Demystifying The 200+ Parking App Ecosystem

This article was originally published in Parking Today’s technology issue last July. Mark Lawrence, SpotHero’s CEO and the co-founder of ParkingExec, wrote the piece to explain some of the differences between the parking apps on the market at the time. We are sharing it here today (with a few updates) because, almost a year later, the topic remains highly relevant.

 

If you have attended a parking trade show recently, you know parking apps have been springing up all over the place. It may seem that all these apps are directly competing with one another. In reality, the parking app landscape is more diverse than meets the eye, and there are some apps that may be better suited than others for your operations.

 

On-Street Parking Apps Vs. Off-Street Parking Apps

The first important distinction to make is whether the app is meant for on-street parking or off-street parking. There are many apps (such as Parkmobile, Passport and Pango) that help drivers find on-street parking and pay for it through their mobile phone.

While street parking apps certainly vary in many ways, from redemption method to user experience, that’s not what we’re focusing on here. In this article, you will find a comparison of the parking apps that have the end goal of putting cars in an off-street facility.

There are 3 distinctions within the off-street parking app category:

  1. Reservation apps
  2. On-demand valet apps
  3. Information apps

If you are an off-street parking operator, these 3 types of apps all want to put cars in your facility, but their mechanisms are very different.

 

Parking Reservation Apps Are All Different

Reservation apps can be thought of as a web and mobile marketing platform for your parking facility. They allow you to reach customers who are looking for parking online or on their phone. Drivers can search for parking and reserve a spot on the app. You can strategically price your inventory on a reservation app to optimize sales by time and location, minimizing unfilled spots.

spothero parking map
A screenshot from the SpotHero website.

Here are some parking reservation apps to know:

1. ParkWhiz – ParkWhiz is the category leader in event parking. They currently have partnerships with booking agents such as StubHub and ShowClix. The StubHub partnership began in 2013 but expanded significantly in 2015. Google Play, the platform for downloading Android Apps, places ParkWhiz in the category of 100,000 to 500,000 downloads. They have 1,100 customer reviews on Google Play. ParkWhiz also has mobile apps for iOS and Amazon Fire. Their website states they operate in 200+ cities.

2. Parking Panda – Parking Panda also has event parking as a core strength. Some of their most prominent partnerships are with the MLB and Amtrak. Parking Panda has 100,000 to 500,000 downloads and 382 customer reviews on Google Play. The mobile app is also available on iOS and Windows. Parking Parking Panda sells parking in over 40 cities.

3. SpotHero – SpotHero’s strength is in transient and monthly parking, and providing yield management for their parking partners. They also offer event parking but focus more on attracting customers who might otherwise choose an alternative form of transportation other than driving. SpotHero has 100,000 to 500,000 downloads and 1,676 reviews on Google Play. They also have an iOS app and operate in 13 cities across the country. I feel obligated to point out here that I am the founder of SpotHero, in the interest of full disclosure.

4. GottaPark – GottaPark is more web-focused than the other parking reservation apps. In fact, GottaPark doesn’t have a mobile app at all. The service lists 14 cities of operation on their website and mostly focuses on transient and airport parking.

We couldn’t discuss parking reservation apps with mentioning their fees. The way parking reservation apps make money is by taking a commission on transactions. They use this revenue to market your facility to an online and mobile audience.

While it may initially seem desirable to partner with a reservation app with lower fees, I would argue that it is more important to find a company that can drive the most customers to your facility. In other words: focus on overall incremental revenue, not per-transaction fee.

 

On-Demand Valet Apps Are The Newest Trend In Parking Apps

On-demand valet apps rose to popularity in 2014, and they also put cars into off-street facilities. The concept is simple. Just like an operator they valet cars, but with the added benefit of leveraging technology in the form of a mobile app.

From a parking operator perspective,  the on-demand valet company gets access to your inventory of spots and will park their customers’ cars there.  You can bring in extra cars from an on-demand valet to increase profits, but recognize that the consumer will never have any interaction with your company, so this may not be the best strategy to acquire repeat customers.

From a consumer perspective, a driver can request a valet anywhere in the city, the valet will come pick their car up, park in an off-street facility, and return the car to the driver when it is requested again.

The on-demand valet category has changed a lot since this article was originally written. We removed some of this section but encourage you to check out this overview for updated information.

 

Parking Information Apps Give Drivers The Data They Crave

The last major category of off-street parking apps are information apps. These apps provide data on where parking facilities exist and how much they cost, but with a few exceptions they don’t do transactions on the app itself. Listing your company on an information app will allow drivers to locate your facility and compare your locations and rates to surrounding facilities.

It costs you nothing to work with a parking information app, and can only help your business. A good way to think about these apps is that they essentially provide you with the signage you have on the street, but online and mobile.

Consumers today crave information and the ability to discover it online because they are used to it in other industries. Think about the restaurant and hotel industries. Everything from menus to prices can be found online. Why should parking be any different?

Here are some parking information apps to know:

1. Parkopedia – Parkopedia is HUGE! Their site and apps (iOS, Android and Windows) have aggregated parking information from 75 countries. You can access a live count of the total parking spots on their platform at the top of their website. The Parkopedia Android app has 500,000 to 1,000,000 downloads on Google Play.

2. ParkMe – ParkMe started out as a purely informational app, but they now offer reservations at some locations as well. ParkMe has licensed out their information to other companies and provided the app software for parking operators such as Colonial and ABM so they can show only their facilities. The ParkMe Android app has 100,000 to 500,000 downloads on Google Play. ParkMe was acquired by Inrix in 2015. 

3. BestParking – BestParking provides parking information about all major cities in the US and many in Canada. They have a particularly strong following in New York City and, like ParkMe, have begun offering some reservation services as well. BestParking also provides a white label app for Icon Parking and Parkway Corporation. The BestParking Android app has 500,000 to 1,000,000 downloads on Google Play. BestParking was acquired by ParkWhiz in early 2016.

While it is more difficult to track when a customer finds your facility on an information app, it certainly is an opportunity to reach more people looking for parking online and via mobile. A partnership with one of these apps costs you nothing, and allows you to provide accurate information about your facility to consumers, often including location photos. Take advantage of this opportunity to reach more drivers.

 

You Know What’s Best For Your Business

The parking app landscape can seem overwhelming at first, but understanding the different types of apps makes the process of choosing a partner much easier. You know better than anyone what the biggest challenges are for your business.

Once you identify where your opportunities for growth are, it’s easy to determine which type of parking app would have the largest impact on your business. After that, shop around, take advantage of the options available to you, and make an informed decision.

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