Today’s business and carwash signage are bigger and bolder than ever before. And, they are meant to draw a reaction and a connection. Signs are also Americana. Just watch one episode of the History Channel’s popular reality show “American Pickers” and see how powerful — and valuable — business signs, especially vintage ones, can be to a person. Business signs are supposed to draw attention, and when you’re installing the right carwash signage, you will get the desired customer’s attention. 

In this article for new operators, we illuminate some best practices to use when placing signage on your site. We connected with two industry experts in this area to learn the trends in the market, predictions for the coming five years and more. 

Drawing attention

Assuming your new carwash is not located at or near a red light or stop sign, when driving at 45 mph or above, customers will literally have but a few seconds to see your main street sign. This is a critical time for your carwash, since traffic count means nothing without a solid capture rate.  

So, what are the most effective strategies to use when creating and displaying a carwash’s main street sign? We asked the experts. 

According to Stanton Foster Smith, national sales manager at United Visual Products Inc., understanding what attracts the attention of passersby is key. “Since the human eye is drawn to light and movement, there is no better way to reach them than digital signage,” he explains. “Use compelling, relevant content built around your brand that is eye-catching.”

You want to also make sure your sign is clear, concise and effective. Additionally, adds Smith, there should be enough of a distinguishing color scheme built around the brand that it is enough to be eye-catching while not distracting people from driving.

There are other attention-grabbing strategies new operators can use, and some are outside of just using signage. For instance, carwashes can use advanced LEDs in striking colors. 

Bobby Jones, general manager of TSS Inc., offers the following three points to consider: 

  • Make your business sign memorable. You should create catchy slogans that will likely cause passing traffic to notice your carwash.
  • Bring your tunnel to the street. New customers may not know what type of LED light show you have within the walls of your wash, so proudly show the experience that is waiting for them, and the traffic will come. 
  • Showcase monthly plans. By mentioning how affordable your monthly plans are, you can persuade some commuters to add your carwash as a regular stop to and from work or chores.

On-target, on-site signage

Once customers are on-site, signage can still be used to draw attention so that bold, concise and bright are still a winning combination. Moreover, especially as you carry a specific theme to support branding efforts, you should carefully consider signage design and placement. According to Jones, carwash signage needs to be cohesive. New operators should consider every facet of the wash and make sure all of the signage ties together. 

“Operators also need to understand the importance of linking signage with the experience they provide. Successful operators treat their wash as a destination for consumers and provide a foam show, LED show and great customer service,” asserts Jones. “This experience should be messaged through marketing collateral and signage to help build and reinforce their brand. This will create customer ‘stickiness’ and also the likelihood they will share with their social circles.”

While on-site, the strategy to improve your wash’s capture rate should shift to upselling and customer experience strategies. In addition to leading to higher ticket averages, new operators can build customer loyalty with proper on-site signage. 

The critical component is ensuring you have an effective on-site signage strategy in place. According to both of the experts we interviewed for this article, a carwash features several key points or marketing zones where operators can achieve maximum value from on-site signage. 

“Each carwash site has unique advantages and disadvantages regarding sign placement,” confirms Jones. “Map out your high-traffic areas and find a way to bring signage to these areas.”

One area that Jones identifies as an opportunity is the stacking area. “This is a great opportunity to market your extra services and capture additional impulse sales. Illustration of a clean, shiny car or an amazing light show inside the tunnel will increase your opportunities to close higher ticket sales.” 

Especially at full-serve locations, digital on-site signage, which offers more flexibility compared to a traditional, stagnant sign, can be strategically used to offer a multitude of customer benefits. This, in turn, enhances the customer experience, leading to loyalty, word-of-mouth advertising and many other tangible and intangible returns on your signage investments.  

 “Several smaller digital signs throughout the facility at key points can relay relevant information, such as sales and package deals, while lowering perceived wait times. Couple this with self-ordering kiosks inside and a digital kiosk outside at the carwash entrance to increase overall efficiency, lower overhead costs and raise brand awareness. Your customers are much more likely to interact with a digital kiosk than with a traditional sign,” says Smith. 

Also, according to Smith, operators can expect to receive overwhelmingly positive customer reactions when strategically placing signs throughout the wash process. Furthermore, he adds, either at a self service vacuum or a communal waiting area, digital kiosks can allow for impulse upgrades to services or a portal for loyalty program enrollment or unlimited carwash subscription management.

“Medium-sized signs can also be used to promote upcoming specials, local partner advertising or customer appreciation messaging,” Smith adds. 

There are also seasonal and regional opportunities that you can leverage to market and upsell your services. As Jones notes, such specials as “love bug” services in the South and snow and rust protection services in the North should be prominently featured on your carwash’s digital signage.  

Improvements ahead 

The introduction of digital signs decades ago changed this product category’s landscape and possibilities. With these advanced signs, businesses are able to deliver more value to the customer while lowering costs and becoming more efficient. So, what’s next for carwash signage moving forward? The evolution is in fact currently underway. 

Signage manufacturers and designers are currently working on improving the clarity and brightness of digital signage while lowering energy and maintenance needs. Whether the weather is sunny or cloudy and gray, today’s leading outdoor signage can easily be seen by customers throughout the entire day and night. With an investment in modern, leading signage, that’s 365 days a year, 24/7 marketing to potential customers.

“The bottom line is that digital signage, when used correctly, is extremely effective and certainly nothing to be scared of,” says Smith. Although transferring to digital signage might seem like a daunting task, Smith assures interested buyers that leading digital signage manufacturers offer all the tools needed to get started, even free training. 

Especially if you are building a new carwash site or installing new signage where an old sign wasn’t placed before, make sure you check with the local codes, zoning and laws before installation. For instance, some areas might restrict the use of large, digital signage on the main road. 

When done right, carwash signage is an investment that pays you back every day. Quality signage is a valuable commodity at today’s leading carwashes. Be sure to partner with reputable and trusted signage manufacturers, and then watch profits come to light.