Towson Town Center, a 185-store shopping mall in Maryland that sees about 10 million shoppers annually, is using technology from a company called Park Assist to help shoppers find available parking spots and more quickly navigate its parking facilities, according to a Baltimore Sun report.
New features added via Park Assist include signs connected to sensors placed around a parking facility that display and update the number of open parking spaces on each parking level, as well as navigational assistance.
The software and sensor-based system can also be used to help individual shoppers quickly locate their vehicles from among the mall's 4,400 parking spots upon returning from their shopping trip.
Towson Town Center deployed the Park Assist system as part of a broader revamp of its parking facilities that the mall has been looking to finish in time for Black Friday. Other changes include new color-coding for each parking level.
Though it's still early in the mall's use of Park Assist, and the system has yet to be bombarded by the shopper stampede expected for Black Friday weekend, the system is already producing positive results, the mall said. The average amount of time shoppers spend looking for spots has declined by a whopping 44%, according to the report, with a 12% slide in the number of shoppers who have searched for a parking space for more than five minutes.
The weeks before the holiday rush are the best possible time for shopping malls and retailers to deploy and put the finishing touches on technology upgrades that can help improve aspects of the customer experience — and we've seen retailers doing that in a number of ways. From Nordstrom and Home Depot deciding to bring on Pinterest pincodes to Athleta experimenting with e-commerce gift cards, retailers are looking for ways to entice shoppers in — and consumers are expecting that, too.
Parking is no exception. Towson Town Center is not the first mall to use Park Assist (the company has worked with a number of other shopping malls) and it's certainly not the first mall to look to technology for an upgrade in shoppers' parking experiences. Some malls, for example, now use systems that allow shoppers to automatically pay for parking through a mobile app, with no need to get a paper ticket upon entering. Westfield Century City Mall in Los Angeles recently deployed such a system, and allows shoppers to use a parking reservation app from a company called Chauntry Parkspace.
Shopping malls may have overlooked customers' parking concerns before, focusing instead on the in-store experience, but a shopper who is able to quickly find a spot in a crowded garage and not have to worry about losing a paper ticket will probably be a happier, less-stressed shopper walking into the store. We could see more mall owners turning to this kind of technology in the future as they struggle to make improvements while retailers falter.