Wednesday , October 28, 2020

As Restrictions Lift, Parking Apps Look to Serve Cooped-up Consumers Who Want Touch-Free Payments

Pundits have argued for weeks that the Covid-19 pandemic is shifting consumer payment habits away from anything that requires touching publicly available devices, and now that trend is showing up in that most mundane of activities, parking a car.

To be sure, parking transactions even via a mobile app have plummeted as shelter-at-home orders in many states have restricted movement. But they’re starting to bounce back as orders lift in some states and consumers look for places where they can relax but maintain precautions such as social distancing. While beach communities, for example, sustained a nearly 80% week-over-week plunge in transactions in the week of March 22, activity has soared since then, with an approximately 20% rise week over week the week of May 17, according to data released Wednesday by parking-app developer ParkMobile LLC.

Parking apps allow users to select parking spaces and pay for them in advance or upon exiting a venue via a stored digital card. Now, Atlanta-based ParkMobile says this contactless feature has taken on added importance.  While the firm’s numbers show transaction volumes collapsing in the week between March 9 and March 16, a comeback began in the middle of last month. By the week of April 12, the app had got back to zero change from the week before, and now the week-over-week volume is up 20%, ParkMobile’s figures do not disclose actual transaction volumes. In February, the company said it had 18 million users.

Stir-crazy consumers may be eager to get back on the road, but they remain wary of the highly infectious virus. “It’s very clear that one of the lasting impacts of Covid-19 will be that people want more contactless-payment options,” said Jon Ziglar, ParkMobile’s chief executive, in a statement released with the data. “We’re proud that we can partner with cities to promote use of the app in order to keep people safe and protect city workers.”

As professional sports and entertainment venues begin looking to re-open, two other parking-app providers are planning to exploit that contactless preference. Developers ParkHub Inc. and SpotHero Inc. jointly announced a collaboration to encourage contactless parking payments. The integration of the two apps, which began last year, allows venues to sell parking spots in advance of events, authenticate parking passes onsite, and manage parking demand.

“Due to the pandemic, contactless services have transitioned from a convenience to a considerable necessity,” said George Baker Sr., Dallas-based ParkHub’s CEO, in a statement Tuesday.

ParkHub’s technology allows venue operators to scan prepaid passes onsite. The company serves more than 300 sports and entertainment venues, universities, and state parks. Chicago-based SpotHero’s app includes the ability to select and book a space in advance. It says its technology is used by more than 7,000 locations across 300 cities.

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