Building the Car Wash of the Future

The technology driving the next evolution in car washing is here, and it may not be what you think.

A shining car wash emblazoned with 'The Car Wash of the Future...'

“The car wash of the future.” It’s an idea on everyone’s mind. What will things look like in five years? In 20? What is the next innovation that will change everything we thought we knew about the industry?

These are fun questions to ask, but the answers become more important every day. As the industry grows and the market saturates, it’s going to take more than colorful wraps and longer tunnels to stand out against the competition. When the time comes to build the car wash of the future, how will the best in the biz separate themselves from all the rest?

Learning from the Present

The last monumental shift in the industry tells us a lot about what the future of car washing may hold. The express exterior model shattered expectations of what financial returns were possible while delivering a service perfectly aligned with customer needs and expectations. Unlimited wash plans, fast service, and convenience made for a winning combination that benefited everyone down the line.

In short, the express model was the perfect win-win.

And it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. The express model has empowered new investment and aggressive expansion for even the smallest family-owned car wash, opening the door to a regional presence once exclusive to larger operations. Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s “State of the Carwash Industry in 2018” found location expansion was among the highest priorities for current owners. As Car Wash Brokers Inc.’s Roger A. Pencek puts it, in the near future, “solo mom-and-pop express wash survivors will be rare.”

When it comes to the car wash of the future, it’s safe to assume the next significant revolution will need to play on the strengths of the express model. This means finding better ways to deliver the best customer experience while easing expansion and maximizing return on investment.

Automating and Standardizing the Experience

The first things most owners imagine when thinking of the “car wash of tomorrow” is complete automation. The reasons are pretty obvious. First is labor costs. The more a car wash operates on its own, the fewer people it’ll need to keep things moving. This extends to every link in the chain, from POS to load-on to exit.

As you lower the need for labor, you alleviate some of the greatest challenges facing operators today. In many markets, the ability to find a reliable worker who will stick around is getting more difficult. The struggle to find good people who last is well documented. Automation doesn’t just reduce the need for attracting new employees, but aides in retaining quality staff by easing the burden often placed on an increasingly consolidated workforce.

Automation also means consistency. The automated wash tunnel brought a consistent, high-quality product to the consumer, which helped the express model thrive. Further automation only continues this.

When it comes to the future, the next level of site standardization matters. Your brand and your service go hand-in-hand, so when you’ve got the perfect offering, how will you bring it to your new locations? As you add sites to the mix, it becomes difficult to maintain the same quality across the board. Thankfully, the car wash of the future has an answer to that as well.

Remote site monitoring tools have existed for a few years, but the latest wave of insight and analytics offerings go far beyond the spreadsheets of the past. Now, owners can get feedback on everything from chemical usage to conveyor status right on their phone. Advances in computer vision allow software to go beyond monitoring and stop a conveyor in milliseconds to prevent accidents before they happen. Site-by-site analytics aid in maintaining a consistent quality of service across an entire franchise. In the near future, what you know will be just as important as what you do.

A laptop displaying sweet analytics graphsAnalytics tools will soon be the norm.

NoPileups car wash enhancement service is a prime example of where the industry is headed next. It can not only automate tasks such as accident prevention but provide statistics and other feedback to aid in maintaining and improving site performance across multiple locations. In addition, the service costs a fraction of what it would take to staff the equivalent in human labor. NoPileups is the next evolution of the express exterior car wash, allowing you to do more while spending less.

The Customer Comes First

Car washing is a service-driven business, and that means customers hold the real power. In the next several years, the fight for each patron is going to heat up. The car wash of the future must be ready.

The success of express has made each individual customer incredibly valuable, and this will only increase in time. Unlimited wash plans are highly lucrative, and several analysts are projecting a future where this style of patronage becomes not just a novelty, but the norm.

The subscription strategy has been widely successful in other industries (such as entertainment and enterprise software), and some of the associated tech is coming along for the ride. Mobile apps providing loyalty rewards and subscription management don’t just ease purchases but keep customers engaged with your business long after they leave the tunnel. New methods of cashless payment do more than cut out the quarters. Customers can pay for their wash before they even get to the lot, speeding up your POS while adding convenience for your loyal patrons

Unlimited plans and loyalty programs are an exciting prospect for the future of the industry, but they pose a serious risk. If you can deliver consistent quality and a good value, you can be sure your members will keep coming back to you every time they need a wash. However, the opposite is also true — and much more dangerous. If you fail to impress a customer, they won’t just go somewhere else. There’s a good chance they’ll never come back; signed to a wash subscription at a local competitor.

The car wash of the future needs to do everything to hold onto each customer. Every moment of their experience matters, and losing a customer to something as random as a hopped roller is hard to live down. By utilizing NoPileups full tunnel anti-collision, owners can better defend themselves from losing loyalty. Customers won’t just stay protected from collisions and other mid-tunnel hazards, but feel protected; comforted by the knowledge their car wash of choice is taking every precaution for their vehicle’s safety.

NoPileups is Leading the Way

In many cases, the technology behind the next evolution of the express exterior car wash is already here. Owners now have access to services and software that further automate operations and alleviate labor needs. Modernized safety and monitoring tools ensure consistent product quality that eases site expansion without jeopardizing customer loyalty.

The car wash of the future won’t be a sci-fi light show. It will use smart enhancements and leverage new technology to provide the best customer experience every time — all without compromising returns on investment. While everyone else is wondering what comes next, NoPileups is making the future of the car wash industry a reality.

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