By John Paul Roggenkamp
The explosive rise of the gig economy (which largely hinges upon providing convenient solutions to common challenges), the acceleration of the work from home trend, as well as loosening social standards for formal and business attire are all impacting brands, markets, and – yes – drycleaning. With a deadly virus still active in communities across the country, drycleaners will likely need to adopt a range of convenience-oriented and contactless solutions (such as route-based as well as curb-side garment pick-up and delivery). Wash-dry-fold (WDF) has become a particularly viable option for many drycleaners keen on expanding markets and boosting sales. DLI asked four leading figures in the drycleaning industry for their views on the benefits and drawbacks of the shift to convenience. Some of their insightful responses are presented below.
1) How do route-based sales compare to traditional retail drycleaning and wash-dry-fold services?
“Those without routes are not hurting as badly as retail stores,” said James Peuster of The Route Pro (theroutepro.com). “We are hearing about a 25-35% drop in volume for routes compared to a 45-60% drop for stores.”
“Our route customers typically spend about 10% more per visit/bag than an in-store customer,” said Kyle Panther of Martinizing Dry Cleaning (martinizing.com). “I had a customer come in today who moved 15 minutes away from our plant. She was a route customer previously and came in to ask if we still deliver in her area. If we didn’t deliver, she’d have had to drive past half a dozen other cleaners to get to us. Maybe she stays, maybe she doesn’t, but with the route it isn’t a debate.”
Between March and August of 2020, “our route sales have grown 28%, while our over-the-counter sales have dropped 55% compared to the same period of 2019,” said Rita Foley, owner and operator of Regency Cleaners in Durham, North Carolina. “Compared to our route sales growth,” she said, “WDF route sales are up 136%.”
- Do you have a preferred method for marketing your services?
Mark Jones, VP of Operations for Spot Business Systems in Draper, Utah, “found that during the pandemic a combination of personal phone calls followed up with email and SMS/text have been the big winner. SMS/text is the fastest growing form of communications for our customers.”
“Our marketing involves digital advertising, Google Ads, regular monthly emails to all customers, signage in all of our retail stores, Facebook, and Instagram,” said Foley. “We run very strong digital campaigns in the spring and fall for our pickup and delivery and WDF programs.”
“We use social media, magazines, and other advertising but with limited success,” said Panther. “All our vans are wrapped and have our logo and phone number on them, but if you can’t afford that, start with a clean van and wrap it as affordable.”
“Route marketing is more vital than ever as it still includes face-to-face marketing,” said Peuster. “Many believe we are just about knocking on doors, but that is a small part of the various strategies needed to build and rebuild your routes. Drycleaning is still a personal touch service and it all starts with the sales and marketing aspect.”
3) How do you manage and grow customer expectations?
“Fast, convenient, and friendly service is always the best way to interact with the vast majority of customers,” said Jones.
“We’ve just started a new monthly email campaign called ‘Did You Know’ that every month sends out useful information to our customers for everyday experiences,” said Foley. “We utilize mobile apps and Customer Connect to enhance our technology and make it easier for our customers to engage in their garment care.”
“I have heard plenty of horror stories from wanting to drop off garments, making a special request and hearing no. Even if we can’t do something we don’t tell a customer a straight no. We offer suggestions or other options that may take care of their needs,” said Panther. “If they have 20 pieces they need in a few hours we can ask them if there are two-to-three items they need now and the rest we can turn around in a day or two” he said. “If they need a rush at three p.m. we can tell them we open at seven a.m. the next morning and will have it ready then. None of these have involved starting a route, having an app, or adding any services.”
4) What are some ways to get started making drycleaning services more convenient?
“We offer a customer tool called ‘On-My-Way’,” said Jones. “This can be used to announce that the customer is on the way for a curbside pickup, drive-thru pickup, or express service pickup at a retail counter. Customers simply use the branded app, website, or SMS/text message to inform the store they are on the way. The counter staff is notified that the customer is on the way and gets the items ready for pickup. This provides many options for customer convenience.
“Some customers also have express racks in the store,” Jones continued. “They simply go to the express rack found in the lobby of the store and grab their orders/garments for a touchless pickup. The other process that customers think is convenient is the contactless method of payment. This can be a credit card on file or the use of contactless payments at the counter/drive-thru. Chip-based cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay offer convenient contactless payment processes for the customer.”
“In this environment it’s about options that make customers comfortable,” said Panther. “We can deliver, take your clothes to your car, put them in a locker we have in the lobby, or have them ready when you come in to expedite your time inside. All of these create convenience options for customers without requiring us to do much outside our normal process. Convenience is less about the services you offer and more about the mindset.”
For more information about effortless marketing solutions as well as convenience-boosting applications, please visit dlionline.org or call us at 1 (800) 638-2627.