CHICAGO — Using coins as a payment method to operate a self-service laundry’s washer or dryer has long been the tradition. But driven by advances in technology and changing consumer sentiment, it’s becoming more commonplace for laundromat customers to have the option to instead use their debit or credit card, a store card, or a smartphone app to pay for a wash cycle.
Coin remains the dominant payment type among self-service laundries based on industry data, but for how long?
For this story, American Coin-Op interviewed representatives from nine companies that offer payment systems and related products. As we conclude, let’s hear what they have to say about today’s payment trends and where they see things going as technology and customer preference evolve.
DO PAYMENT PREFERENCES DIFFER BY REGION OR DEMOGRAPHIC?
Are there any regional or demographic differences in payment preferences within the self-service laundry industry?
“Age, income level, and tech-savviness can all influence payment preferences,” says Steve Marcionetti, president of Card Concepts Inc. (CCI), which offers various products that include payment acceptance by credit/debit card, loyalty card, and mobile. “Younger generations who are more comfortable with technology are generally more likely to use card or mobile payments, while older generations generally prefer cash or coin.”
“Although there may be market areas which have adapted more quickly to the changing payment trends, the diversification of the systems has allowed for the implementation of all methods, throughout all sectors of the market,” analyzes Wayne Lewis, CEO of ESD Inc., whose product range spans mechanical products for coin acceptance to smart card, magnetic stripe and store-branded loyalty card systems. “And even with all of the economic trends occurring, there will still be those store owners who believe that cash is king and will not have anything other.”
“Yes, in some areas, we see proportionally higher use of cash (bills) than credit/debit cards when reloading the laundry card or app balance,” says Oleg Stepanov, representing payment systems provider Mitech Integrated Systems Inc. (Laundroworks). “Based on the data we see, some form of a conventional, cash-based payment method must still be available to the store customer.”
“Urban areas and younger demographics tend to be early adopters of digital payment methods, but we’re seeing uptake across the board as people become more familiar with the technology and its benefits,” says Michael Kitchen, chief revenue officer of PayRange, which markets a mobile payment system designed for vended laundries.
“What we found is … (residents of) elderly living homes … with coins, they have a very difficult time putting the quarters in because their hand is shaking,” says Jacob Lefkovits of LaundryPass, which produces a card-based payment system. “With our system, you just need to tap it, to wave it. … That’s definitely a sector that benefits from a card system to make things easier for them.”
“In 2023, virtually everyone in every demographic has a credit or debit card,” says John Kelly, vice president of sales for Setomatic Systems, which offers a system that accepts all forms of payment. “It has become an essential part of life. We have customers who are incredibly successful vended laundry owners in urban areas, rural areas, and everywhere in between. At the end of the day, all customers want options.”
“It’s important for self-service laundry businesses to understand the payment preferences of their specific target audience in their respective regions,” says Jim Garrity, CEO of The Laundry Boss, which offers a cloud-based integrated payment, control and POS system. “Conducting market research, gathering customer feedback, and observing local payment trends can help businesses tailor their payment options to meet customer expectations and maximize convenience.”
While no one can know for certain what will happen in the field of payment acceptance by decade’s end, when asked to predict where things will stand by 2030, the reps weren’t shy about offering their forecasts.
“Coin usage will continue to decline, and credit/debit usage will continue to grow,” Kelly envisions. “Customer convenience will continue to be the driving factor in payments, and EMV will still be very important. In the next decade, we may be paying for things using a thumbprint scan, retina scan, or bitcoin. It’s hard to say for sure since the adoption of new payment technologies is typically very slow.”
Marcionetti predicts the number of new stores coming online with cashless systems will far outnumber new stores without: “The adoption of mobile payments will increase significantly, and we will likely see an increase in stores that don’t accept coin. I also believe that consumers will demand cashless options from all retailers, including laundromats. Payment options will be one of the deciding factors for where consumers decide to do business.”
“If not already there, the payment systems will become the central nervous (system) of the laundromat (or the laundromat chain), acting as much more than just payment systems,” Stepanov believes. “They will be responsible for several key functions, from customer acquisition, to pickup and delivery, to self-service, to door access, to streaming data for predictive maintenance of machines.”
In the future, it will not be enough for systems to be focused on payment processing alone, Garrity says.
“The future is about data and automation. To truly differentiate in this market, we must allow our clients to use the insight driven from their laundry automation system to help them run a more profitable laundromat. By accepting digital payments, self-service laundries can collect data on customer behavior, transaction patterns, and other valuable insights. This data can help businesses optimize their operations, tailor their services, and offer personalized experiences to customers.”
“I believe that a much smaller number of laundromats will be accepting coins only as a payment method in 2030,” Lewis says. “The coinless store market will continue to grow but there will be a much higher number of hybrid stores operating. The acceptance of credit/debit cards and/or mobile app payments will be the largest area of growth as the U.S. economy continues to move toward a cashless society.”
“Looking toward 2030, we anticipate a significant rise in cashless payments across the vended laundry industry,” says Kitchen. “With ongoing technological advancements and increased user familiarity with digital payments, we expect to see a broader adoption of mobile and card payments. It is also likely that more advanced analytics will be incorporated into these systems, providing laundries with more insights into their business.”
Miss an earlier part of this article? You can read it here: Part 1 - Part 2
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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].