As with everything else in Vegas, marketing to local commuters is a game of chance.
City Connector, a new rich-media parking setup from Parkeon, MasterCard and the City of Las Vegas, launched a pilot this week to allow merchants to pitch offers to motorists as they pay for parking.
The machines allow users to browse through a list of offers or receive one at random. Every participating merchant's coupon in a given week or month gets an equal chance of visibility when consumers request a random offer.
This type of consumer interaction was made possible by the steady advancement of parking payment technology, Parkeon says.
"We transformed our industry a couple years ago by integrating the color screen onto parking meters," said Stephane Durand, marketing manager at Parkeon. "It's a much better experience and has turned parking meters into a real, rich media."
The coupons are presented and then printed out while the user's payment is being authenticated. There are currently 16 machines active in The Container area of downtown Las Vegas. More than 300 coupons were printed on June 30, the first day of activity.
Some of those coupons were redeemed the same day, said Arnaud Le Masne de Chermont, senior vice president and relationship manager at Parkeon. The company has signed up 16 merchants so far; the area has 35 local merchants altogether, he said.
"The city [of Las Vegas] is offering a system for consumers and merchants on a device that's owned by the city," de Chermont said. "This is a first of its kind. A lot of people are always complaining about the cost of parking and this is a way to give back."
Merchants will benefit from the system because it reaches "a very large audience that is captive," said Durand. And consumers benefit because it's likely that, if they are parking in a particular area, they also plan to eat or shop nearby, he said.
Parkeon plans to expand the program to other parts of Las Vegas in the coming months.
Paris-based Parkeon has been working in the U.S. for 20 years and has deployed more than 20,000 smart parking meters across the country. Parkeon's U.S. market share is at about 50%; worldwide it has more than 60% of the market for parking payments. The company has deployed machines in 65 countries, reaching more than 80 million regular users.
In downtown Las Vegas, Parkeon has installed 280 parking meters overall.
Las Vegas is a good test market for this type of deployment because of the city's moderate size, said Brandy Stanley, parking service manager at the City of Las Vegas.
"We are invested in making sure it gets run through its paces," Stanley said. "Other cities might not be willing to spend the time and resources to evaluate the program."
Some markets like Houston, she said, have many more paid parking spots and thus wouldn't have the resources to maintain this type of program across so many meters. Cities that are smaller than Las Vegas might have fragmented parking sectors, presenting another hurdle to managing a citywide system.
City Connector is being run as a six month pilot in Las Vegas. Neither the city nor the merchants are paying for the test at this time, said Stanley. Although the idea is that merchants will pay a fee to participate in the future, she said.
Two years ago, Las Vegas went through a change proposal for its parking meters and chose Parkeon because of the company's commitment to innovation and quality, Stanley said.
"This is a part of a wider theme in smart cities and the urban mobility experience that we're trying to go after with Parkeon," said Norbert Gebhard, general manager of enterprise partnerships at MasterCard.
MasterCard's involvement enables City Connector to accept credit and debit card payments. This also means that tourists from countries outside the U.S. can use the machines without exchanging cash or coin.
Parkeon has "generated more than 200 million payments with bank cards worldwide through our partnership with MasterCard," said Gebhard.