5 Strategies to Drive Revenue at Your In-Bay Wash

September 26, 2023

If your in-bay automatic (IBA) car wash is part of a larger convenience store/gas station business or a secondary business venture, the car wash is just one of many things that require your attention. With so many things on your plate, it can be easy for the car wash to take a backseat to other business units. 

However, your IBA wash may be one of the biggest opportunities for revenue. Here are five tactics you can quickly implement that, once set in motion, will allow you to maximize the revenue your IBA drives with minimal time commitment. 

1. Optimize Your Pricing 

The right pricing strategy allows you to boost revenue without washing any extra cars. In fact, we've found operators who optimize their pricing can earn $1.25 or more extra per wash. That adds up quickly! 

All too often, though, car wash operators leave their pricing to guesswork, simply raising prices by a dollar or two across the board. In doing so, they potentially leave a significant amount of money on the table. Maximizing revenue requires a more analytical approach.  

But it’s not just about the price of an individual wash or monthly membership. It’s about how they work in relation to each other. A common trend is to have evenly spaced pricing, like $6, $8, $10 and $12 for single washes. While this may seem simple, it can actually overwhelm customers, creating “decision paralysis.” Without a clear choice, they will typically gravitate toward the middle or lower-priced option. 

A better strategy is "dominated alternative pricing" where there is a larger gap between bottom and middle packages and a smaller gap between middle and top. This steers more customers to higher packages. You see this model play out across various products and services, from coffee sizes to subscription packages. In car washing, it might look something like this: 

  • Basic Wash: $6 
  • Deluxe Wash: $10 
  • Premium Wash: $12 

In this pricing structure, a customer deciding between Deluxe and Premium is more likely to go Premium because it's only $2 more.  

As you can see, getting pricing right requires data analysis and an understanding of consumer behavior. Boiling all the factors into a successful pricing strategy can be complex and daunting. Consider using an analytical model such as PrecisionPricing by SUDS to help you make the right changes. 

2. Design Your Menu Strategically 

Your menu design should complement your pricing strategy to maximize revenue. With the right design, you can increase ticket averages by 13% or more. 

The goal is to create quick, intuitive purchasing decisions that guide customers to higher wash packages. Try this quick "squint test" on your current menu - Which wash package jumps out when you briefly squint at the menu? If it's not your premium package, your design needs improvement. 

Here are some easy ways to optimize your menu design: 

  • Use image and text size and color/contract to make your premium wash package pop off the menu.  
  • Establish a clear hierarchy to further emphasize the premium package. Layout, color gradients (going from dark to light colors) and descriptive package names can all help establish this hierarchy. 
  • Reinforce pricing gaps, making the premium package seem like a small upcharge. 
  • Highlight the benefits of each package (ceramic coating, UV protection, etc.), showing how much more you get in the premium plan. Stay away from brand names, logos or industry jargon customers may not understand. 


3. Run Evergreen Marketing Campaigns 

As you know, an evergreen tree is one that remains green year-round. Likewise, evergreen marketing consists of ongoing campaigns. They continually run in the background to drive awareness and sales over time. With this consistent brand presence, your promos become more effective thanks to brand familiarity.  

Some key evergreen marketing tactics include: 

  • Pay-Per-Click Search Ads – Ads on search engines such as Google and Bing appear when a user searches a term on which you have bid. Typically, these results appear above unpaid search results, giving you better visibility. Use these ads to target local search terms like "car wash near me" or "car wash in [your city]." This will drive searchers to your site to learn more and purchase washes. 
  • Geofencing - This involves creating a virtual geographic boundary, enabling you to serve ads to anyone who enters this boundary. For instance, if you set up a geofence around a nearby mall, visitors to the mall will later see your ads on their mobile devices, typically when scrolling through apps. 
  • Automated Emails - Collect customer email addresses and send them periodic emails with helpful information and deals to keep your wash top of mind.  

4. Launch a Mobile App Membership Program 

Managing monthly wash plan memberships has historically been a challenge for IBAs due to the absence of on-site personnel. However, with the advent of mobile apps, this challenge is being transformed into an opportunity. 

With a car wash app like Beacon Mobile, customers can purchase and manage memberships entirely through their phones. A customer can use their plan by simply scanning a code from their mobile device - no employee interaction needed. They can also change or cancel their plan through the self-service app. 

Unlike tunnel car washes where unlimited memberships are common, in-bay car washes might need to limit usage to prevent abuse. With a mobile app, you can easily set limits on the number of washes a customer can get in a week or month, ensuring fair usage while still offering value. 

Another perk of mobile apps is marketing. Apps allow you to collect a wealth of data (name, email, phone, etc.) you can use to deliver marketing messages to your customers.  

Mobile apps also allow you to reach your customers through push notifications. You can segment your audience and send tailored messages, reminders, thank-you notes or even alerts about potential credit card issues. This fosters loyalty and engagement. 

5. Offer Loyalty Rewards 

A significant missed opportunity in the IBA car wash sector is the lack of loyalty programs. In today's digital age, consumers are always on the lookout for deals, incentives and rewards. Mobile apps have become a primary platform for businesses to offer these benefits, and car washes are no exception. 

Some basic best practices can help you get the most out of your mobile app loyalty program: 

  • Incentivize downloads: One of the main reasons consumers download apps is to get deals. By offering an immediate discount or reward for downloading the app, you not only increase app adoption but also set the stage for future interactions. 
  • Implement a point-based program structure: Customers can earn points for every dollar spent and redeem those points for services. You determine how many points customers get for each dollar spent, how many points they need to earn a reward and what the rewards are.  
  • Utilize push notifications: Again, push notifications are a unique advantage of mobile apps. Use them to inform them of their point balance or special offers to encourage repeat visits. 
  • Further enhance engagement with gamification: Provide a game on your app where customers can earn more rewards for achieving high scores or reaching certain milestones. 

Reap the Rewards 

Implementing even just one or two of these strategies at your in-bay wash can lead to noticeable revenue growth with minimal effort. Focusing on high-impact tactics that run themselves allows you to devote time elsewhere while still expanding your car wash income.  

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