Digital Technology - Enable Innovation and Creativity
By Robert Roman
Digital transformation is the process of using digital technology to solve traditional problems. Digital solutions enable inherently new types of innovation and creativity rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.
Consider the digital transformation that has already occurred in the car wash industry. Today an operator would be remiss to go without a responsive website, pay terminal, dashboard, customer app, mobile payment, cloud backup, social media, etc.
A more recent transformation has been digital car wash networks that are designed to solve the problem of managing a subscription program.
For example, Wwwash.com is a relatively new IoT platform that increases revenue for car washes by collecting customer data via its Wwwash App. The data is then used to deliver automated marketing notifications and start unlimited plans and referral campaigns.
Some of the more recognizable networks are Washify, Superoperator, Everwash, and Touch 4 Wash. Some of the not so recognizable are Wash Club, Washos, Washe, and Spiffy.
Regardless of business model or wash process, these networks have shown to deliver tangible benefits to location-based car wash and mobile car wash operators such as revenue growth, greater customer retention, and increased profits.
However, operators must recognize the need to evolve with network transformation. For example, a company can create its own digital network with a custom designed app that allows communication and transactions through customers’ mobile devices.
If a company consists of three stores in a region, the market range would become the furthest distance that any customer would travel to a particular site in the network. Here, the size of the network would expand only if the company adds more store locations. At the store level, vehicle recognition is required such as bar code reader, RFID, or license plate recognition.
The next transformation was digital-ready networks such as Superoperator and Everwash. A digital-ready network is one that brings disparate trends and innovations together to support needs. The framework for such networks incorporate visualization, analytics, security, automation, cloud, IoT, policies, and open API (publicly available application programming interface).
In the case of Washify, the company also added a full detail management system that allows for appointment scheduling with POS.
The market range for digital-ready networks like Everwash and Washify will expand as large as the number of individual companies and car wash chains that join their networks.
According to pundits, the next transformation will be digital communication between networks and cars.
To illustrate, consider the circles or nodes shown in the above drawing. Each node represents a different location and each color represents a different company.
Let’s assume Company Gold and Company Blue joins network A whereas Company White joins B. Here, the opportunity or switching cost of network B would be less than network A because A has considerably more locations for consumers to choose from.
Besides convenience of location, customers may also find competitive pricing or certain amenities to be advantageous. However, when direct wireless communication with a vehicle’s computer becomes possible, this advantage will be homogenized.
Who better to exploit this than the automobile manufacturers themselves and online to offline companies like Amazon? For example, consider Ford Motor Co. plans to offer on-demand car washes and in-vehicle package delivery as it expands the utility of its FordPass smartphone app.
Lorin Kennedy, the FordPass business leader, said the announcement is the first of what the company hopes will be a number of third-party deals as more of its vehicles are connected with built-in modems. Built-in modems and car computers means mobile IP addresses.
Since all digital car wash networks will want to have access to as many vehicles as possible, consumers will benefit from having access to everything on the network.
Hence, we get the drawing where each node or location is invariably connected.
Of course, as supply and demand is more evenly distributed, we would expect downward pressure on price.
Even now, the typical base price for subscription programs has dropped from $19.95 to $14.95 and in some markets $12.95. Recently, Zips and other firms have introduced $9.95 promotions to drive sign-up campaigns.
Arguably, a robust digital network would be conducive to a more competitive marketplace environment and lower prices.
The digital transformation will also allow for creation of unmanned digitally controlled car wash facilities.
Consider web-controlled applications already available for Ethernet and WiFi I/O products such as remote monitoring and control of bay doors, irrigation, lights, entrance gate, solution levels, camera and server reboot, plug-in devices, freeze protection, and alerts.