Your Customers Have Changed.
Is Your Carwash Keeping Up?
Next to most businesses such as travel agencies, video rental stores and book shops, the carwash industry isn’t directly affected by the Internet. After all, your customers can’t get their cars washed online the way they can book a trip, download a video or buy a best seller. Still, no operator who hopes to grow over the next decade can afford to ignore the impact that the advance of the Internet and digital technology is having on the carwash industry.
Beyond Online Selling
In the coming years, more customers will be buying washes online using SiteWatch® Website Connect™. Carwashes that offer customers the speed and convenience of being able to buy washes, prepaid cards, monthly passes and FastPass® tags online will likely have a distinct advantage over their less tech-savvy competitors.
However, as significant as it is, online selling is only the beginning. Perhaps even more important to the future success of your business will be the way it meets the new expectations that customers have when shopping for a carwash or any other retail purchase in the Digital Age.
Digital technology (including the Internet) has changed everything. It’s given your customers a whole new set of ideas about what to expect in terms of service, selection, speed, convenience and all of the other factors that go into determining their purchase decisions.
A Lesson From Hollywood
Even though your customers can’t actually get their cars washed online, the Internet still changes the way they perceive the quality of what you’re selling. Consider what happened to the film industry starting about a decade ago when digital computer games arrived on the scene.
The legion of customers, who became devoted to these games with their rich, high-energy graphics, developed a different set of expectations about visual entertainment. Even though these customers couldn’t watch first run movies on their computers, some studios saw the writing on the wall and developed a wave of films with the 3D, IMAX and animated/avatar elements that consumers like in computer games. (It’s no accident that the top grossing film of all time is called “Avatar"!) By contrast, those studios that didn’t respond to the changing expectations of their customers saw their box office receipts plummet.
As a carwash operator, you’re faced with a similar situation. Digital technology has changed the way your customers view all retail transactions, including those conducted at your site. Their experience on the Internet and at digital-savvy brick-and-mortar retail locations has led these customers to expect:
- More Choices
- Greater Control Over The Transaction Process
- Discounts Down To “Free”
- Prices That Aren’t Tied To Individual Purchases
- More Targeted Loyalty Offers
Of course, not all customers will demand all of the above features from your carwash. But as a group, your customers will judge your carwash or any other retailer business by how well it meets these standards, which have been fostered and developed by digital technology and the Internet.
Choice and Control: The Two Lynchpins
Want to buy an autographed photo of Buddy Ebsen, the actor who played Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies TV program? A Google search yields 252,000 options to choose from. Want to wake up every morning to the quacking of Donald Duck? There are 30,600 sites that can sell you an alarm clock featuring the Disney character.
The Internet serves up a mind boggling array of choices to consumers every day, even for items as obscure as the examples cited above. People who’ve grown accustomed to having such a wide range of options online don’t want to feel that their choices are limited when they shop for goods and services, including carwashes.
This message hasn’t been lost on the quick serve restaurant industry, where most of the leading chains are busy expanding their menus. A prime example is McDonald’s, which began aggressively branching out beyond its signature hamburgers shortly after 2000 to add a variety of chicken dishes, sandwiches, salads and more recently gourmet coffee.
McDonald's did this because it recognized that its customers are being exposed to more options in the course of their daily lives in the Internet Age, which means that they now expect wider choices from a quick serve restaurant. The chain’s move has paid off — coffee sales increased 70% in two years as a result of the more diverse selection, chicken sales doubled, and McDonald’s became one of only two companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Index to see is share value increase in 2008.
The SiteWatch Xpress Pay Terminal® (XPT®) helps carwashes meet the expectations of customers in the choice-rich Internet Age by making it easier to sell a broader range of wash options. Here are some examples of how the XPT accomplishes this goal:
- By displaying a diverse menu on its screen and allowing customers to flow through different screens. The fact that customers have the power to control the transaction and decide whether or not to scroll to a screen makes them more receptive to the selling messages delivered by those screens than they would be if they had to sit in their cars and listen to a salesperson talk about a service that held little interest to them.
- By making it easier to convert a full-service site into a flex serve that offers exterior washing. A carwash that offers its customers an interior cleaning option at the tunnel exit rather than at the entrance and has its customers pay at the XPT, can offer them the flexibility to purchase the exact wash they want when they want it. Click here to see different wash layout options with the XPT.
- By extending operating hours. In the digital age, customers not only expect more choices, but also to have access to those choices whenever they want. After all, the Internet never closes! This is why more retailers have extended their operation hours. A decade ago, 24-hour McDonald's were unheard of, and all-night drug stores were a rarity. Today 34% of McDonald's and 21% of Walgreen stores are open 24/7. In October 2009, Best Buy opened the first 24-hour electronics super store in New York City. You probably don’t want to be open around the clock, but a self-pay lane makes it easier to extend your hours and appeal to convenience-minded customers.
Aside from exposing customers to a wider-than-ever choice of options and 24/7 convenience, the Internet (along with advances in kiosk technology) has also gotten them accustomed to exercising greater control over the transaction process. No one is looking over your shoulder waiting impatiently when you compare five different autographed photos of Buddy Ebsen online, just as no one is watching as you go back and forth between pepperoni and sausage when building your own pizza on Domino’s wildly popular online ordering website.
Studies have shown that customers who use self-checkout lanes at supermarkets consistently rank their shopping experience more favorably than those who use cashier attended lanes. Small wonder that sales at self-pay stations are expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2012 (a 17% compounded annual growth rate from 2008) according to a Food Service Trends report published in Progressive Grocer.
Although there are many factors, such as speed and convenience responsible for the popularity of self-pay options, the ability to control transactions ranks at or near the top of the list. Creating self-pay lanes with the SiteWatch XPT makes your wash more attractive to customers who place a premium on controlling their transactions.
Free For All
Years ago “free samples” were tasty morsels of some new snack that you got from a friendly little woman at the supermarket on Saturday mornings. Back then no one would have imagined that giving away your product for free on an ongoing basis could be used as a growth strategy for a prosperous multi-national company. But this is exactly what Adobe and many other companies have done to create successful Internet businesses.
Adobe gives its graphical interface software away for free online, and many Internet research firms conduct free name searches for your old high school classmates. Adobe and these research companies aren’t charities; they’re giving away their product and services, because they believe that once you use them, you’ll be interested in an upgraded version of their software or more detailed information on your former classmate that you can only get by paying.
Even though only a small percentage of customers actually upgrade to the paid option, the number of people trying the free service online is so large that companies like Adobe still generate a giant revenue stream. In the process, these companies have gotten customers to expect more free promotions for brick-and-mortar retailers like Dunkin Donuts, which recently began running free coffee day campaigns in its effort to win market share from Starbucks.
The economies of scale enjoyed by an Internet company would never apply to a carwash, but many operators are appealing to digital-age customers by offering free vacuuming at their flex serves and exterior sites. Aside from providing customers with an added incentive to visit a wash, the free self-vacuuming focuses their attention on their car interiors, making them more likely to purchase accessories or detailing services.
Operators can try this free strategy to boost deluxe wash package sales. For example, at the XPT, a SiteWatch 2010 Enhancement allows you to give a free premium upgrade to every customer who buys a regular wash during a specific period. Most of the customers who receive the free upgrade during this time frame might never pay for one on their own, but imagine the affect on your bottom line if only 5% of them ended up buying one or two extra upgrades because of this exposure.
Period Pricing and Automatic Rebilling
In the real world, your customers don’t think in terms of buying one visit to a health club, making one phone call, renting one video or getting one car wash. Instead they see themselves staying fit, staying connected, being entertained and maintaining a clean vehicle. For them, the above mentioned services are processes, not distinct events – and whenever possible, many of them would prefer to incorporate the cost of these processes into their monthly budgets, rather than pay for each individual purchase.
Monthly payments fit more naturally into the way that customers use these services. Unfortunately, in the pre-digital world, the limits of technology made it difficult for business to charge for these services on anything but a pay-as-you-go basis. But those barriers have been overcome, now that digital technology allows customer histories to be tracked and shared in real time and customer accounts to be renewed automatically by charging credit cards.
This is why NetFlix with its monthly video subscriptions has replaced Blockbuster as the entertainment software rental leader; and why monthly calling plans dominate the cell phone market. Learn how the SiteWatch Automatic Recharge Module® allows you to offer customers the option of making carwashing part of their regular budget with automatically renewed monthly passes.
Loyalty Gets Personal
Loyalty marketing is one of the most tried, true and effective ways of building repeat business. Digital technology has taken this venerable concept to the next level. Buy a book on Amazon or rent a movie on NetFlix and you’re likely not just to get a coupon, but special offers on books or movies that are popular with people who share your interest in Western novels and horror flicks.
Digital technology has allowed retailers not just to reward loyalty, but to identify individual customers and recognize them in a way that makes them feel special. SiteWatch offers a variety of loyalty building tools that can help you do this at your carwash. For example:
- The SiteWatch Intelligent Receipt Messaging will print messages on receipts based on the customer’s purchase history or membership in your club.
- The SiteWatch XPT can show special menu screens to club members.
- The SiteWatch Loyalty Promotion Module allows you to identify each customer by license plate so you can greet them by name.
Technology has opened new ways of communicating with your customers; it hasn’t replaced the need to communicate with them. Because even though today’s busy, Internet-savvy customers often prefer to interact with a self-pay station over a human greeter, they still want to be recognized and appreciated every bit as much as their predecessors did a generation ago.
- Psychology of Consumption
- Know Me, Sell Me
- The New Productivity Paradox: Growing Without Getting Bigger
- Act Now!
- Youth Movement
- Viral Marketing 2.0
- Deal, No Deal
- Simplicity Sells
- Good Impulses
- Experience Required
- No Laughing Matter
- Word of Mouth Shouts Out
- The New Rules Of Retailing
- Off The Clock
- The Heart of the Matter
- In Search of Stability
- Time Is Money… Even In A Soft Economy
- Back To The Future
- Making Your Car wash "Part Of The Conversation" In A Facebook Driven Market
- Reach More Customers By Giving Them More Control
- Finding Your Voice on Facebook
- Small Wonders: Bigger Isn't Always Better
- Flat Pricing Paradox
- The Power Of Partnering
- When Word-Of-Mouth Becomes World-Of-Mouth
- You've Got To Give To Get
- How to Get the Price Right
- When Click Meets Brick: Reaching Carwash Customers in the Multi-Channel Age
- Casting A Wider Net: Diversifying Your Marketing Strategy Keys Growth
- Putting The "Custom" In Customer Service
- Double Duty - High Tech Tools Send An Important Message About Your Commitment To Your Business
- Peak Performance: Managing Your Carwash During Its Busiest Periods
- Time To Rethink Your Ideas About Customer Service
- Profitable Performance Creating An Entertaining Experience Makes Customers Happier – And More Loyal
- Listening To Self-Pay Customers "Pays Off"
- Marketing From Within
- Your Customers Have Changed. Is Your Carwash Keeping Up?
- Reaching the "Car-Cooning" Customer
- Bridging The Digital Divide
- The New Pricing Paradigm
- The Future Isn't What It Used To Be
- Growth Strategy For Challenging Times: What Price Loyalty?
- Growth Strategy For Challenging Times: Invest