With gas prices approaching a three-year high and an increasing number of small car washes fighting for their piece of the market, times can get tough for car washes. That being said, there’s a lot of opportunities out there: the industry is growing nearly 3% per year, and trends in car ownership and usage are being positively affected by the burgeoning economy and the rise of on-demand transportation services. There is also a growing number of home-washers and amateur gearheads who want their car looking spotless but don’t want to spend their whole Saturday soaked in suds. Keeping cars rolling through your wash can be a challenge. With creative thinking, some bright ideas, and great execution you can create opportunities to increase your market share and keep your washers rolling even in the quiet months.
Getting your brand out there and your voice heard is an essential part of differentiating your car wash and getting on-the-fence and low-activity customers coming back. Of course, the era of digital media and advertising is upon us, but that doesn’t mean the traditional ways of getting your name out there should be abandoned. You should take a look at your heaviest users, as well as those who frequent your wash less often: what kinds of devices or media do they use? Email? Printed brochures? Word of mouth or online ads? In each case, you need a way to reach these people.
Needless to say, an online presence is crucial — and an amateurish page on Facebook just doesn’t cut it. Whatever strategies you use, you have to be sure you’ve got some way of reaching people on their mobile phones, as well as a younger generation who are just starting to drive and buy their own cars — just remember that personalized and meaningful communication is especially important to this demographic. One way to do this is to create a mobile application that allows users to keep track of their last wash and outstanding loyalty rewards, tell them about weather to avoid or take advantage of, and facilitate easy payment of their wash packages. It’s 21st-century thinking for an audience that wants it.
Just as effective is partnering with car wash industry experts. By joining forces with an established brand through co-branding and combined messaging, not only can you learn firsthand what chemical solutions and business strategies are viable, you can also bring in new clients who may not be familiar with your business.
Rewards and Loyalty go hand in hand
The simplest way to create loyal customers who come back time and time again is to make sure that your car wash is the best in the area. You do this by running the perfect car wash with the best chemicals for the jobs at hand.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to have some extra incentives to persuade them to come back. Loyalty programs — in all shapes and sizes and in varying degrees of complexity, from printed cards and stickers to high-functioning mobile apps and RFID tracking — are a great solution in almost any industry. In the car wash industry, however, the psychological power of a ‘free’ wash and extra services after meeting certain milestones translates directly into increased and repeat business. Competitions are the other side of the same coin. People love winning. It’s exciting. It gets them talking and smiling. Hosting giveaways or competitions at your car wash (from children’s drawing competitions, to surprise giveaways) can be a great way to build your brand and fill your tunnel.
And if you’re a car wash manager, you should never underestimate the power of visiting the wash in person, greeting customers and asking them how their day is going. Associating a positive, memorable human face to your great service is a guaranteed winner that will turn customers into a brand family.
Go the extra mile
If you asked someone to remember a recent trip to a car wash, what do you think they are going to remember apart from the good wash quality?
People remember the extra miles you go. They remember the add-ons, value-adds and unexpected bonuses they got. This could be in the form of extra services or offerings, such as vending machines, music playing, relaxation areas, or even quirky treats like a pop-up barbershop, pet wash, or customer tours of the wash, it’s machinery, and how that works to create the bright luster in their cars.
Events are also a great way to make yourself memorable. Every time a Valentine's Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Labor Day rolls around, organizing an event to bring customers in can keep your numbers healthy. It’s also a good opportunity to offer discounts and specials, or run charity events, for example registering your wash for Grace for Vets to show your support for veterans on Veterans Day. Getting involved in the community by hosting customer appreciation days with free food and discount washes shows you care about your customers and will keep them coming back!
Finally, people remember washes that were downright awesome. Families with small children and frequent washers looking for a good product love the bright colors, pleasant fragrances, and heaps of foam that define an entertaining wash. You don’t just want to wash their car; you want to put on a show.
At ChemQuest, we know what works to fill up those quiet and low-activity days. For nearly 25 years we’ve been working with countless car washes across the country to create lasting, positive and effective solutions to create growth out of even the hardest times. Whether you want to talk chemicals, get your wash analyzed and a free trial of our proven and effective chemical solutions, or want to discover for yourself what has made us an industry force since Day One, please get in contact with us.