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Digital point-of-sale investments pay off for car wash operators

No cash, no problem: A seamless experience leads to higher sales.
Car wash POS system
Car wash operators note a decrease in customers using cash (Photo: Supplied)

Success comes down to getting control of the basics, says Paul Facciol, vice-president of Shine Auto Wash and Storguard Self Storage.

His Coquitlam, B.C. location offers an express friction wash with a dual 200-foot tunnel, two 165-foot conveyors with two pay stations per tunnel. Tunnel controllers, motor control centres and POS are from Innovative Control Systems (ICS).

“We’ve noticed a decrease in the use of cash payments, so we’ve adopted a variety of payment options, such as prepaid cards, Apple Pay and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) for fleet accounts. It’s all electronic and easy for customers who don’t want the hassle of coins or bills,” says Facciol. 

The same is true in Calgary at the Barlow Trail iWash, a multi-service site owned and operated by Kunal Patel. Patel opened the site in June 2019 and iWash offers the largest commercial vehicle wash bays in the city, as well as automatic rollover and wand wash bays for regular vehicles. He sought to create a cashless business from the very start.

“With cashless payment, there are no coins to collect, and security is less of a concern,” says Patel, mentioning customers can pay via credit, debit, ApplePay and GooglePay, in addition to pre-loaded iWash loyalty cards. “It's as simple as tap, wash and go. And, commercial customers no longer have to worry about drivers having receipts for washes. We track usage and send a monthly invoice. Everything is handled via our Exacta software and menu board system that makes product selection and payment easy.”

According to Bill Macdonell, there is a new level of sophistication available with current paystation systems. Macdonell is president of Wiz-Tec Computing Technologies, a Canadian leader in point of sale for car wash, gas and c-store operations. He reports they got into car wash POS three and a half years ago after a year of research talking to operators about their needs.

“Modernization and the move to digital is something everyone in the car wash sector has to do,” Macdonnell says, mentioning that a switch to a good digital POS can result in a 15% uptick in revenue. “With older systems, a customer might take three minutes before they can hit the ‘buy’ button. With digital, the time is decreased to seconds before the purchase is made. This speeds transactions and speeds the line at busy car washes.”

Macdonell points out that digital systems, such as those on offer from Wiz-Tec, cancel theft and fraud thanks to security features such as EMV compliance. In older systems, operators may have utilized the magnetic stripe on credit cards to run the transaction. This legacy method costs operators an extra percentage (2.5% to 4%) that banks demand to cover the liability on these low-security transactions. Less cash on hand also means less pilfering, less chance of strong-arm crime and no reason for thieves to rip cash boxes from wall mounts.

“In the past, gift cards and loyalty cards were a challenge for operators. Our system facilitates credit, loyalty, debit and gift cards. The system motivates customers to utilize all the credits on their in-house wash card and sees purchases climb from $4 to $7.86.”

At Monex Group they offered the first contactless only solution to accept credit, Interac and mobile wallets for car wash payments back in 2016.

"We are already onto versions three and four of the car wash solution,” says Layal Scheirich, vice-president, sales, Monex Group. “Car washes that are only equipped with coin-operated payment systems are very limited in the types of customers they can attract. Only those with enough coins on hand, or who are willing to obtain coins before they arrive, can use the car wash equipment. Anyone who only has digital or card payment methods on them, or who just doesn’t want to pay with coins, is simply going to pass by this business in favour of one that is better equipped to accommodate their preferences."

Scheirich also points out that "another limitation to coin-based car washes is that it restricts the types of add-ons that customers may consider purchasing because they want to make sure they have enough cash to get their car properly cleaned, and may not have enough to purchase upgrades for their wash. Once the coins are used, that’s all they can do, so many customers just do the basics and then move on with the rest of their day."

Contactless payment terminals and smartphone-based apps also can place control of a customer’s rewards account right in the palm of their hand.

According to Scheirich, customers can manage their points balance, redeem for rewards, earn points all from the same intuitive app interface on their mobile device, and pay with a tap at the contactless payment terminal located at their wash bay. “With modern contactless payment terminals, your car wash can take advantage of all the benefits of a powerful customer loyalty program,” she says.  

Nayax Canada is another innovator that is creating cashless, contactless payment car washes that are putting money into operator pockets.

“Our complete solution provides a seamless experience that ensures that operators need only one point of contact to handle every aspect of their business. Our customers see a decrease of about 20% in operational costs using our complete management solution,” says Gilad Levy, general manager, Nayax Canada.  

Currently, the Nayax POS is installed worldwide on over 515,000 machines, including car washes, air and vac machines, vending machines, laundromats, and other unattended industries. The devices are rain and cold-resistant, with the cost for products running just CAD$599 per unit. “The system is very smart and can send a text or e-mail message to alert operators to various adverse events such as no-sale or refund needed. There is full reporting, and operators can simply access the systems via their mobile devices using MoMa, our mobile management app,” he says, remarking that no cash, no longer means no sale.


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