There was a time in the not too distant past that I would find myself struggling to manually adjust pricing and offerings on static menu boards. If I wanted to adjust pricing for an early bird or manager’s special, it became a frustrating — and costly — ordeal of printing new signs for each property I managed and manually removing the old ones.

These days, most of the newer car wash builds — and renovated ones — incorporate some form of digital signage to convey pricing, specials, and other important information. The expected result is a memorable experience for customers and, ideally, a boost in revenue and repeat business.

I know most us in the car wash business share the same goals: to keep our customers happy by delivering consistently excellent service and growing the business while doing it. I also know from observation, that digital signs are practically everywhere these days — from fast-food restaurants and retail to airports and hotels.

I started thinking about ways to maximize the benefits of digital signage as they relate specifically to the car wash industry — to promote specials, increase throughput, encourage monthly membership, push gift card sales, and unify branding across all forms of signage including static placements.


Technology brings many benefits that enhance our everyday lives but digital signage can, for several reasons, provide practical advantages for us in the car wash industry.

First, digital signage promotes a polished professional look for washes large and small, which is further enhanced by clean surroundings, good customer service, a quality wash, and associated static signage on the property. That high-tech look reinforces the value you provide to your customers by communicating to them why they choose to do business with you.

Second, digital signage creates buzz and reinforces your brand image in the customer’s mind and ideally encourages repeat business. It enables the promotion of services toward targeted demographics, especially important for multi-location car washes.

But more importantly, digital menu boards provide a quick and easy way for customers to decide which wash package they want prior to proceeding to the pay station and thereby increases throughput. They also enable the flexibility to quickly change menu offerings and pricing to react to changes in weather or low/high volume periods.


Now assuming that you’ve bought into the concept of going with a digital signage package at your wash, it’s time to buy into the actual hardware and components you’ll need for a successful installation. For that, you’ll need to prepare a budget that includes one digital display per entry lane, installation costs, and a delivery platform for your menu content.

Speaking of entry lanes, make sure that your displays are installed at the right height and angle so that customers can easily read their content. Once you’re ready to go live with your displays, you’ll want to maximize content delivery to upsell higher ticket items, especially given the short time frame customers have to view your content. You can best achieve this by contracting with a skilled managed-content-solution provider.

A good managed-content-solution vendor will help you stay on top of content management by creating custom graphics for your wash, timing the delivery of your offerings, and adjusting pricing — especially if it varies from one site to another. With the click of a mouse, early bird and manager/weekly specials, holiday specials, etc., can be customized for each location and at specific times that you designate.

Another important thing to consider, even before installing your digital signage package, is design elements. In order to unify your brand messaging, you need to ensure that the same design concepts prevalent in static signage and POS stations are carried over to digital signage installations. In other words, you want the sleek look that digital menu boards convey to reinforce your brand and encourage customer loyalty, not be an expensive distraction.

A few other things that you’ll want to consider when you purchase digital signs: make sure that they are fully ruggedized to operate in the environment your wash is located in. Consumer-grade displays are not meant to be used outdoors. Ruggedized signage does cost more, but it is manufactured to operate in extreme environments where dust, wind, and rain would render a consumer-grade display useless.

Consider running your signage 24/7 because some customers will pull in when the wash is closed. Your digital menu board will be programmed to advise them of operating hours so they can return when you’re open. It can also alert customers of upcoming events, or simply encourage them to “like you” on social media.


Repeat what works. Eliminate or revise things that don’t. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your mix of video, animated, and graphic messaging on your displays.

Have a contingency plan for equipment failures. Insist on a long-term, comprehensive hardware warranty. Be sure to understand the details and repair turnaround times prior to making a commitment to purchase your digital signage displays.

If you really want to know what’s boosting your bottom line and what isn’t, plan on measuring signage ROI using a combination of reports from your content provider and POS system. You can measure effectiveness by comparing your average ticket with the timing of changes in your signage.

Your plan doesn’t need to be too formal but it will give you a general idea of what works and what doesn’t at specific points of time when specific packages are being promoted. For example, are you noticing an increase in the sale of certain car wash packages? Have you seen a bump in add-on specialty services during certain days of the week? Pay attention to the details because they will provide insight into how to fine tune your signage messaging for the best return on your investment.


So where does it go from here? When I think back about how things were accomplished with older static signs compared to the technology available to us today, I see a bright future for even more integration of digital signage into the car wash industry.

In an age where the use of digital devices is expected and no longer the exception, your customers will see value in the service you provide and the technology you deploy to communicate with them.

When placed before the tunnel, digital menu boards facilitate speedy package selection. In the future, I can envision digital signage playing instructional videos advising customers how to enter the tunnel safely —much like airlines do when they point out important safety equipment and exits — reducing the reliance on labor for this important role.

Placed at the end of tunnel, digital signage can thank monthly subscribers by name for their business, encourage new subscribers to join your unlimited club, offer discounts, sell advertising space, thank special demographic groups like veterans, and promote charitable community events and your social media sites.

Bottom line is that in a crowded car wash market, digital signage can be a highly effective differentiator sending a powerful branding message to your customers that you offer a high-value service at a state-of-the-art car wash and that they can expect the same quality time and time again.

Good luck and good washing.

Anthony Analetto has over 35 years’ experience in the car wash business and is a partner at SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory. Before coming to SONNY’S, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain. Anthony can be reached at (800) 327-8723 x 104 or at