Digital Car Wash - No Cash, No Cards, No Codes, No Tokens
By Robert Roman
According to its website (Superoperator.com), Superoperator LTD (SO) aims to become the world’s leading car wash network without owning a single car wash.
The concept is to improve wash frequency through software technology. SO achieves this by integrating SO software and vehicle recognition technology into existing wash systems.
Consumers download an application to a mobile device and pay a fixed monthly fee for unlimited use. The SO app functions allow users to search for the closest store, get directions, check services/prices, make purchases, and even check waiting times.
SO is available in Finland, the United States, Australia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. The company also has its sights on Polish and German markets. Apps are available on Google Play and The App Store.
Superoperator technology is developed by Vincit Group Oyj, a Finland-based software company.
Vincit’s app business segment includes implementation of browser-based HTML5 services, mobile applications for various smartphone platforms, as well as design and implementation of required back-end systems.
According to SO co-founder and CEO Erkki Aminoff, the idea for the prototype for this type of service was the result of a collaborative effort with the Vincit people back in 2011.
Reportedly, they came up with a business model where the customer receives unlimited washes for a monthly fee. Instead of codes or tokens, the car wash would use register plate recognition where the customer could just drive in the car wash.
SO is also targeting fleet management operations with an app that provides monthly invoicing covering all vehicles. This simplifies administration and keeps costs in control.
The company’s app is also planned for use to remotely operate unmanned car wash sites that are open 24/7.
According to SO’s sales brochure, three elements are required to go digital. First is site hardware that is custom designed for size and range of car wash equipment. Second is a computer dashboard that provides real-time data on equipment and customers. Last is the consumer application.
Cost to go digital includes the expense to install the equipment, a monthly SO service fee, and the credit card transaction fees.
In the Czech Republic, SO has partnered with petrol station operator Benzina and has installed the digital car wash application at 57 washes.
In Finland, SO has 30 washes in the network and an agreement to install its technology at eleven ABC petrol stations in the Helsinki area.
In the U.S., SO has several car wash partners. For example, My Wash Pass (mywashpass.com) is the SO mobile app for JoMo Car Wash and the Oasis Auto Spa chain located in Missouri and Kansas.
There is a similar SO app for Tommy Express that networks multiple locations in Michigan, Texas, California, and Missouri, with future sites planned for Nebraska and Florida.
Arguably, one of the hurdles for SO going forward is getting more companies to play. After all, if not SO it surely would have been someone else. The reason: app technology can be cloned and it’s relatively inexpensive to do.
For example, if I wanted to start up a “smart-car” business such as mobile wash or ride-haul service or create a business “bot,” I can have an Uber-like app developed for me by an online service that is business- and launch-ready in only several days. So, the door is open for more digital car wash networks.
In the final analysis, a digital car wash network is no different than other digital networks. On the plus side, digital is cashless. It allows for personalization such as suggesting products or related advertising that serves to add value. It also allows companies to more easily offer incentives based on interests and needs resulting in cost savings.
On the other hand, the model teaches consumers to buy on price, network members are tied to the network system, and folks need to follow best practices like strong passwords. Nevertheless, things are moving this way.