RIPON, Wis. — When I got my start in the laundry industry six years ago, as director of marketing for the Coin Laundry Association, I was surprised at the lack of technology being used by the industry.

To someone in her late 20s then, the idea of a technology-enabled experience for owners and customers seemed like a no-brainer. Even today, a large percentage of stores keep operations “low tech” and stick to coin payments. In the age of “mobile everything,” this is an interesting dichotomy — especially, when compounded by the high number of millennial and Generation X households using Laundromats.

For industry veterans, the high number of coin-only locations and low implementation of technology is not surprising, given the length of time that equipment lasts, the cost and return on investment of many payment systems, and the wide array of customers who use Laundromats.

In the past few years, however, there has been an explosion of modern technologies for both machines and payments introduced into our industry — some by equipment manufacturers — with demand being driven by the new equipment replacement cycle and the growing number of new investors from outside the business. This trend was clearly demonstrated at the 2017 Clean Show, and I expect we will see even more technology at the 2019 show. (Editor’s note: This column was written prior to the just-completed event in New Orleans.)

Similar to the automotive industry, commercial laundry has gotten the memo — the era of connected machines is here.

In Part 1, I looked at intelligent machine control technologies from the owner’s perspective. Let’s continue:

INTELLIGENT MACHINE CONTROL TECHNOLOGIES: FROM THE CUSTOMER’S PERSPECTIVE

Today’s technologies don’t just enhance the ownership experience, they serve as a key building block to elevating the in-store experience — primarily by making it really easy for customers to pay through laundry payment apps.

The most important component of these payment apps is the associated reward programs that serve to enhance customer loyalty and encourage adoption. Done correctly, reward programs can drastically increase a store owner’s float, encourage higher customer spends per visit, and shift weekend customers to weekdays, helping to balance machine utilization throughout the week.

When taking into account the convenience of app payment systems; the ability to view machine availability before arriving at the store; cycle completion alerts; personalized marketing based on customer usage history; and the ability to resolve machine issues for customers remotely in unattended stores, technology-enabled laundries are truly delivering an elevated experience.

INTELLIGENT MACHINE CONTROL TECHNOLOGIES: ALL ABOUT THE DATA

In terms of the intelligent controls and cloud-based management systems, the data is only as good as what can be accessed, understood and used. Accordingly, owners should put a premium on data that can be easily viewed and acted upon. Remember, a major driver in deciding to go for a fully integrated system is the idea of scalability. If the data is cumbersome or difficult to understand, the system loses its punch.

Leveraging the data also allows owners to employ a more targeted approach to marketing. Owners can use payment apps to carry promotional offers and increase spend per visit by promoting other services, like wash-dry-fold. For additional revenue-enhancing tactics, these systems can be leveraged to send e-mails to customers who haven’t visited in some time, offer discounts for slow days, or encourage specific machine usage.

Most importantly, payment apps serve as the vehicle by which owners can develop personalized customer relationships by thanking patrons for their business and rewarding them with incentives that lead to strong store loyalty. Much of marketing comes down to building customer relationships, which often transcends other variables like price.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is an exciting time to be in the laundry business and an opportune time get a leg up on the competition via technology before these trends become more widespread. Owners who do a good job of branding their store, training employees, promoting their payment system/reward program, upgrading store aesthetics, and marketing their store online are seeing outstanding results — both in the form of increased revenue and operational efficiencies.

In the future, we will see system data applied to predictive and intelligent features so that owners can receive timely insights like, “On days that it rains, the store will see an X percent drop in revenue,” as well as predictive information on when to replace parts before machines go down.

Bottom line: Set yourself up for success by embracing technology — or at least utilizing connected machines — and future-proof your business, your way.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.