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Comprehending carwash chemistry

April 04, 2011
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Various carwash chemicals, including soaps, waxes and protectants, can be up-sold to carwash customers.

The marketing message of how they can clean, and more importantly protect, a vehicle is not only a big crowd-pleaser but also offers up options to the customers who might not want to pay for something they don’t need.

In turning to experts in the field of carwash chemistry, we found out there are new things happening with products and selling-points, and there are also various successful ways to upsell different compounds to customers.

Use your demographics
Each carwash has to cater to the customer base and an owner has to understand their demographics. Everything from the services offered to the signage in place has to have the area in mind. A product that specializes in “love bug” removal would be popular in the Southeast, but maybe not so popular up North. Same thing with salt and pollen removal compounds and certain protectants. Offerings should also change according to the season.

“Owners and operators need to determine what the most beneficial aspect of each extra service product is for their specific market and demographic, and then they need to build their marketing pitch around that item,” said Doug Marquis, vice president of business development for Lustra Car Care Products.

“For instance,” Marquis said, “in the Northern areas during the winter months, the protection aspect of super-sealants might be more desirable than the improved shine, but in the Southern regions it is the opposite. The clear, main marketing message should be heavily focused on the benefit that will most excite the customers in that area.”

Ron Holub, business development manager of R. Lewis Technologies, also said that it is important to know your customers’ and their wants and needs and then market the entire purchase as their best option. “The key is to include services popular with your customers in your top package or packages,” he said. “Too many operators want to include those services they want to sell instead of what customers want to buy. It is very difficult to sell any specific services à la carte.”

Determine the upsells
According to Brent McCurdy, co-owner of the Bristol, PA-based Blendco Systems, LLC, one of the newest things he has seen with self-serve carwashes are high-performing clearcoat protectants and waxes. “Some of the total car protectant formulas used in in-bay automatics are being used in self serves to replace some of the cheaper spray waxes being used,” he said.

As for in-bay automatics, the chemical trends aren’t linked with the chemical as much as the way chemical is linked to the trends, McCurdy said.

“It seems many operators are looking at the fixed cost of the property and trying to figure out how to get more cars through with the same property value,” he said. “This, of course changes the types of chemicals used as we go from stronger chemicals required for touchless automatics to more lubricating detergents necessary to avoid vehicle damages in friction autos.”

Holub said that it seems that wheel cleaning and dressings continue to be the “hot sellers” followed closely by the super sealants.

Marquis said that along with super sealants, he agreed that on-line tire dressing applications also seem to be continuing their momentum. “Another item that is getting some traction in the extra-service arena is break-dust-repellant,” he said. “It is the latest and most innovative new ‘extra service’ offering in the industry.”

As for “green” chemicals, they are still a very marketable item, Marquis said. “However, they appear to be somewhat under-used or under-valued within our industry still. Of course there are operators in some areas using it with great success, but nationwide it still has a lot of upside yet to be realized.”

Check your signage
Unless customers are more-than frequent visitors, or well-versed in the carwashing industry, they won’t necessarily notice if a new service is being offered or if they might need a certain product on their car. This is where proper signage plays a role.

According to Marquis, you can never have enough quality signage that “pops” and promotes any new services. “Many consumers,” he said, “do a better job of ‘selling themselves’ on the upsell items and carwashes having attractive and informative signage is the clearest way to help them make the buying decision.”

Next, make sure that a simple, focused and consistent promotional or marketing message is used, advised Marquis. A few examples he offered include:

  • “Total Surface Protection from Salt!”
  • “Bring Back That Showroom Shine”
  • “You’ll Need Sunglasses To See Your Car When We’re Done With It!”

The message needs to be straight to the point and can be fun as well. Just be sure to not overburden a customer with too much oversaturated verbiage. If a customer gets confused they can tend to turn to and purchase what’s simple to understand and familiar, which can equal a lost upsell and lost revenue.

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