With 225 million U.S. drivers, parking can be a tight squeeze. Of course, marketplaces are vying to solve the parking problem — but enticing drivers and driveway lenders to participate takes more than just offering an app and competitive prices. In the latest Payments And The Platform Economy Playbook, Tim Wootton, CEO of parking platform Rover Parking, discusses why seamless payments are key to engagement, and how Airbnb’s playbook is helping the company compete.
Parking has remained a nightmarish endeavor for modern drivers, even as technology has developed to help them find sought-after spaces. This has been a challenge especially in urban areas like London, Montreal and New York City. Problems persist within the payment process, too, with metered parking spaces still requiring visitors to use cumbersome methods like cash.
The friction inherent in parking has frustrated many consumers as they search for spaces and pay exorbitant parking fees. Removing that friction with experiences that enable customers to avoid age-old annoyances and homeowners to make extra income is intriguing to members of the sharing economy, according to Tim Wootton, CEO of shared parking marketplace Rover Parking.
“Previously, on an individual basis, you’d only really rent out parking spaces by the month and you’d have to worry about payment, and it was just a much more difficult process,” he said. “Most people didn’t do it because [they] want [to be able to use their own] parking spots a certain amount of the time.”
In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Wootton explained that shared parking can provide key benefits to consumers who are already used to large-scale, person-to-person (P2P) sharing marketplaces like Airbnb, HomeAway, Lyft or Uber. These companies’ foundations are exactly what makes shared parking so interesting for both renters and sellers, he added — instant, mobile access to a supply of parking spaces, quick payments and novelty of experience.
Keeping pace with parking payments and innovation
Rover Parking is a 4-year-old company with approximately 100,000 active users on its system and more than 10,000 parking space listings to date. It is mainly active in Canadian cities like Calgary, Montreal and Toronto, though it plans to expand to the U.S. in 2020. Rover has been working on how it adds new parking spaces to its app in the meantime.
The company’s rentable parking spaces come from consumers who list their driveways or other spots for rent by the hour, or from partnerships with apartment buildings that provide parking inside their city garages. Renters can pay via credit or debit card and sellers can receive funds directly into their bank accounts, Wootton said. Rover Parking is looking to add support for Apple and Google Pay by the second quarter of 2020.
“We’ve kept it pretty simplistic, because in order to make both sides of the marketplace really use [the app] and really engage, it has to be easy,” he explained. “No one wants work, no one wants to put the effort in, so it has to be seamless for the person [who needs the] parking and not a time suck for [the] people who own the parking.”
That simplicity also keeps Rover Parking competitive in what is rapidly becoming an oversaturated market with apps and institutions that back them. Competitor ParkStash is searching for seed funding to expand operations, while SpotHero has closed rounds geared toward launches in new locations. These companies are not just competing for space in cities like New York City and Chicago, Wootton said, but also for the limited app space on consumers’ smartphones.
“At the end of the day, nobody wants 10 different parking apps on their phones,” he said, adding that Rover Parking’s strategy favors partnerships with these other apps. “Eventually there’s going to be an aggregation of these different channels, and I’m definitely one [who thinks] partnering for growth is a great way to go about it.”
Shared parking and marketplace growth
Rover Parking will likely not become that future aggregator, Wootton said, which is why it is focusing its efforts on supply rather than demand. The company is looking to add as many parking sources as possible while the space expands.
“We’re pretty hyper-focused on P2P and apartment buildings, which means we will have the biggest supply of what we call ‘alternative parking’ in North America,” he explained. “That alternative supply will fit very nicely on whatever platform does decide to aggregate parking.”
The battle for an industry leader is ongoing, but Rover Parking will continue to innovate its mobile app for both sides of the marketplace, he added. The company is also investigating how it could integrate new technologies for features such as increased authentication. It currently verifies identity through email addresses, credit card numbers and other factors, but Wootton said biometrics could play a stronger role in the future.
Rover Parking is not the only shared parking marketplace that will look toward such innovations in the future. The app that does end up leading the industry will need to make sure it is keeping abreast of consumers’ changing payment, authentication and technology preferences if it wants to remain on top.