Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices and social media to find, buy, and refer products and services. E-commerce has shifted the balance of power from suppliers to consumers.
Today, if a business doesn’t engage in mobile commerce and social media, it is in danger of being obscured by those that do.
To illustrate, I went on Amazon.com and did a search for car wash service. The return put me on Amazon’s Home and Business Services page where I was presented with a form to order wash services. Choices were exterior wash, wash and wax, interior cleaning, and deep interior clean.
I entered sedan, exterior wash, no interior clean, and my zip code. The estimated price was $50 for on-demand one-hour service. Complete detail was $235.
While checking references for this car wash service, I bumped into Carrectly.com. The service allows customers to request any vehicle maintenance service (including car wash) in advance or on-demand and choose a time and pick-up location of their convenience.
Carrectly schedules service at a preferred shop or trusted partner. A concierge picks up the car. Work is supervised by a team that gives updates and asks approval prior to all extra repairs or services. Payment is made only once the concierge performs a quality check. The vehicle is delivered back to the customer.
Continuing my search of car wash on Amazon, I found several different guidebooks on how to start up a car wash business. I also found several car wash business-plan templates (Excel, Word) for as little as $14.97.
Besides this I found banners and flags, hand car wash and detail cleaning kits, equipment, and supplies mostly at prices below retail. Moreover, sponsored links at the bottom of these web pages included links to the websites of several major car wash equipment manufacturers.
Another recent development in e-commerce is the digital car wash network, a collection of existing car wash operations that agree to affiliate.
Networks are formed by tech companies that have created a mobile-powered membership sales and marketing platform for car wash services. These companies develop, market, and operate mobile applications, which allow consumers with smartphones to buy and use an all-you-can-wash membership for their car.
At the push of a button, and one low monthly fee, users are granted anytime, unlimited use of their chosen car wash simply by displaying the smartphone generated code. Some platforms use vehicle recognition.
Members can also choose to pay a nominal monthly upgrade fee gaining them access to the entire car wash network. Apps are free and provide an easy and personalized way for users to locate, learn about, and buy a monthly membership.
Of course, as more and more car wash operations join up, digital networks will expand spatially. This will allow platform companies to combine mobile membership-enrollment technlogies with direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns and social media initiatives.
The benefit promises more volumes, larger profits, and higher valuations for the platform company as well as participating operators. The cost would be a much more evenly distributed market and lower consumer prices.
How significant is e-commerce? The graphic on the right provides some perspective. According to tech blog Small Business Trends, 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online, and 48 percent of online shoppers have bought or spent more than planned when shopping online.
Top factors that influence online buyers are price, shipping cost and speed, and discount offers. Top things online shoppers want to see are images of products, product reviews, and side-by-side comparisons. Thirty percent of mobile shoppers will abandon a transaction if the experience is not optimized for mobile.
Surprisingly, given smartphone and other mobile device usage, reportedly 74 percent of small business websites have no e-commerce.