At the risk of sounding like a broken record I need to stress that in every consumer-driven society in the world there are going to be buying-trends with each new generation. A trend in consumer spending can easily be identified by looking at the big picture, not just spending habits within a particular industry. You do not need to have prophetic sight and the ability to read the future in tea leaves to see the proverbial 'writing on the wall'. Our society is changing and the way people spend money has changed and the reasons consumers choose a business has changed. Keeping older customers is easy because we know what they want because they are likely already your customer. Making sure that your business appeals to the next generation of vehicle owners is what business should be thinking about today. The fact of life is that your older customers will continue to get older. The next generation is where your marketing sights should be set.
There are three trends that the current generation has identified as 'important' to them. We have to face it that the current young population and next generation of drivers and vehicle owners lives in a very different world than the one in which we grew up in. In the pre-Nintendo era we spent a lot of time (and money) on our vehicles. We took care of what we had because the thought of trading-up every few years did not make economical sense.
#1 It's All About Me
Face it, young consumers are selfish and demand a certain level of convenience, speedy service, and they want it now. A business that appeals to the consumer by making their experience easy and convenient will get the repeat business of this younger generation. Previous generations of consumers knew that good things were worth waiting for and if it meant driving a bit farther, using a frontage road, or running to the bank to get quarters was what you needed to do to get a good wash, so be it. Younger drivers want easy access, simple instruction, quick service, and no-hassle payment options.
#2 Can I borrow a Dollar?
There are significant studies on demographics and cash usage in North America. The 16-27 age group does not carry cash. Less than 10% of youth ranging from high school sophomores to seniors in college carry cash on their person in quantities sufficient to buy anything more than a soda pop. College campuses have to offer students card-activated systems for their students in order to get them to use the on-campus laundry facilities. Car wash operators that do not accept credit cards at every service will fail to appeal to the younger consumers in the marketplace or just fail to sell those particular services.
#3 The Green Movement
According to market research there are a growing number of young consumers that are falling into a category of socially conscious consumers. Although this has been covered in previous discussions, it is important to recognize that creating awareness about 'sustainable and responsible' car washing should be worked into your marketing message. Get people out of their driveways, get charities out of the parking lot, and focus on value statements that will resonate with those customers who are willing to pay a little extra for a service that is reducing their impact on the environment.