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Parking Data Unlocked: Tech Innovations Drive Competitive Advantage

A version of this article was first published as “Data Unlocked: Tech Innovations Drive Competitive Advantagein the June 2022 Issue of Parking magazine by the National Parking Association. To subscribe to Parking magazine and receive industry insights in your inbox every month, click here.

When optimized correctly, data has the power to unleash a large competitive advantage and provide clear pathways to a sophisticated strategic plan.

Data is something that everyone on your team can learn about, understand, and leverage.

Rapid advancements in data integrations in the parking industry can empower operators to maximize value and stand out from the competition.

The consensus among industry leaders today is that leading with data is now essential – it’s no longer just a nice-to-have.

Collecting the Right Data

With so much information available, it can be time-consuming and labor-intensive for operators to evaluate which data sources are the best fit for their operations.

It’s also a challenge to choose data sources that can be appropriately integrated into current reporting processes and that can lead to a higher ROI.

What can happen is that parking operators start to collect data before they have a plan for how to warehouse and monetize it.

To unlock the full potential of data, however, it’s crucial to know how to control where that data goes.

Mastering the Data

So, how do you take control of your data to directly impact your business growth? You don’t need a degree in data science or engineering to harness the power of data.

Integrations can help create predictable revenue outcomes. It’s just a matter of taking steps in the right sequence.

  1. Understanding data and integrations
  2. Driving value through data
  3. Scaling and sharing data
  4. Getting what you want from data

Step 1: Understanding Data & Integrations

It’s key to first grasp the concept of integrations and their value to parking operators.

Integrations facilitate the interaction between two or more technologies, which enables the open exchange of data.

For example, Google Flights uses software that integrations with airlines systems to combine data sets from multiple airlines; this creates an up-to-the-minute flight info database.

Based the user’s search parameters, it then parses and serves up information via an interface, which acts as a communication bridge between all of these systems.

You could say that Google Flights “talks with” American Airlines, Delta, United, etc. to deliver one consolidated list of flight options.

A bi-directional integration is conversational, meaning that when information updates in one system, any system integrated with it receives that updated information in real time, and vice versa.

“Real time”, in this instance, means that refreshes and updates typically happen in milliseconds using full integration via internal communication.

One use case for bi-directional integrations in parking is online reservations platforms and scan-in-out facility access.

For example, a customer reserves a space through a consumer online reservations app or website that is bi-directionally integrated with a PARCS; as a result of the integration, the PARCS receives the reservation.

Then the PARCS sends back a QR code that the online reservations platform shares with the customer to use when they enter the facility. The use of integrations means that exchanged data is instantly updated.

Step 2: Driving Value Through Data

Integrations and data give operators a major competitive advantage in winning both clients and customers.

When integrated into the operator’s systems, data sources for search, transaction, occupancy, and utilization show what’s happening in the facility at any given time.

This allows different departments within the organization to use this data to make decisions that monetize it and keep their operations clean, efficient, and centralized.

Integrations also allow operators to obtain their customers’ info so they can market to them directly.

They can enable operators to prognosticate based on length-of-stay data obtained from PARCS and search and conversion data from online seller channels. The result is a crystal-clear picture of average transaction value and how it varies based on time of day, day of week, by demand channel, and more.

Integrations can also help operators avoid overstaffing and increase on-site staff’s efficiency through a better understanding of the volume of vehicles and the timing of ingress and egress.

And, through automation of data compilation for reporting and revenue reconciliation, integrations can consolidate operations and drastically reduce the amount of time required (and human error involved) with these functions.

Step 3: Scaling & Sharing Data

The most effective organizations have systems in place for getting and using data that can be scaled without putting extra strain on their teams.

Equally important is that these organization demonstrate expertise and indispensability to clients who can’t make that data actionable on their own.

For example, integrations into a business development tool that pulls and centralizes labor, search and demand, and transaction data in real time give operators the power to build an automated predictive model.

Such a tool’s net profit forecasts can be a meaningful contribution to long-term client relationships and increase retention.

Client relationships can also benefits from the use of integrations to facilitate closed loop revenue reconciliation and limit revenue slippage.

Through the integration of data from seller channels (consumer online reservations platforms, etc.) with PARCS data, both operator and client can see if every park was properly paid for.

Source: Parking Magazine, June 2022

Step 4: Getting What You Want from Data

Data and integrations don’t need to seem opaque, even for parking operators who don’t have in-house development resources.

Even advanced data management, like data silo access, is easily configurable with the right integrations and partnerships.

For instance, you may not want data from your facilities in Seattle combined with data from your Denver facilities so you can assess and optimize performance for each of these markets individually.

In terms of finding the right partnerships to help you get what you want from data, there are many options to consider.

The key is to identify the best technology partners that can help you unlock, de-silo, and consolidate data seamlessly within your existing systems, as well as add value through new tech and integrations.

When you’re evaluating integration partners, think of “SAM”:

Searchable, Actionable, and Measurable data

Effective integrations should give you access to data such as:

  1. Occupancy data – The core value of real-time data is understanding facility occupancy. This can come from – portfolio-wide, in real time – integrations with on-site equipment like PARCS, LPR, gates, and sensors.
  2. Search data – Online seller channels provide this information, illuminating when and where customers look for parking, and at which rates they pull the trigger.
  3. Transaction data – Optimize pricing and avoid the race-to-the-bottom with online seller channels and integrations with PARCS, LPR, and scan-to-pay; this combo shows the price point customers prefer for how long they want to park.
  4. Utilization data – PARCS are a powerhouse for utilization data; these integrations reveal granular facility occupancy, ingress and egress, stall turnover, and more.
  5. Amenity and technology data – Info about how customers interface with amenities and technologies before, during, and after the park can inform investments and capital improvement decisions.

Knowledge Is Power

Operators who understand and take advantage of accessing and integrating data can position themselves competitively in the marketplace and win more clients and customers.

With the right technology partners, parking industry owners, developers, and operators can integrate new tech into their existing internal systems.

Learning the basics of gathering and parsing real-time data is the next horizon in the parking industry.

It’s not too soon to begin.

Sarah Becherer

Sarah is the Vice President of Growth at Ocra. Her aim is to help people and businesses operate to their full potential through meaningful content powered by by creativity, empathy, and shared experience. Her non-parking interests include making pasta, exchanging postcards, studying French, accumulating tattoos, and exploring unfamiliar places.

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