data collected from connected technology can reduce the search for parking by at least 30 percent. Not only can the retailer feel great about its part to save the environment, but a report by Nielsen found that 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, so it’s likely that they will also pick a shopping center that has actively chosen to reduce its carbon footprint.

In these times of unprecedented challenges for brick-and-mortar retail, adopting advanced new technologies like smart parking can transform the guest experience from one of hassle and stress, to seamless and positive, while gaining data on customer behavior. Smart retail solutions might just be what brick-and-mortar retailers need to turn around.

Written by Thomas Hohenacker, CEO & President of Cleverciti