General Article

Sell Car Wash Services Through Your Web Site This Holiday!

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The Holiday Season is quickly approaching and "now" is the time to get your marketing hats on! If you're looking to justify the "Investment" you have made into your car wash website, this time of the year is your best opportunity to make that happen.

Economically, it's been a hard year for everyone and retailers, both brick & mortar and online are concerned over how much the consumer plans on spending this year. These concerns have been compounded with the fact that credit card companies have lowered the available credit lines for many consumers and banks like Chase, have increased their card holders minimum payments from 2% of their balance to 5% (ouch). This means that your customers will be looking for gift deals that will fit their budget.

Now, my wife does all the Christmas shopping for our household and when the holiday seasons come rolling around, she goes crazy trying to figure out what to get everyone on her gift list. Not only that, between going to school, taking care of our 2 children, making appearances at various social obligations and every other thing that the average American deals with, she is completely flat out! She simply has no time to make gas guzzling trips back and forth to the stores anymore (does this all sound familiar).

To help alleviate the time constraints my wife deals with on a daily basis, she has joined the millions of consumers who now do their shopping online. I'm sure that you have heard this before but the fact of the matter is more and more people are using the Internet to research and purchase products. Here is an eye-opening statement by the Nielsen Company  in 2008:

More than 85 percent of the world's online population has used the Internet to make a purchase—increasing the market for online shopping by 40 percent in the past two years—according to the latest Nielsen Global Online Survey on Internet shopping habits. Globally, more than half of Internet users have made at least one purchase online in the past month, according to Nielsen.

"The Internet is no longer a niche technology—it is mass media and an utterly integral part of modern life. Almost no aspect of life remains untouched by online media. As our lives become more fractured and cluttered, it isn't surprising that consumers turn to the unrivalled convenience of the Internet when it comes to researching and buying products," said Jonathan Carson, President, International, Nielsen Online.

"When The Nielsen Company conducted its first global survey into Internet shopping trends two years ago, approximately 10 percent of the world's population (627 million) had shopped online," said Bruce Paul, VP, Customized Research, Nielsen U.S. "Within two years, this number has increased by approximately 40 percent (to 875 million)."

Among U.S internet users, 94 percent shop online - 57 percent have shopped in the last month.

This is a staggering reality but believe it or not, as a car wash operator, you are in the perfect position to provide an ideal "gift solution" to this target audience. The solution that you would be providing is:

  • A quick and easy gift for friends, family and co-workers that everyone would appreciate and use
  • The convenience of not having to run around from store to store by providing a safe and secure online purchasing option
  • Peace of mind for the customer who knows they received a good deal of a gift idea that fits within their budget

But to do that, you have to get in front of these customers before the big national retailers do. I can guarantee that "your" customers will be getting email from the likes of Wal-Mart and Target with fantastic discounts and deals. These retailers will be marketing diligently to encourage your customers to funnel their holiday budget to them and away from you.

So how does a car wash operator get in front of this type of consumer? The process is quite simple and more cost effective that you would think. Now I'm assuming that you have already established an eCommerce capable web site for your carwashing business. If not, to put it bluntly, you're a bit behind the power curve and may not be able to take advantage of selling your car wash services to these consumers this year.

However, there's still time if you looking to get an Internet marketing program going for the Holidays but you should contact a professional web designer as soon as possible. Web designers and developers are usually inundated with request from existing clients to prepare their own web sites for the Holiday season. They may not be able to build sites from the bottom up for this time period. If you would like to get an idea of how other car wash operators have established their online presence, click here to check out our portfolio of nearly 60 car wash websites that we have implemented for car wash operators from around the U.S.

If you have established an eCommerce enabled web site, the rest of this article is dedicated to what you can do to get a part of the consumers holiday budget.

Let Your Customers Know: Easily & Securely Purchase Low-Cost Car Wash Services from Your Web Site!

As simple as this seems, I'll bet a greater number your customers aren't aware that you even have a website. And if they are, do they know that they can purchase discounted car wash services online? Don't make any assumptions! You need to know that each and every customer is aware of this! Be confident that they know of your online presence and have been informed that they can do business with you online. Force the issue by making a big deal of it!

The best way to do this is by handing out leaflets, brochures or pamphlets to every customer that goes through your facilities. This hand-out needs to state more than the fact that you have a web site. It needs to list out everything they can do online. What's great about this hand-out is that your customer can review and ponder its offerings as they are waiting for their car to be washed. You have their complete and undivided attention!

Also, don't make the mistake of diluting or confusing the message with other things such as the wash packages you offer or the new detail services coming this spring. The main purpose of that hand-out is to simply get them to your website. It's on the website where you will hit them with your packages and services...at that point you have all the time in the world to sell everything else. For right now and for the purpose of this hand-out, we need to sell them on going to your site!

This "awareness" campaign should not be restricted to a single "one-day-one-shot" effort. It should be done on a daily basis...especially on the weekends. Statistically speaking, it takes a minimum of 5 to 7 touches before a product or service is "branded" into the mind of a consumer. Think about it...how often do you see a commercial on TV from the same local car dealership that advertises the cars they sell? These guys know they have to "consistently reach" out to their target audience on a regular basis to effectively brand their company name. The advertising investment is phenomenal but they know that it works and that's why they do it...consistently!

An advantage that you, the carwash operator has that a car dealership does not is the regularity that a consumer visits a car wash. These regular visits to the car wash is a perfect opportunity to cost effectively inform your customers that they can do business with you online. These hand-outs don't have to be elaborate either. They can be simple leaflets printed on a whole sheet of standard sized paper or a half and cut into two. They shouldn't be too small...you don't want it to get lost with the rest of the stuff that's in their cars.

The content and information within of the handout is more important and should key upon several factors. Note that you need to go way beyond than simply stating "Visit us Online":

  1. Since were dealing with the holiday season, the largest letters (title) should state something like "Great Holiday Gift Idea for Friends & Family...Car Wash Gift Cards!"
  2. Highlight that you have a web site and what the address is. These letters should be the second largest - Easily and Securely Buy Online at www.mycarwash.com
  3. Point out that purchasing online gives them "discounts" to save them money
  4. Finalize it with other convenience features that your web site supports such as customer feedback forms, online coupons or email notification services (join email list).

The hand-out concept works well for car wash models that have staff on-location for running their operations but how about wash models with no one to pass out these leaflets? These types of operations need clear and concise signage...plastered everywhere. This information has to be placed around the tunnel entrances, on wind-master signs and stickers on the vacuums & vending areas. Again...you need to state more than your websites address (URL). You need to let your customers know that they can do business with you online. It will take up a little more space on your walls but the end result is worthwhile.

If you implement a auto-attendant that has an audio feed or video display, ensure it encourages your customer to visit your web site and informs them of what they can do when the get there:

  • Simple Example: Visit our website at www.examplecarwash.com where you can buy discounted gift cards, gift certificates, print out online coupons and provide feedback on the services we provide...because we want to hear from you!

Everything that you state...from buying online to customer feedback forms needs to be easily and quickly accessible from the homepage of your website...one click and they've got what they want! You don't want your customers going through the frustrating process of having to "find" the functionality and features you promised.

As this entire process unfolds and as your customers start filling out customer feedback forms, purchasing online gift cards and registering their email addresses for discounts and specials, you will be collecting your customers "opt-in" email address. Throughout the course of the year, you will have collected enough email addresses to start implementing an Email Marketing Campaign that targets specific services you provide or targets additional holidays such as Fathers Day or Veterans Day.

Email marketing broadens your ability to reach out and communicate directly with your customers...but your website sets the standard and the foundation for anything that you do online. You want to ensure your site is error free, secure and atheistically pleasing. Most of all, your web site needs to convey a sense of trustworthiness. You wouldn't want to direct your customers to a site that you, yourself wouldn't purchase from!

If you have a professionally developed car wash web site that lets people do business online with you, there is no reason why you shouldn't get a return on your investment in it. This Holiday season is the perfect time and your customers are ready to buy online from you. All you have to do is let them know about it and how it can save them time and money this year. They'll be ready...will you?