High Tech Tools Do More Than Help You Run Your Carwash More Efficiently, They Also Send An Important Message To Customers About Your Commitment To Your Business.
Domino's and McDonald's have tweaked their corporate images and increased sales by associating themselves with technological innovations.
It's been said that consumers "vote with their pocketbooks." If that's the case, then technology has clearly been elected by American shoppers as the leader of the free market place. A recent Wall Street Journal article, entitled "Tech Gadgets Steal Sales From Appliances (and) Clothes", detailed how hard-pressed consumers who've cut back on most durable good purchases are still spending more on iPads, flat screen TVs and other high-tech products.
As a carwash operator, you aren't in the business of selling blu-rays or iBoxes, but the popularity of all things high tech does present you with an opportunity to enhance your public image by incorporating products like the SiteWatch® Xpress Pay Terminal® and FastPass® into your marketing message.
Pizza and hamburgers aren't exactly high tech products, but Domino's and McDonald's have tweaked their corporate images and increased sales by associating themselves with technological innovations that aren't even directly related to their core businesses. On the other hand, companies like bookseller Barnes & Noble that were strongly associated with old technology have found it tough to respond to challenges posed by new cutting edge competitors. Even after these companies introduce high tech alternatives to their competitors' new offerings, their out-dated low-tech images often make it difficult for them to gain traction in the market.
Technology's Positive Image
According to the US Commerce Department, consumer spending on all durable goods including furniture, household appliances, tools and utensils was 7.5% lower for the first six months of 2010 than it was for the same period in 2007, the year before the recession started. The notable exception to this decline was the high tech product category, which was almost 2% higher the first half of this year than it was before the recession began.
Given our penchant for high tech products, it's no wonder that most of us believe that technology plays a positive role in our lives. A poll conducted by National Public Radio and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found that 72% of respondents believed that the Internet made life better and 87% said that computers had the same salutary effect. Compare this to the dismally low approval ratings that similar surveys usually give Congress, the media, labor unions, corporations and many other prominent parts of modern life, and it's easy to see why associating your carwash with advanced technological products like the SiteWatch Automatic Recharge Module® makes good marketing sense.
In a 10 year study of 109 Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries, Professor Ping Wang, of the University of Maryland, found a direct correlation between a company's willingness to invest in advanced technology and its public image. Reviewing the archives of major media outlets and the annual listing of "America's Most Admired Companies" published by Fortune, Wang found that companies enjoyed a 0.52% increase in their "Most Admired American Companies" score for every 1% increase in the number of times they were mentioned in media stories about "fashionable technology". Wang also found that a company's admiration score increased by 0.66% for every $1 million it invested in advanced technology.
Domino's Delivers More Profits With Technology
America's largest pizza delivery chain is one of the many companies with real life experience that seems to validate Professor Wang's research. In 2009, Domino's invested in an advanced "Tracker" website feature that allows customers who order online to track the progress of their order from the moment it's placed until delivery. The company's robust website also allows visitors to see what their pizza will look like as they add and subtract ingredients. Click here to learn how your customers can buy carwashes online with SiteWatch Website Connect™.
Aside from providing customers with an added level of convenience, the new high tech website conveys an important message about Domino's, showing consumers that the company is committed to growing and improving. Domino's smartly built on this image with its advertising by touting the steps it was taking to reformulate its recipes and asking for consumer feedback on these efforts.
Capitalizing on the success of its website, Domino's launched an ambitious social media campaign this year, engaging consumers in an open dialogue about the company and its products. An example of Domino's openness is a video the company did showing a behind the scenes report at how pizzas in commercials were shot to look unrealistically good.
These efforts helped Domino's transform its image from that of a bland, faceless corporate chain to one of a company really trying to understand, serve and communicate with its market. The results have been impressive. Online sales, which didn't exist in 2006, now account for 20% of Domino's $1 billion-a-year sales. In 2009, the first year of the new Tracker website, the company's profits surged 48% to $79.7 million.
Although there were many factors that contributed to Domino's successful image makeover, the company's association with new technology was clearly the catalyst that brought everything together. By highlighting the fact that it had taken a plunge into new technological waters, the company captured the attention of consumers and established added credibility with them.
High Tech Marketing Perks Up McDonald's
Like Domino's, quick serve restaurant king McDonald's also used technology to revamp its image. In 2009, McDonald's took aim at Starbucks by entering the specialty gourmet coffee market. Knowing that it would take more than a tasty brew to win over upscale coffee drinkers, the quick serve restaurant chain used technology to create a more positive image with these tech-savvy consumers. At the same time it rolled out its gourmet java, McDonald's began offering free WiFi at 11,500 of its US locations.
The introduction of free WiFi encouraged specialty coffee customers to feel that McDonald's understood them and was committed to addressing their needs. Even if these customers only purchased coffee at the drive-thru and never had occasion to use the free WiFi service, the fact that McDonald's was associated with this technology gave them a more favorable impression of the company, which in turn made them more ready to accept that the hamburger king could indeed brew the kind of gourmet coffee that could satisfy discriminating palates.
By the same token, customers who see clean, well-organized screens on an Xpress Pay Terminal or save time driving through a FastPass lane are more prone to think that the wash they receive inside the tunnel represents the best vehicle washing technology the industry has to offer.
Chances are that few, if any, other businesses of your size in your market use technology to the extent that you do with SiteWatch products. Many of your customers notice these high tech marvels every time they visit your carwash. However, you can reinforce the positive impression that these customers have of your carwash and reach new customers by getting into more detail on your website and in your ads and in press releases to your local paper about how these products work - and how they help you serve customers faster and better.
Promoting technology will do more than help you reach young tech-savvy customers. It will also create a favorable impression on their parents. According to a 2010 survey by the Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California, 81% of Americans in the 46-55 year age bracket now use the Internet.
The Perils Of Looking Old Fashioned
Barnes & Noble's Nook debuted in October 2009 after the growth of e-books cut into their market.
Just as being associated with new technology can enhance a company's image and make consumers more receptive to its offerings, being linked in the public's mind to outdated technology can have the opposite effect. In many cases, the consumer's perception of a company as being behind the high tech curve can linger even after it has adjusted and introduced new technologies to keep up with the trend. This lingering misperception can doom a company's efforts to recapture market share from a competitor with a more positive high tech image.
Such was the case with Blockbuster, which became so strongly associated with video store rentals that it had a hard time responding to the more convenient automatic monthly payment video subscription service offered by Netflix, even after it came out with its own version of this service. Click here to learn how you can offer customers the convenience of an automatically renewed carwash service with the SiteWatch Automatic Recharge Module.
Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookstore chain offers another example of how a low tech image can undermine a company's market position. For years, Barnes and Noble dominated the US bookstore market and enjoyed healthy profits. Then the growth of e-books, such as Amazon's Kindle cut deeply into the chain's market. Barnes & Noble's sales declined by almost 5% from May 2009 to May of this year. The company's stock price has plummeted 32% so far in 2010, leading it to announce that it was ready to put itself up for sale.
Executives at Barnes & Noble saw the writing on the wall, and being astute book readers themselves, knew how this story would end if they didn't respond to Amazon's Kindle. This is why they introduced their own Nook E-reader, an online and in-store e-book service in October 2009. However, despite the fact that many critics regard the Nook as a good product, acceptance has been limited, leading Barnes & Noble to the brink of selling the company.
The lesson to be learned from the divergent stories of Domino's and Barnes & Noble: don't just use technology to make your business more efficient, promote your use of it to enhance your image. Doing this will distinguish you as a forward thinking company, making customers more receptive to your new ideas down the road. After all, the benefits of technology extend not only to what it does for you, but how it makes you look to your customers.
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