Consider it the car wash for the Uber set.
Spiffy, Squeegy, Wype and MobileWash are just some of the on-demand car-washing services that have bubbled up over the past couple of years. Instead of making the regular slog out to the neighborhood wash, then waiting in a long line of filthy cars for a turn through the tunnel, consumers can now order a cleaning and detail from their smartphone, at their convenience.
The best part: The wash comes to them.
It’s a model that has already made inroads in fueling [CSP—Nov. ’15, p. 87], and it’s seeking to work the same on-demand magic in the business of washing cars.
“For the convenience-oriented consumer, their expectation is to pick up a phone and stuff happens,” says Scot Wingo, executive chairman of Charlotte, N.C.-based Get Spiffy Inc.
“The phone is the remote control for their life. If you’re a vendor out there and not thinking about that, you could be left behind.”
Wingo brings a unique perspective to the concept, considering he and Get Spiffy CEO Karl Murphy have had two “fixed” tunnel washes in the Raleigh area in operation since 2003. These washes are fine for the value-oriented consumer, typically a male baby boomer or Gen Xer, says Wingo. But for the millennial—in particular, the female millennial—the traditional system is no longer convenient enough.
With this consumer and Uber as inspiration, Wingo and Murphy launched Spiffy in 2014. Customers download the Spiffy iOS or Android app and create a profile with contact, payment and vehicle information. To schedule a wash or detail, they select the date and two-hour window for the service. Then they select a location (work or business), vehicle type (sedan or not) and the desired service.
Spiffy confirms the appointment with text or email, and also when the service is complete. The user then pays for the service—via credit card, e-gift card or Apple Pay—and rates it. Options range from a simple hand wash, towel dry and tire shine beginning at $19 for a sedan, to a $249-and-up wash and thorough detail (the “Totally Awesome” package). Customers leave their key for the Get Spiffy technician or hand it to him or her directly. The service’s current markets are Charlotte and the Research Triangle Park area of Raleigh.
While ordering a car wash or detail is simple enough, the logistics of getting it to the customer can be complex. Spiffy technicians bring all supplies to the site in their van—everything from the water to the compressors to pump the water out and the cleaning products.
They also use a proprietary system to capture all of the water used during the wash and bring it to a reclamation center afterward for processing.
Water reclamation is an especially important selling point, because many of the vehicles Spiffy cleans are in parking garages or company parking lots. It is also important to the core female millennial customer.
“They really care about the environment,” says Wingo. “Plus, we are big believers in being as environmentally friendly as possible.”
Technicians also use low-flow nozzles and 100% eco-friendly chemicals for the cleaning.
While only in North Carolina for now, Get Spiffy has national ambitions. In its first growth phase, the service plans to expand to 20 markets in the next five years. Wingo and Murphy are also not ruling out an expansion into related on-demand services.
“Customers have asked for fueling and oil changes,” says Wingo. “Right now we are focused on car wash. We follow industries closely; customers are asking for it, so it is definitely something we will look at.”
With such ambitious growth plans, is the fixed-car-wash model in peril? Wingo believes there is room for both; the typical Spiffy customer doesn’t use tunnel washes anyway.
L.A. Wash War
Beyond Spiffy, a few other on-demand car-washing services have cropped up in the past two years, including three in the Los Angeles market.
This service, co-founded by a former Los Angeles Laker, offers three levels of cleaning—from the $22 “Quickie” to the $65 “Swanky”—and uses nontoxic, plant-based cleaners with no water.
Mobile Wash has a unique pricing model, charging customers based on the surface area of the vehicle rather than its general model (sedan, truck, etc.). To determine the rate, Mobile Wash’s app considers the vehicle’s year, make and model.
The service has two prices: $25 for an express wash and $35 for an exterior- and interior-cleaning classic, with an upcharge for larger vehicles. Squeegy cleans cars with virtually no water, relying instead on a wash-and-wax solution.
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