Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Car park operators have traditionally been slow to engage with customers online and Secure Parking, with 250 locations across Australia and New Zealand, is no exception.
Secure Parking’s previous website, which first went live in 2002 and was updated with a new CMS four years later, was inflexible and restricted the company from making changes quickly. This was undesirable in a fast moving industry where pricing changes often. In fact, Secure Parking can make up to 50 rate changes every week and each one has to be added to the site.
“We had to wait a few days for a Web developer to get online and make changes to our parking rates, which meant we were potentially losing opportunities for business,” said Andrew Sapir, corporate marketing manager at Secure Parking.
"When customers come to our site, their main objective is to find the cheapest or most convenient parking available with an area, but most parking sites, including our old one, force them to manually search through all the relevant car parks to find the best deal."
According to Sapir, the company was using a “cookie cutter” approach that limited it from easily creating new products.
"The system we were using basically restricted us to offering standard early bird, evening and weekend rates. We couldn't quickly create new, innovative products. So we started looking to build a new site that would enable us to introduce an e-commerce capability to turn our website into a revenue-generating tool,” he said.
In December 2012, Secure Parking went live with a new website, based on the Sitecore 6.5 content management system. The site now generates $1 million every month in online Secure-a-Spot bookings and monthly parking sales.
A key part of Secure Parking’s new website is Deal Finder, a tool enabling users to search parking by location, date and time, and then view all available car parks in the area, ranked with the cheapest or closest first.
“Parking is very different to a traditional service – people only park if they have to be somewhere; although you can’t create an artificial demand for parking like a retail product or service by linking parking to an event or venue you can attract new business,” Sapir commented.
Still, the company has harnessed social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to directly pitch its parking rates and locations to customers before they leave for a concert or sporting event for instance. Organisations like the Melbourne Comedy Festival and Sydney Festival are also picking up Secure Parking’s tweets and sending them to their own followers.
Since launch, the company has seen a marked increase in email response rates and its Facebook fan base has more than double from 6000 pre-launch to 15,000+ post launch, Sapir said.
The number of visitors to the site has increased by 52 per cent in 2013 over 2012, and around 14 per cent of visitors to Secure Parking’s website will book parking online.
Although these numbers are the result of extensive Facebook and Google Adword advertising, Sapir said user behaviour shows the site now acts as a conversion tool.
“We find most users only ‘like’ us after looking around the new site first,” he said.
The ability to make last-minute updates is also key to the success of Secure Parking’s Secure-a-Spot online booking service.
“The Secure-a-Spot service enables us to fill empty spaces; for example, if we see that a certain car park has many empty spaces in the run-up to the weekend, we can post a last-minute ‘$5 weekend parking’ deal, to encourage users to secure spots in advance. In order for this service to work, we have to be able to react quickly,” said Sapir.
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