In our FlashFuture ‘21 livestream event, which you can watch here, we discussed the direction we see mobility and parking headed towards. Our insights are driven by what the modern parker wants: enhanced experiences, a mobile-first transaction environment, and choices in mobility methods. These three commuter and traveler desires allow us to forge ahead and chart out the mobility customer journey moving forward.
Digitization as a Catalyst to a New Parking Journey
The above desires also hint at what is largely fueling and driving new mobility journeys: digitization. Digitization is both a boon and a crisis for cities and mobility operators. It is a crisis because both realize the need to switch from legacy analog equipment to digital due to consumer habits. It’s a boon, and ultimately a benefit to how we all live our lives, because digitization opens up enormous opportunities to connect with travelers, commuters, and occasional telecommuters in ways that haven’t been done before.
Therefore, digitization is a constant theme running through the customer journey on an average day in a traveler’s life. Industry trends support this theory as more mobility options are being utilized with growing micro-mobility segments and more payments turn digital and contactless.
The New Customer Journey Centers on the Mobility Hub
What’s the natural course of evolution for services and transactions that increasingly become digital? A mobility hub: a center of mobility services that can connect you to multiple forms of travel. You’ll be able to schedule your trips, book your parking, and pay without having to navigate from service to service. The following is what the new customer parking journey can look like within the context of mobility hubs and digitization.
The modern parking journey begins with a traveler being able to map out the entirety of their trip and reserving parking before leaving. While mapping out a journey is nothing new, the ability to reserve parking along with destination tickets is an emerging practice still being perfected. An example is paying for your Ticketmaster event and parking together, taking the stress of finding a parking space out of the equation. This type of pairing is increasing in prevalence and will also lead to reserving a table for two along with your parking or valet.
After the consolidation of planning and reserving comes the journey itself. Today, your phone, or even your car, can optimize your trip mid-route through integrations with Alexa, Siri, or Google Maps. These integrations are a large part of making a user’s trip more seamless. This journey applies to workers in the gig economy as well—those who deliver for Instacart or drive for ride-share companies. As a parking operator, you should be thinking about these people integrating into your mobility hub to provide them with service. Flash’s business intelligence extends to these demand-side situations through the integration of Arrive’s platform and other partners.
In the journey to park, the experience of arriving at your asset’s location is a mixture of analog and digital. Either way, you’re greeted by signs that may direct you and tell you the current prices, if you haven’t paid already at the start of your journey. It’s the access control that is the differentiating factor between hassle and hassle-free—exactly where Flash has adamantly been working to innovate.
When thinking about making parking easy, it comes down to making entering and leaving as fast as possible. The modern parking access point forgoes paper tickets for a wave of the hand. It skips waiting to grab a ticket from the attendant by scanning your license plate or making your phone your ticket. It’s these smart parking solutions that enable the frictionless experience of a mobility hub.
Suppose e-parking reservations are involved from the planning phase of the journey. In that case, the person will already have obtained their ticket virtually before even getting to the garage, thereby connecting each stage of the journey.
The parking destination of a mobility journey is rife with technological enhancements of the past decade or so. There are unique experiences depending on the vertical and the types of additional services provided by the operator. Examples of verticals with unique parking processes range from airports to hospitals, where the priorities differ for both.
For airports, convenience and transportation to terminals are key, whereas safety and proximity are paramount for hospital settings. Within forward-thinking parking assets, the customer also has multiple add-on services available. These can take various forms ranging from micro-mobility scooters to EV charging stations. Operators can also open services to businesses, arranging fleet management options like ride-share parking or delivery vehicle storage.
Perhaps the most future-facing aspect of the parking customer journey is the payment. It’s arguably the payment experience that has the largest impact on time in parking, and therefore it’s the most important in terms of convenience. What differs from paying for parking today versus paying in the past is that now, transactions can happen across multiple steps in the journey. A person can reserve and pay for their spot before they even arrive at the destination.
If payment does happen at the asset, then there are alternatives to paying with cash. A person can pay from their phone via account information or use their phone as the payment method with Google or Apple Pay—another way that parking can integrate with outside services.
The world of mobility finds itself within a fertile crescent like never before, with many ways to facilitate transportation. Parking is at the center of new infrastructure and city planning. It is helping create the new customer journey and is, as Flash CEO Dan Sharplin describes, “the key to better infrastructure and smart cities.”
Operators should now take stock of the available technologies, such as cloud-based software and parking systems (like those provided via hardware-as-a-service) to make sure they’re able to cover the span of new mobility journeys. By providing benefits at each step of the process, operators can ensure that they remain visible and competitive.
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