If the terms omni-channel, multi-channel or cross-channel conjure up images of rivers and streams, then you are not alone. Although they have been in use for years, these terms have often been used interchangeably, clouding their definitions and meanings and confusing those who could most benefit from them. Until recently, parking technology has trailed behind the swift advances of other travel technology, further obscuring the meanings and benefits of these concepts.
Whether your parking operation is on an airport, cruise port, municipality or university, the value of using omni-channel, multi-channel and/or cross-channel strategies cannot be overstated. In fact, parking operations not using them are already obsolete and can rest assured that competitors who do employ them will gain the advantage. Why? Because in today’s digital ecommerce landscape consumers have the highest expectations that the best companies will provide them with a seamless, convenient and continuous buying experience, the very experience that these functions were built to provide. So, let’s break them down into simple terms.
Multi-channel can be used as a synonym for cross-channel, which are both selling and marketing terms. On the selling side, it is a strategy that provides customers with a choice of ways, or channels, to purchase a product. For example, a parking operation might provide booking opportunities through their own website, a third-party aggregator, a mobile app, Facebook, email blast or telephone service.
On the marketing side, it provides a business multiple ways or channels to market to their customers, obtain customer data and track and manage ROI on the marketing efforts. Whether it be through social media, email campaigns, SMS, or linked to customer loyalty programs, these channels can provide significant revenue if managed properly.
Whether employing multi-channel/cross-channel selling or marketing, each channel is a separate entity and should be managed and tracked as such.
The omni-channel function brings all the channels mentioned above together in one place, syncing them to be used on both the selling and the marketing platform. This is the function that affords a customer the seamless, convenient and continuous experience desired on all the multi-channels offered – and on any device. The fact that a parking operation offers multiple channels does not make them omni-channel capable. Omni-channel is the function that intersects with multi-channel, creating one of the most powerful tools to sell and to market.
For example, on the selling/buying platform, a customer can begin the parking search on an airport’s mobile app via a smartphone, continue later on the airport website via a laptop with all the prior activity preserved, and then dial up by phone to finish the transaction where customer service has a full view of all prior activity. The experience is uninterrupted, seamless and continuous.
Used on the marketing side, a parking business can track activity and ROI on each channel separately, using the data to build better future marketing campaigns.
Finding an Omni-Channel Provider
There are only a select few parking software providers who offer a comprehensive parking reservation system with omni-channel functionality. Committing to due diligence will be worth the payoff in the end. At a minimum, look for these features:
- Real-time central reservation system
- Omni-channel capability
- Real-time reporting
- Ongoing research and development
- 24/7/365 online support
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