Friday, December 6, 2013

Parking Apps Take Stress Out of Holiday Shopping

App shows parking usage at lots and garages
One of the biggest drawbacks and frustrations to holiday shopping in America's shopping malls is parking, or the lack thereof.  Many times you would not set out for the mall in the first place if you know the battle for a parking space that awaits you.  Now a raft of new parking apps monitor the spaces available in shopping area lots and garages, and then even help you remember where you parked once you find a space.

At present, about 25 to 30 thousand locations use electronic monitoring that provides information to the apps.  But because of the utility and popularity of parking apps, both the number of apps and the number of shopping centers included double or triple each year.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The New York Times

Link to article:
Secret Weapon in Mall Battle - Parking Apps

Excerpt: "The fight for a mall parking spot, long a necessary evil of Black Friday, is growing easier thanks to the proliferation of new technologies, from apps and sensors to color-coded lights and electronic boards.

It’s one way that malls and shopping districts are trying to lure customers away from their computers, into the realm of their brick-and-mortar stores.

'What happens when there’s no spots? People drive around and become frustrated,' said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. 'Who wants to start their shopping experience frustrated?'

ParkMe, which tracks more than 28,000 locations worldwide, has emerged as a mainstay app for mall customers navigating the nation’s parking lots. With the app, they can find the closest and least expensive lots, as well as alternative garage entrances. The app’s user base surged 97 percent in the past year, and it is adding hundreds of garages to its database.

'If there’s a way to get in off the beaten path, you can reduce stress,' said Sam Friedman, ParkMe’s co-founder and chief executive.

The app’s technology is simple enough: a magnetic loop at the garage clocks the number of times the gate lifts to admit or release a car, Mr. Friedman said. ParkMe also lets a customer reserve a spot in certain locations, like the Shore Hotel down the road from Santa Monica Place. Ms. Scott said she used that service during busy summer months.

Other parking apps are gaining traction as well. Parkopedia, which is linked to 26,000 lots in North America, also allows users to search parking sites, availability and prices using their smartphones. QuickPay plans to start in hundreds of malls in the United States next year to help shoppers pay for garage and metered spots and valet services from their smartphone.

'Parking is the gateway to the shopping experience,' QuickPay’s founder, Barney Pell, said. 'It can mean the success or failure of your whole business.'

Customers expect more than they did 10 years ago, said Casey Jones, a vice president for institutional services at Standard Parking, the Chicago-based provider of parking facility management services, and a past chairman of the International Parking Institute."

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