Each year Professional Carwashing & Detailing compiles information for its annual Buyers Guide, which is included for most of our readers with this December issue. This comprehensive directory — sourced from our online version found at www.carwash.com/business-directory — features a multitude of product innovations in the professional carwash market. With a healthy combination of the tried-and-true products and the new and improved innovations of today, our industry is staying ahead and offering solutions for customer satisfaction through high-end results.

In a recent Professional Carwashing & Detailing poll, 70 percent of respondents noted that they read our publication for “new product information.” But, why are the tools of the trade so important to focus on? Simply put, many of today’s manufacturers are doing their homework and offer cutting-edge solutions intended to entertain, inform, perform at a high level, enhance the customer experience or, in many cases, achieve all of the above.

We reached out to a few carwash professionals recently to find out which product innovations are catching their attention and why.

Erupt with sales

Effective, profitable carwashing is fun and entertaining. This strategy has several advantages, including more customers will remember your wash, resulting in repeat visits; and it offers an enhanced ability to upsell packages. One such product innovation that has become a source of entertainment, performance and information is lava foam applications, according to Stuart Levy, president of Auto Glanz Solutions.

“In my opinion the most significant change in the carwash industry over the past few years has been the advent and development of the lava foam wax application system,” asserts Levy. “Not only do these colorful products help to generate more income per car, but [carwash operators can also benefit from] the marketing that is associated with the application. We have always been a visually oriented industry for the carwash customer. Now through the development of the lava foam application system, the overall customer experience has been greatly enhanced.”

In addition to the development of this type of application, which usually features colorfully lit arches with outstanding graphics to draw attention, Levy has also noticed the positioning of these arches change for the better as well. “The application process [in many cases] is at the entrance and not down line near the exit as has always been the case with the typical polish wax or conditioner applications. Bravo to the product manufacturers and suppliers of these wonderful arches,” he proclaims.

Darrin Baum, vice president and general manager for Zep Vehicle Care, notes that improvements in equipment and chemistry have created opportunities to build upon one of the top reasons people wash their cars, which is because it makes them feel good. “Improving the ‘show’ with equipment applications, high-impact chemistry, lights, etc., have helped operators increase top package sales and consumer satisfaction.”

Easy money pays off

Mobile is now in our society’s DNA. Your customers are being inundated with more information and have easier access to that information more now than ever before. As a result, the business of carwashing is changing with the times, and more changes, particularly with app-based and online payment options, are ahead.

Point-of-sale technology improvements have had a huge impact on the industry,” notes Baum. “The ability to upsell and drive loyalty programs, all while making it more convenient for consumers, has driven growth and profit for the industry. Loyalty programs continue to help operators wash more cars. While many think of loyalty programs as a pricing strategy, the impact on convenience for consumers shouldn’t be overlooked. Gaining loyalty club members helps connect customers emotionally their wash, and removes another decision they need to make.”

The popularity of loyalty programs is gaining momentum today from the consumer side. Finding new ways to market a carwash has always been a challenge, but the Internet has certainly helped. And, with Web-based promotions and payment options, selling these loyalty programs is even easier. Still, say experts, a mix of Internet marketing and traditional methods is effective.

“The development of Internet marketing, such as Groupon, Foursquare and Facebook, has really changed the way today’s modern carwasher [reaches] a new audience. However, nothing beats the development of a strong wash club program. Successful carwashes heavily promote their wash clubs. They not only use the Internet for promotion, but they also may have employees actively promoting and selling wash club memberships on-site. It is not a hard thing to do, but it does take effort,” notes Levy.

Looking ahead

More of your customers are going to take advantage of paperless transactions moving forward. Your carwash must invest in the technologies needed to accept and embrace emerging online/mobile payment methods. As more people who take advantage of technology continue to visit your wash, convenience throughout the entire carwash experience will be expected.

Creating value as well as a memorable experience should continue to be owners’ and operators’ primary objectives when procuring equipment, chemicals and supplies.

“I see great opportunity over the next 10 years for our industry,” says Baum. “‘Do-it-for-me’ continues to grow, convenience is more important than ever and regulatory and environmental awareness will result in greater use of professional carwashes.”

However, adds Baum, carwash consumers will continue to be better educated and have higher expectations of quality and professionalism. “Value, convenience, quality and a positive experience will be requirements, not stand-alone characteristics. Poorly maintained facilities will lag behind, while operators that focus on a positive consumer experience, and provide fast, convenient service will win,” he says.

As you navigate through this year’s print Buyers Guide or our online directory, you will notice several innovations and reputable manufacturers that can move your business forward. It is an exciting time in the carwash industry in the area of new product development. But, as Levy concludes, “The innovation in this industry is truly amazing, but there is always something to look forward to.” What’s next?