With a new year comes a desire to reflect on the previous 12 months. What lessons were learned, and what can be carried forward into the current year and beyond? 

For us at HONK, 2021 was a year that resulted in new ‘trends’ that will, without a doubt, live on. Operating in thousands of locations across the United States and Canada, and spanning across many types of locations from college campuses, to parking garages, to ski resorts it’s safe to say we’ve seen every type of parking operation and parker there is. And yet despite all the differences, some common themes emerged last year, themes that forced the parking industry to see the possibilities… embrace them, and adapt. 

The Future is Flexibility

Parking patterns were a constant unknown for much of the year because of so much uncertainty. Not knowing how the pandemic would unfold, and as a result, how consumer behaviours and patterns would be impacted, flexibility quickly became the buzzword of the year. This constant fog of uncertainty meant that parking operators had to embrace and capitalize on flexible parking options. This was a theme that spanned across the entire parking landscape: from quickly and easily setting up new parking locations, to offering flexible rates that spoke to a customer’s ever-adapting needs (hello, hybrid schooling and work), to creating flexible payment options that provided every type of parker with their preferred payment method.

Technology became the beacon to steer us through, helping us create the flexibility that consumers so desperately craved and that merchants so desperately needed. Take, for example, HonkPASS a direct product born out of the need to offer parking operators a flexible parking option for their customers. Seeing their previous monthly base of parkers take a nosedive, parking operators needed a solution to attract customers who didn’t quite fit into the monthly (or daily!) parking bucket. HONK observed this gap, and in response, created a flexible parking product that is flying off the shelves.

Customer is King

2021 was most definitely the year where the customer took back the driver’s seat. With safety and convenience at the forefront, all aspects of the customer experience were analyzed and, where possible, improved. Nice-to-have features that were previously viewed as “premium” or bonuses became the baseline. 

A perfect example is the emergence of the express guest checkout experience in parking: ahem, our beloved HonkTAP. Not all parkers want to download an app or sign up for an account to pay for parking – but they do want a digital option that allows them to bypass the high-touch pay station. In our humble opinion, HonkTAP delivers the perfect customer experience by giving this audience of parkers a digital payment option that providing drivers a quick and easy, frictionless way to pay.

Contactless = Clean

It comes as no surprise that one of the largest trends of 2021 was touchless, well, everything. With the pandemic making us re-evaluate the cleanliness of our everyday actions — from ordering at a drive-thru to paying for parking — it isn’t very surprising that zero contact was a theme that dominated our every decision this past year. 

In the new touch-averse ‘new normal’ customers expected contactless ways to pay for absolutely everything – and this no doubt included parking. Seemingly overnight, contactless payments went from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have — due, in large part, to COVID-related health and safety guards, as well as a desire to save time and cut down on effort. This theme wasn’t new to 2021 it was already paramount in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic but its significance grew exponentially last year. Proof that it’s here to stay. 

Thanks to the themes that emerged last year, the parking industry needed to quickly adapt to not only survive, but thrive, in this ‘new normal.’ And as we reflect on yet another year of unprecedented change in all aspects of life, we like to think that the HONK team did their part to take the reins and help drive our industry into the future.   

Want to learn more about our technology and see how it can help drive your parking operation forward into the future?