How often have you set out on a shopping expedition, errand, dining experience, etc., and been frustrated by the inability to find a parking space near your desired destination? Or, if you were able to locate a space, or a parking garage, the fee for temporarily storing your car was higher than you felt was fair? And in response to this, how often have you simply abandoned or, at minimum, deferred your planned activity?
In this situation, the immediate loser is the parking meter or garage owner. But the real loser is the establishment that stood to gain your business had you been able to get to it efficiently and cost-effectively. Not only did they lose your business this first time, but my guess is that, given the hassle, you would have thought twice about frequenting that business in the future.
The antidote to this situation is the growing trend of cities that are providing free parking in areas with high concentrations of shopping, restaurants and other entertainment venues. One of those cities is Culver City, CA, where, on a recent Friday night, the sidewalk cafes and restaurants were filled, people were doing window and actual shopping and the whole business environment was apparently thriving.
Clearly, businesses need to provide the goods and services that folks actually want to buy, but it stands to reason that ease-of-use through free parking is an incentive that contributes to their overall success.
There is a lesson here for channel sales incentives. Many of these programs seek to motivate a participant that is one step removed from the program’s sponsor. Think of a manufacturer awarding points for purchases of its products by a contractor through that manufacturer’s independent dealer network.
One major challenge with these programs is obtaining information on the contractor’s purchases, since the buying relationship is between the contractor and the dealer. When determining exactly how to address this challenge, the mandate should be ease-of-use. For example, an online submission form may be perfect for relatively infrequent purchases of high-ticket items. But it may not be the right answer for a situation with high frequency of purchases of items with low individual price points.
Understanding the specific channel economics will go a long way toward designing a data collection process that is easy for the participant to use. And that, in turn, will lead to higher use and an overall more successful channel sales incentive program.