Modern consumer needs revolve around a seamless mobility experience, and parking is part of this. The payment process can benefit mostly from integrations and improvements using much of the existing technology.
New payment methods have been widely adopted in the retail industry and these are now being integrated into parking too. These include contactless payments using debit or credit cards, digital smartphone wallets and smart wearable devices.
Unlike retail, however, where most retail transactions follow a set process, parking has variables in terms of the duration of the stay, location, and other added-value features such as electric vehicle charging. To suit all of those scenarios and more, a huge array of payments methods has been adopted across the parking industry. These methods include paying through SMS for on-street parking where no other payment infrastructure is present, or subscription models for long-term repeat custom parking.
In order to provide a truly seamless experience for customers, parking operators should adopt a flexible and comprehensive payment model.
Payments-as-a-Service is an adaptation of the widely popular technology, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). PaaS uses cloud-based infrastructure to provide a single point of contact between the parking operator and the payment networks.
SaaS has evolved in such a way to deliver a light and convenient experience of accessing services; most of them being available through web pages or mobile applications. PaaS can capitalise on this model and deliver the same amount of convenience, transparency, security, and scalability.
Rather than parking operators having to implement a dedicated, vendor-specific technology delivered via hardware which has limited customisation options, these stakeholders can employ an outsourced, end-to-end, cloud-based payment processing environment.
How does PaaS benefit the parking industry?
In order to deliver on all their customer needs, parking operators need to enable multiple types of payments that cover all grounds in terms of parking scenarios; on-street or off-street, short-stay or long-stay, ad-hoc, or recurring parking. PaaS is an excellent way of providing such a solution, as payments can be delivered via multiple channels through a set of application programming interfaces or directly to banks.
Potential benefits for operators:
Below are described some potential benefits for operators employing PaaS:
• Reduced transaction costs: SaaS and PaaS use subscription models, which are generally a flat-fee based on the services provided. They don’t come with hidden charges or other taxes applied per transaction.
• Single provider: Rather than working with multiple service providers and arranging different payment methods, a PaaS provider can offer an end-to-end solution with all types of payments included. This increases visibility of transactions and makes it easier to deploy or implement new technologies.
• Security: Cloud-based solutions offer enhanced security and deploy technologies such as tokenisation to reduce the amount of sensitive information present during transactions.
• Global reach: PaaS providers can work together with financial institutions to arrange international agreements and enable car park operators to have access to international markets using the same platform without an additional process. The PaaS provider would make all the arrangements from all perspectives, including currency exchange, legal agreements and connectivity in order to ensure that the transaction between a client and a parking operator remains the same.
• Reporting: As all payment methods would be serviced by a single provider, it would be easy to collate all transactions into a single place without any additional effort or third-party software. By analysing the information gathered through various payment methods, car park operators can make informed decisions regarding commercial opportunities and their payment options.
• Flexibility between operators: As PaaS does not require dedicated hardware or software, making the switch between operators can be quick and efficient at a minimum cost. A Payment-as-a-Service model can cut down the transition period and cost substantially, ensuring a competitive market where service providers deliver the best experience for a reasonable price.
Parking on the street faces numerous challenges due to congestion and a high number of vehicles compared to a relatively low number of parking spots. The lengths of parking also varies widely with on-street parking, ranging from drop offs and short stays to long stays and residential parking.
An added challenge is that many European cities are banning cars from their historic and city centres, putting more strain on surrounding traffic zones and parking spaces.
By nature, on-street parking in cities is sparse and the landscape is constantly evolving with roadworks, events, constructions, and demolitions. This makes it challenging for councils and municipalities to implement a future-proof solution using current technology.
PaaS can help alleviate some of those issues and help with the deployment of improved parking infrastructure.
• Scalability: Payments-as-a-Service provides cheaper and more efficient means of both upscaling and downscaling a solution. Cheap implementation costs of nondedicated systems while working with only one provider are an excellent way of enabling councils and municipalities to progressively cover their on-street parking areas with one solution.
• Flexibility: Whether it’s implementing new payment technologies or modifying the area of deployment, a PaaS model can be easily changed to reflect the latest needs at a low cost. Most changes would only need to be done at a software level and would be minimally intrusive to parking infrastructure.
Of street parking is often enclosed into the premises of a private property, and owners are free to impose their own rules and prices according to their chosen business model. Offstreet parking is more often used by regular drivers for medium-to-long stays. As it has a more regular and repeated client base, operators can adopt a PaaS solution to provide automated payment options. Clients can experience a seamless payment process and save time. They can park just by driving their car in and out, being recognised by ANPR or other identifiers.
Operators can benefit by reducing cost, errors, and manual labour. By calculating the time spent in a car park over the course of a day, bespoke quotes can be generated for individual clients and then billed via their preferred payment method; either ad-hoc, or on a daily or weekly basis.
By capitalizing on the model developed by Software-as-a-Service providers, parking operators can integrate seamless payments at a lower cost with the benefit of higher flexibility and functionality.
The market demand for multiple types of payments, such as contactless, smartphone wallets, SMS and eCommerce, can then be implemented by using a single PaaS provider – which decreases the operational costs and simplifies interactions.
At present, the multiple payment methods adopted inconsistently from car park to car park create a disjointed and frustrating experience for customers. Current technology allows for the PaaS model to be implemented right now and bring the parking industry closer to a genuinely seamless experience.