By Gary Lee
Data, data, data. At the height of the pandemic, data was everywhere, with much of it showing downward trends across retail and other key sectors. Visitor analysis within retail was once restricted to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and footfall counters within the actual shopping environment, but now it is no longer necessary to wait until the customer is through the door to interact with them. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras gather important data from the moment visitors arrive on site.
Many customers’ first touchpoint is when they enter the car park and, with retail-focussed landlords wanting to understand customer habits, the car park is where some of the strongest data can be obtained. Parking data allows landlords, managing agents and tenants to understand their customer behaviour within a bricks and mortar environment. Understanding the granularity of ever-changing customer behaviour took on new importance during this unprecedented time. Those that were able to monitor visitor behaviour in near-real time were able to respond with the required speed, adjusting staffing and services accordingly. Parking management companies such as GroupNexus provide their clients with an enhanced data and analytics platform that allows them to monitor new trends in visitor behaviour–new peak times, changes to dwell times, visitor frequency and even the demographic of visitors based on their vehicles.
The Motorway Services sector in the UK is a great example of how this data was used to drive key business decisions during the lock-down period. Visitor data was used to effectively plan the re-opening of tenants and services across estates in line with increased visitor needs. Going deeper, the data even allows landlords and managing agents to know exactly how many petrol, diesel or battery fuelled vehicles are on site. This enables them to ensure their site is set-up to service their visitors’ needs, with the added benefit of demonstrating improvements in sustainability indicators. And for those with a portfolio of assets, these platforms enable landlords and managing agents to compare assets, instantly, allowing them to have a true understanding of trends across their full estate.
The technology also exists to offer tenants a way to contact their customers with safety messages and special offers when they arrive on site, as well as new Coronavirus safety innovations, such as in-car queuing systems. Due to the need to restrict the number of people inside shops, long, socially distanced queues have become part of the new retail experience. Parking management companies have stepped in with systems that enable shoppers to join a virtual queue and then wait in the comfort of their car until they are called to enter the shop via text message. This is working well, particularly within outdoor retail parks, and is likely to be very popular during the Christmas shopping period.
More data, significantly, more of the right data, delivered in the right way, allows for better informed decisions which are crucial at this time. Parking data is the greatest source of untapped data available to landlords, managing agents and tenants, and will be key in their decision making and customer communications as we emerge from this pandemic.