Secret Weapon in Mall Battle: Parking Apps
By JACLYN TROP November 27, 2013
Phoebe Scott of Orange County, Calif., has a new routine before heading to the mall.
She checks the parking lots on her ParkMe smartphone app "so that I can see what I'm up against, or if I need to change my plans." If a lot is below 90 percent full, the trip is on. Her favorite, not far from her workplace, is a garage at the Santa Monica Place mall, where sensors and lights guide her to a specific open space.
"It's a daily battle," said Ms. Scott, 29, the founder of Laudville, a social technology start-up. "Anything to make it easier makes a really big difference."
The fight for a mall parking spot, long a necessary evil of Black Friday, is growing easier thanks to the proliferation of new technologies, from apps and sensors to color-coded lights and electronic boards.
It's one way that malls and shopping districts are trying to lure customers away from their computers, into the realm of their brick-and-mortar stores.
"What happens when there's no spots? People drive around and become frustrated," said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "Who wants to start their shopping experience frustrated?"
ParkMe, which tracks more than 28,000 locations worldwide, has emerged as a mainstay app for mall customers navigating the nation's parking lots. With the app, they can find the closest and least expensive lots, as well as alternative garage entrances. The app's user base surged 97 percent in the past year, and it is adding hundreds of garages to its database.