How carwash operators are underserving retail customers

The tale of retail

Non-members account for a large majority of unique vehicles visiting a carwash each year.

During this age of innovation, information is power. Whether managing a professional sports team or a carwash business, analytics drive powerful decisions today through meaningful insights. Tracking the right numbers changes the game. 

For carwashers and detailers, those right numbers have changed over recent years. While cars per hour is still a viable metric to measure, membership has changed the way many carwash operators look at other variables, like revenue per ticket. 

During the ideal conditions of the past decade, capital has been cheap to borrow and our still fragmented operator base was ripe for consolidation, which is something that experienced firms have found success doing in other markets. But, carwash membership arguably poured gas on that fire. 

Among many other reasons, private equity firms and large investors, which all noticed the hockey stick growth trajectory of streaming and other services with recurring subscriptions, dug into the express conveyor carwash market, following the potential of the market’s emerging monthly membership offering.   

The conversation among operators swiftly shifted away from revenue per ticket to, “How many members you got?” But, what if these operators are focusing on the wrong numbers when it comes to membership?

According to this issue’s lead feature author, Austin Esecson, new research is starting to come to the forefront as membership matures in this market and some of the numbers are stirring up some important questions.  

Esecson writes, “ … amid the membership fervor, the retail side of the business — meaning all non-member transactions — has often been neglected.”  

What if the slight minority of your revenue also represented a large majority of the unique vehicles visiting each year? And, more importantly, what if this significant majority of unique vehicle owners — your retail customers — feel that they are being ignored and under-served by your business as it prioritizes members? 

Is this trend alarming or is it simply the cost of doing business in the carwash membership game?

We are relatively in the infancy of offering membership and subscription services in the professional carwash market. Still, technology and research firms are beginning to get a grasp of the trends and future of this offering through analytics. Working with these companies can help make sure you’re asking the right questions about your business.

Managing with insight will ensure that you see what all customers see. 

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