Parking lot monitoring
Unlock hidden potential for customer satisfaction and new business models
Being able to offer customers a place to park their car (or bike) while shopping is a valuable extra service that brick-and-mortar retailers can provide. However, providing spaces alone does not exploit the car park’s full potential. Monitoring parking lots and thus creating a database about current and historic car park occupancy is a first step toward unlocking the full potential of parking lots, which are the start and the end of the shopping journey.
For customers, doing grocery shopping by car or bike is usually more convenient than lugging heavy bags home.
An increase of traffic in the parking lot is a first indicator for predicting a rise of traffic in the store. Without an automated notification system, stores cannot punctually initiate suitable responses, such as opening further checkouts.
Without monitoring, an inconvenient or inefficient car park setup might not be detected. And even though store managers might know very well that additional parking facilities are needed to serve more customers at the same time, it might be difficult to justify an expansion of the parking capacity without having specific numbers to hand.
In the majority of cases, parking lots are locked to the public after opening hours to reduce the risk of vandalism and theft. Meanwhile, many residents suffer from a lack of parking possibilities.
Free-of-charge parking is provided only to customers and limited to a defined period. Some people ignore these restrictions and go way over time, which disadvantages other customers.
How retail companies benefit from parking lot monitoring
Transparency about utilization: Store managers gain an overview of the current, historic, and average utilization of their car park. In this way, they can detect regular or extraordinary peaks as well as vacancies. Furthermore, they have valid data to evaluate their car park’s performance and detect potential for improvement.
Indication for staff allocation: When parking lot occupancy increases, this is an indication that there will be more footfall within the store soon, so more staff needs to be allocated to service areas and checkouts.
Detection of growth potential: If the car park is heavily used and people leave without purchase because they cannot find a vacant space, the availability of data provides reasons for expanding the parking area or offering pick-up services and home delivery.
Awareness of obstacles: In exceptional cases, employees could receive a notification on a device of their choice when a shopping cart or incorrectly parked car is blocking the way of drivers.
Data-based action: Technology also allows corrective action to quickly identify heavy long-term parkers or cars that do not seem to belong to customers in the store – and to charge them accordingly.
Smart management of EV charging stations: Retailers are increasingly offering charging stations for electric vehicles in their parking lots. If charging is offered free of charge for a certain amount of time, fees can automatically be levied once the time limit has been exceeded. Alternatively, the charging process can be stopped. In the event of a vehicle using the charging station for much longer than allowed, a notification can be sent to store personnel.
Use case overview: parking lot monitoring
- Occupancy sensors are installed. These sensors can be fitted to the top of parking lots – for example, at the lighting or signage systems of indoor parking garages belonging to bigger retail markets or shopping centers. Another easy-to-implement opportunity is attaching sensors directly to the ground. A third or complementary approach, which also enables further and deeper analysis, is the installation of connected cameras with object detection features.
- These devices track the status of the parking lot in real time and are able to tell if a parking lot is occupied or not.
- The sensors are connected via various protocols such as LoRaWAN or diverse APIs to one back end, and the captured data is processed within one solution. Processing can either be done locally on a gateway or directly on the sensor or camera. If retailers choose to use cameras, then processing visual data directly on the device eliminates data security concerns and aligns with data protection requirements. However, it is also possible to do the processing in the cloud, which might, for example, be preferable for storage reasons in an individual case.
- Data sets are sent to a central dashboard for documentation and reporting purposes. This central dashboard eliminates siloed IoT reporting views and dashboards and enables store managers or employees to take the right steps concerning car park traffic.