Originally published in the April 2021 edition of Parking Today Magazine
The High Expectations of Today’s Consumer
Consumers today have very high expectations. They expect to be catered to. They want service on their terms. And if they don’t get what the service they want, you will definitely hear about it.
One thing has come through loud and clear: people want more choices when it comes to mobile payments.
This is the reality we face every day in the parking industry. For a long time, the way to pay for parking was the old fashioned parking meter that required coins. As technology advanced, consumers complained that they didn’t carry coins anymore. They wanted to pay with credit cards. So, the meters began to accept credit cards. Then people asked for a mobile payment option to make paying for parking even easier. So, companies provided an app enabling people to skip the meter and pay on their smartphone.
Now consumers say they don’t want to download a mobile app. But they still want to make a contactless payment. As one review in the app store said: “I can’t believe they make you download a mobile app to park! Who has time for that?”
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Sometimes, it seems like we will never totally satisfy our customers. From a psychological perspective, this dynamic is known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” According to the Maslow framework, as soon as a person’s needs are fully met, they move to the next level of needs. It is basically a never-ending cycle. The truth is, consumers will never be satisfied, and we have to accept that.
That does not mean we just throw our hands in the air and give up. We have to keep trying to provide a better parking experience. We can’t expect consumers to come to us. We have to meet consumers where they are.
Meeting Consumers Where They Are
Meeting consumers where they are means listening to their needs and coming up with new solutions. According to a recent research study, consumers want more options for parking payments. Most cities today offer a binary choice – meter or one app. Now, for many people, that should be sufficient. You are giving two relatively good options for consumers. But, for many, it is still not enough.
In the past two years, one thing has come through loud and clear: people want more choices when it comes to mobile payment. In fact, 62 percent of our users say having multiple contactless options is “important.” We consistently see many complaints in app store reviews about people not wanting to download a full-featured iOS or Android app to pay for parking. They would prefer a mobile web browser or a text-to-park option.
The biggest complaints usually come from the people who don’t park that often, but who would prefer to make a contactless payment. Some of these people might be traveling to a new city, and they don’t want to download the app because it’s not available where they live. Some people visiting from overseas may not even be able to download the app from the U.S. app store because their device is set up for another country.
Adding More Options for Contactless Parking Payments
To solve this problem and meet consumers where they are, our team has spent the last year developing new solutions designed to expand the available contactless options.
We recently launched our new lightweight mobile web app. This lets a user quickly and easily make a parking payment from a mobile web browser without having to download an iOS or Android app. This new web app also offers a guest checkout option, so users do not even have to create a full account to make a parking payment.
We also made it easier to access the web app. New signage features a QR code and a text to park option where you text the word “PARK” to 77223 and get a link to start your parking session. So, in just a few seconds, you can pay for parking and be on your way.
Paying for Parking with Google
Beyond just our solutions, we looked for partners who could help us provide more options. If you go to the Navigation category of the app store, you will see that the No. 1 app is Google Maps. So, we said, why not partner with Google to let people pay for parking right from Google Maps?
Making It Easy for Parking Providers
The great thing for parking providers is that there is no additional work required. All the rates and policies are exactly the same whether a user pays using an iOS or Android app, a web app, or Google Pay. These rates are stored in one central database in the 360 Platform that feeds data to all the different payment apps. So, parking providers can now offer residents and visitors many more contactless parking payment options without any additional work on their end.
Looking to the future, there is amazing innovation on the horizon, including virtual reality, autonomous cars, voice recognition, wearables, artificial intelligence, and more. As technology evolves, so will the needs of the consumer. The parking industry needs to stay on top of these trends, so we are always ready to meet consumers where they are.
Jeff Perkins is CMO and Head of Product at ParkMobile. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.