Design at Passport: Improving Conversion with Signage

Passport is a technology company redefining mobility. We partner with parking and transit authorities to revolutionize the way you travel.

Passport’s apps have been used by over 1 million people across North America. If you’ve parked in your city’s downtown, you have probably seen our decals on a meter. In addition to decals, we also use large metal signs to let people know they can pay for parking on their phone. I would argue that the user experience starts with these signs.

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Santa Rosa, CA. A skilled maintenance worker applying a decal onto a paystation. Photo from BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat

Our clients’ utilization percentages are awesome. Just so we’re on the same page, utilization for us equals Passport users divided by total parkers in a given period of time. For Tier 1 clients, we have Chicago, Boston and Toronto having amazing transaction counts daily. Even the cities that are not as large are doing very well, and improving each day as technology adoption increases.

Every department at Passport is invested in clients’ success. So while our system has a solid user base, we see the opportunity for continued improvement on utilization.

Old Signs and Decals

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Our current signage gives you a lot of info!

I parked in a lot in downtown Asheville a few months ago. Ready to pay for parking, I automatically went for the paystation. Passport has mobile pay in Asheville but I failed to see the sign, literally. Moreover, I was a prospect that didn’t convert to a customer. When I got to the paystation, a couple was in front of me trying to figure out how to pay for parking. We were all looking at this decal that was right next to the paystation. I could tell they were confused on what to do first. I heard one of them say, “I don’t need another app that I’m only going to use one time.” It was as if Passport sent me there to see the signage through a potential user’s eyes!

I brought that experience up in a marketing meeting and everyone agreed that the sooner we have a better converting sign, the better. A sign we put up today will be functional for at least 2 years.

Tests and Results

We did an informal study right away. These tests helped us redesign our signage in a way that is likely to yield more conversions. After all, this is what designing should always be about: solving problems, catering to the changing needs of the customers and hitting goals. Okay, it can be about fonts and colors too!

Below is the final design made for the City of Salem, MA.

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We identified 4 goals:

  • Win customers from 40 feet away. We know that we have a better chance at conversion from afar. Being able to pay for parking from your car means you don’t need to take your credit card out, nor fumble for bills and coins. People especially appreciate this benefit in the winter time when staying inside your cozy car is much more appealing than waiting in line for your turn at the paystation. The surveys we conducted helped us realize what information needs to be larger and higher up in the visual hierarchy. Agile iterations got us to a final design fast.
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Passport vs Paystation. How will you pay for parking?
  • Get the audience to do what we want them to do. This is the question to ask before designing any marketing material. We thought we wanted them to download an app but really, what we wanted was for them to conveniently pay for parking on their phone! A nice advantage Passport has over other providers is the Mobile Pay Web. It’s just what it sounds like — pay for parking with any browser that’s connected to the web. See below for a decal design we tested at the University of Nebraska install.
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Top — current decal; Bottom — new decal tested at UNL

Our hypothesis was that people would rather go to a website than download an app — especially if they park there rarely.

While on the old design we tell people 5 other things before instructing them to download the app, the new decal design goes right to the point: go to a specific website.

It’s important to point out that once the user is on the website, they’ll see a prominent button for downloading the app. We’re trying to relay the message that the browser is a great way to pay for parking but if doing that often enough, the app would provide extra convenience. Another advantage of the website approach is we can track prospect behaviors sooner. For example, we can see if someone bounced after going to the website. This opens the question of why and allows us to focus on solving that particular problem.

Did it work?

We think so! We surpassed the previous provider’s peak monthly revenue in only a month. Mobile pay from the previous provider started operations 3 years prior.

UNL has one of the highest transaction counts and turnover we’ve seen in a university. There are more important factors involved in a successful mobile pay launch but there’s enough evidence to say the decal helped get people on board quicker. We had a large number of visitors from Nebraska this month (unlikely for a 300-space install) and this decal likely had a part to play in that. It didn’t stop there — our app store downloads from those coming from ppprk.com rose 49% from the previous month.

  • Another goal is to gain trust (aka you will not be towed). Paying for parking with Passport is so frictionless. We’re used to shuffling our things as we try to shove coins and bills into meters. In fact, one feedback we got after we had someone try to pay with the app was that they’re not sure if paying on the app was all they really needed to do. I guess that’s where good friction in the app’s UI needs to come into play… but that’s another case study for another day! I think a big part of gaining people’s business is gaining their trust first.

“Does the sign appear trustworthy?”

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This was one the the questions we asked respondents. What we found from testing was that the bigger the “P” parking sign was, the higher the chance people responded with “yes” to the above question. The same is true for the city seal or logo.

This design scored 88% on trustworthiness vs 56% for the old one.

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  • Finally, we wanted our signs to be as scalable as possible. We cater to over 150 clients and it would only serve us good if we can streamline our signage process. The hiccup lies where a client wants to customize the signs to be in line with their city’s brand. This means constantly repositioning elements and trying out colors that work well together. It was not the easiest thing to do with the old design and at times, readability wasn’t at its optimum. Here are examples:
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Customizing the old design
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Customizing the new design

A streamlined signage process involving scalable designs also frees up time for us to do more cool studies like this one.

What’s next

We just started shipping out these new signs a few days ago. I’m confident that we’ll reap good results. I can’t wait to give you updates!

Questions? mia@gopassport.com

Written by

VP, Product at Sezzle | Financially empowering the next generation

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