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Be Smart About Site Selection

Be Smart About Site Selection

December 13, 2023

4 minute Read

Tip the odds in your favor by utilizing the latest AI and machine learning technologies.

A megawash in a rural area of around 15,000-20,000 people, and it’s booming. An express wash off a busy highway in an urban area, and it’s struggling. Two car washes at opposite sides of the same intersection, and both are doing well.

Long-held beliefs about ideal sites for car washes are undergoing changes, from the 5-mile rule to a daily car count over 30,000. Now, the factors going into location decisions include migration patterns, demographics, predictions by artificial intelligence, subjective observations and residential growth patterns, in addition to car wash density, car counts and traffic patterns.

Finding the perfect location for a car wash can be a bit of a gamble. Even with recent platforms that utilize artificial intelligence to identify potentially successful locations — such as Placer.ai, OmniX, DRB’s SiteSelect — it is not always a sure win. Sometimes, the factors used to pinpoint a good site are a little less tangible and a little more subjective. Take, for example, the visibility. That type of observation requires boots on the ground or, more accurately, wheels on the road instead of clicks in an AI program.

However, AI is fast becoming the first step in locating or determining if a specific area might work. Both the programs and the humans behind them are adapting, growing and learning. OmniX, for example, is an analytics platform that is being used by some car washes for site selection decisions. By combining benchmarking performances, census data, weather patterns, retail density and correlating other data, the program can predict for a given location what its performance will be, said Anoop Kanthan, CEO and founder. “What used to take three months, now it takes you 30 seconds. We are able to synthesize that data so much faster,” he said. “Also, importantly, we removed the emotion from that conversation.”

At Sgt. Clean Car Wash, that objective outlook is key for them when it comes to site selection. “Our goal is to move the majority of the subjective over to the objective and I think AI can do that,” said Brian Krusz, co-founder.

And finding that perfect site is so important. “We've found that location can predict about 80% of a site's future performance,” said Kayla Ivey, DRB product marketing manager, at a webinar held in March 2023 related to site selection. “So that leaves about 20% up to things like marketing operations, the equipment, the quality of the service that you're providing... Location is probably the most important decision that you'll make with any of your car wash investments.” Even car counts and traffic patterns have almost zero predictive capability when it comes to how that site is going to do revenue-wise or membership-wise, she said.

Placer.ai takes into account market factors, demographics and customer behavior to make data-driven decisions for site selection analytics. They use an AI platform to solve the problem of lack of visibility, said Ethan Chernofsky, senior vice president of marketing, during the July 26 Pitch session hosted by ICA. “Every choice you make comes with more challenges and a greater likelihood that it won’t work out,” Chernofsky said. Placer.ai accounts for these variables by bringing visibility into the equation and an understanding of where the audiences really are, as well as opportunities and potential. “We want to make that decision-making process a little smarter, more effective and faster,” Chernofsky said.

The car wash industry is navigating a sea of change, shaped by migration, demographics, AI predictions, subjective observations, car wash density, car counts, traffic and residential growth patterns, to name a few. Embracing technological advancements and leveraging predictive analytics can empower car wash businesses to find optimal locations and cater to evolving consumer preferences. 

Keep an Eye on These Counties 
Wondering where people are moving? What regions might be ripe for some new car washes, perhaps, to accommodate the fast growth? The U.S. Census Bureau released a list of the top 10 counties in numeric growth, 2021 to 2022. 

Top 10 Counties in Numeric Growth, 2021 to 2022
1. Arizona — Maricopa County
2. Texas — Harris County
3. Texas — Collin County
4. Texas — Denton County
5. Florida — Polk County
6. Florida — Lee County
7. Texas — Fort Bend County
8. Florida — Hillsborough County
9. Texas — Bexar County
10. Texas — Montgomery County

As far as fastest growing states from 2021 to 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau placed Florida (318,855), Texas (230,961) and North Carolina (99,796) at the top. The largest net domestic outmigrations were California (-343,230), New York (-299,557) and Illinois (-141,656).

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