An innovative new system combining the convenience of smartphone use and automated car washes could very well open up a new avenue to profit for your dealership.
Dubbed CarWash Finder, the system is a product of Transchem Inc. And like most interesting business solutions, it has its roots in frustration, annoyance and opportunity.
Back in 2012, the president of Transchem was heading down to Florida on vacation, explained Matthew McCulloch, chief sales officer at Transchem.
“He was annoyed because as he made his way south, he couldn’t find a carwash,” he said. “He thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if I had an app on my phone that would show me where the cars washes were and avoid all this wandering around.’ ”
That idea eventually led to a partnership with Razor Edge Labs, a Toronto agency, which facilitated focus groups and discussions around developing the concept.
Initial brainstorming and research led to “pivots and turns” as new needs were identified.
Following a few years of development, Transchem hit the road with CarWash Finder this past May at the International Carwash Show in Nashville.
The system lets customers download an app – Apple or Android – that will use their location to help find nearby automated carwashes. Users can pay for a wash through the app, drive to the location, flash the phone at a specific piece of hardware installed on site that will open the door and start the wash.
The entire process is automated and doesn’t require the driver to even get out of the vehicle.
Kirsten Potvin, business development and mobile solutions specialist at CarWash Finder, said there are a number of test sites mostly with large carwash customers in Canada and the U.S. running right now.
One of those beta sites and the only in-dealership pilot has been at Cambridge Centre Honda in Cambridge, Ont.
Potvin said the store has a standalone automated WashWorld carwash system that offers different wash options making it a perfect candidate to test how CarWash Finder could be applied in the dealership world.
She noted in-store requirements are minimal and include an Internet-enabled hardware station linked to the wash control system.
Rich Snider, Cambridge Centre Honda’s parts manager and head of fixed operational issues, said the installation and operation has been very fluid.
“It’s a pretty slick system,” he said, noting the dealership is now working to get the word out online and via customer e-letter programs.
“We had always sold packages for car washes, but now we are pushing the app. The original idea behind the car wash was for customer retention and that is how we are approaching the app,” he said.
“And if we can get conquest sales of people who happen to drive off makes but use the app and drive onto the lot to get their car washed, all the better.”
McCulloch said users register with a credit card with financial transaction handled by a third party company called Stripe.
CarWash Finder and Stripe earn revenue through small transactional fees with the rest of the money deposited in the dealership’s account.
Though providing exact pricing is difficult as every dealership and wash system is unique, he said a store with an automated wash system could be up and running with a basic package for roughly $2,000.
And the system doesn’t have to technically stop with car washes.
“I’m seeing tons of opportunity if a dealership wanted to sell an oil change, simple service or detail package. That transaction can be processed through the system and is taken care of at the dealership with just a few moments on a mobile device,” McCulloch said.
The app also offers a loyalty platform that is customizable at the dealership level.
“One of the best features is that it is built on API [application program interface] that allows for integration with other software. It can also be private labeled for clients so each dealership can build loyalty with their own brand.”