Purchasing, placing and forming a strategy for your on-site signage is a science and a form of art. Especially if your carwash is on a busy street, which is considered a site selection best practice, potential customers are traveling past your business at a relatively high speed. Another site selection recommendation is placing your carwash within a vast area of other businesses and densely populated neighborhoods. Well, not only are drivers distracted by other drivers and following the rules of the road, but your business is also competing with the other local businesses and their flashy signage.

A decent portion of any carwash location’s sales is often dependent on impulse visits. As carwash competition continues to tighten and as signage evolves — available for your business as well as other local businesses — you will want to make sure your carwash stands out from the rest.

Keep up with the technology

In a previous article written by Professional Carwashing & Detailing, Perry Powell of Perry Powell Consulting, a commercial sign and image consultant with more than two decades of experience in the signage industry, sums up effective signage as “an interactive set of considerations which, working cooperatively, create a higher rate of attraction.” According to Powell in the article, those considerations are “the minimum required legibility distance (MRLD), cone of vision, placement, message design, media and content.”

Keeping up with the times is also important. Similar to other product categories in the carwash industry, site signage has seen its share of upgrades and improvements over the past decade. And, this renaissance period for signs, particularly digital signage, does not appear to be disappearing any time soon.

“We have seen trends in the industry moving toward more modern, digital signage,” adds Christine McKelvey, marketing and art department manager at Stewart Signs. “Carwash owners want to be able to communicate dynamically and not be limited to the amount of information they can display. It’s also the type of sign that’s always noticed — a differentiator among businesses.”

McKelvey, who has experience in outdoor signage, notes three main types of signage in that category:

  1. Identification signage, which simply identifies your location and doesn’t offer the ability to communicate varying information.
  2. Changeable letter signage, for which letters are manually changed to communicate information. This type is typically less expensive and also limits the amount of information owners and operators can display. Also, an employee must attend to the sign outdoors and manually change the message as needed.
  3. LED signage, which offers the most versatility, can feature dynamic transition effects, video and scheduling capabilities so messages are never out of date. And, these signs can virtually feature an unlimited number of messages.

The show experience

Loyal and new customers expect and appreciate the show experience of a carwash. A fun, interesting carwash experience will stick out to new customers and result in repeat visits. Your signage can play an important role in elevating and creating this environment. In fact, today’s signage manufacturers are modifying their products to meet this end result.

“Carwash signage has evolved by incorporating sophisticated animations and powerful bursts of color with the static message of the signs,” explains Bobby Jones, TSS Inc.’s art director, comparing static library signs to the alluring flashing dynamic lights of Las Vegas. “Just having a static sign present in the wash doesn’t really add to the experience like chasing and flashing LED animations can. That’s why it’s necessary to pair the two together.”

The return for owners who double down on modern signs with advanced features can be huge. Interest in carwashing is high. Effective, unique signage can be a reason customers not only come back, but also spread the word around town and on social media of what caught their eye and where.

Key elements

Perfecting the art and science of on-site signage is more complicated than many believe. In addition to the type of sign you would like to purchase, many other factors should be considered, such as messaging, visibility, colors and so on. According to Jones, color and design elements are critical facets that make a sign effective.

“If the colors do not contrast enough then the sign won’t be visible. A sign is only as effective as its visibility,” asserts Jones, adding that font selection is the next consideration. “Fonts that look good on print ads do not always translate to effective fonts on outdoor signage. Consistency among signage at your wash will help convey a sense of professionalism and reinforces your brand with customers.”

Equally as important is cleanliness of the signage at your site. A dirty, dingy and barely legible sign is not good for business or reinforcing a positive customer experience.

“You’re selling the image of cleanliness,” reminds McKelvey. “So a sign, first and foremost, must look the part.”

McKelvey advises owners and operators to consider a quality sign that has header graphics applied to the second surface, which means on the inside instead of the outside, and is UV-treated to protect the sign from fading or yellowing.

“In addition, a strong polycarbonate instead of an acrylic sign face will resist breakage and cracking. For LEDs, the importance is the initial brightness (LEDs will dim over time) and quality of the components,” adds McKelvey.

For Jones, common pitfalls, especially for new owners, is neglecting to properly budget for signage. “Ironically,” he says, “the signage package will probably be the smallest portion of the budget, yet [it is] the one that will yield the most impact to your bottom line.”

In addition to alluring new customers and entertaining and informing current customers, signage can also be strategically used to upsell your current programs. Customers are more likely to make an impulsive purchase on a higher package, explains Jones, if an enticing sign is right by the cashier or point of purchase.

“It also helps with unlimited wash plans to draw a daily comparison of an insignificant item. For instance, if your monthly plan is $20 a month, you could say ‘Wash as much as you want for half the price of a cup of coffee a day.’ This makes the monetary monthly value seem more manageable,” concludes Jones.