Tech tries to end the annoying search for mall parking spots

Discussion
Photo: MyPark
Nov 29, 2017
Tom Ryan

Malls around the country are introducing a host of high-tech solutions to help manage the annoying chore of parking.

Towson Town Center in Towson, MD, for instance, recently completed the installation of Park Assist technology featuring color-coded parking decks and signage. Signs shine green to show when spaces are available, red where there are none and blue for handicapped availability.

Each level is color-coded to help people find their cars easier, and 1,600 standardized signs have been added to improve navigation. Under the new system, time spent looking for parking fell 44 percent while the number of drivers searching more than five minutes fell 12 percent, according to a statement.

In a similar manner, Park City Center in Lancaster, PA earlier this year rolled out new technology from INRIX that uses heat maps and GPS data to identify which parking lots are full and which are not. Red areas on the map indicate when a lot is full or nearly full, yellow means it’s somewhat full and green means largely empty.

Offering reserved parking is also becoming more common.

In early November, the Mall of America became the first shopping complex in the Midwest to offer on-demand parking. Using the MyPark app, shoppers can reserve one of 20 parking spots near the main entrances. Reservations can be made a few minutes before arrival or up to six months in advance. The service costs $6 for up to two hours and $3 for each additional hour. The spots are protected by a metal barrier that lowers when activated by the smart phone app.

Finally, paying for parking is going high-tech. The Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles recently introduced a “Smart Parking” program that enables guests to pay for their parking through an app instead of with a traditional paper ticket. In Portland, OR, a “Parking Kitty” car-payment app meows three times before the driver’s time expires to remind them to get back to the car or to request and pay for additional time.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where are the biggest opportunities for technology to improve parking at large shopping centers? Which of the methods mentioned (or others you’ve seen) have the greatest roll-out potential?

Braintrust
"I can imagine retailers taking this further by offering services such as delivery to your car or parking area. "
"Leading the consumer to an open parking space quickly and easily is the best service the center can provide."
"I first saw a red and green light system in operation in China, where it’s commonplace. It’s a great, easy system to use for customers."

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15 Comments on "Tech tries to end the annoying search for mall parking spots"

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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The red/green/blue lighting is a very simple but effective way of making parking easier. I first experienced this at Westfield Stratford in London and it saved me the task of driving endlessly up and down rows to find a parking space. Simple and smart!

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Parking is always an issue especially during peak shopping times, so any method to improve it is excellent. I like the red and green light concept because it’s a simple system that doesn’t require downloading an app or the person to be technologically savvy. Paying for reserved parking is okay for those who can afford it, but the majority of customers shopping will not want to lay out the extra cash. And at a time when malls need to do whatever they can to get customers in, I would suggest keeping that to a minimum. However, I see long-term the… Read more »
Al McClain
Staff

Many airport garages now have signs telling you how many spaces are left on each level. Makes it pretty easy to figure out which level to try. But, a larger point is why do so many malls charge for parking when they are desperate to get more traffic? If they really want more shoppers, make parking free, especially if the shopper actually shops. Best of all is free valet parking right at the entrance. It’s a perk that a lot of high-end shoppers appreciate.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Anything that can create a better customer experience is good for the retailers in the larger shopping centers. Some excuses for not going to the mall include … “always so much traffic,” and “it’s hard to find a parking spot.” That’s friction that can be eliminated, at least partially, with a system that helps customers know where there are available parking spaces.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust
Airport parking seems to be miles ahead of many malls. The best are now monitoring parking by individual stall, using digital signs to indicate how many stalls are available by floor and the using colored lights to direct you to open stalls. With IoT technology, every mall should be able to individually monitor stall availability in real time, and provide that information to customers via their phone. Yes it is an additional expense, but it might be the best investment they can make to make it as easy as possible for customers to come to stores. The alternatives are just… Read more »
Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

It’s best to roll out the premium paid parking spaces near the mall entrances. When you are in a hurry (think December 23rd at noon), this could be wildly popular among procrastinators like me. At that point, a few dollars is worth the time/aggravation it saves.

Great idea on the green/red/blue signs too. These ideas are important to make the buying journey as pleasant as possible for shoppers. Encourage them to come back!

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I classify this under service design which all retailers must, MUST undertake at every interaction point. Sure, parking assistance makes sense, especially those that are intuitive, free, and require little more than a glance by drivers, such as color coding. That said, this is a drop in the bucket for what ails malls.

Sunny Kumar
BrainTrust

I can imagine retailers taking this further by offering services such as delivery to your car or parking area. This helps with that other annoying shopping pain point, carrying all of those shopping bags around the stores.

Yoav Vilner
BrainTrust
13 days 2 minutes ago
I really don’t see any innovation here except maybe for the “reserved parking” technology. All these “high-tech” solutions have been implemented and used for years now in many countries and their effects on retail should be clear by now. I believe easy parking solutions do have an impact on the number of mall visitors since one of the main issues that stops customers from going to malls really is the lack of parking availability. However, the potential technology holds for parking solutions goes far beyond the ones mentioned and, now that parking availability has become a real issue, we’ll probably… Read more »
Peter Luff
BrainTrust
I first saw a red and green light system in operation in China, where it’s commonplace. It’s a great, easy system to use for customers. Apps only work if you are a regular, I would argue. The last one feels like the most flawed approach with the auto barriers for reserved spots. Imagine pulling up to a parking lot only to be denied a space by those who are more affluent and who have not yet arrived. This then has an impact for the retail outlets. If the affluent shopper has not arrived and has changed their mind (after all,… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Just when we think malls are dying, we have this topic come up! Yes, there is a real problem with parking in major markets, however these and other technologies are definitely optimizing the space available for shoppers.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Leading the consumer to an open parking space quickly and easily is the best service the center can provide. Whether this is done through lights, signs or apps, is not as important as having an accurate map of the open spaces and an easy path to get there. Lights are probably the best, but it may be an expensive solution. Anything that can give the consumer visibility to the availability and location of the open spot on their smartphone is a winner for the consumer and the center.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Providing easy to see and understand dynamic markings of available parking spaces is the number one thing malls can do to improve the experience. During the holiday shopping season this is a well-known time waster shoppers have to suffer through. Knowing that you won’t lose time searching for parking is very attractive to shoppers who thrive on convenience!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Certainly “finding a space,” as in indicators that show availability, is a win for everyone. To expand this topic a bit, though, I think the issue in the future is going to be matching parking lot size to the fact that (average) mall traffic is diminishing, but still needs to provide for holiday peaks … which may not be diminishing. (Of course this discord would be even more reason to adopt technologies to optimize what you have.)

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

The red yellow green is good and easy to see while driving without having to refer to mobile tech. I have seen multi-level parking lots with empty space counters on each floor which is also useful in airport long-term parking lots. Fact is, during holidays parking is a stressful activity just because of the crowds. A bit of tech and information goes a long way.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I can imagine retailers taking this further by offering services such as delivery to your car or parking area. "
"Leading the consumer to an open parking space quickly and easily is the best service the center can provide."
"I first saw a red and green light system in operation in China, where it’s commonplace. It’s a great, easy system to use for customers."

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