Consumer Awareness of On-Demand, App-Based Laundry Services is Growing – And That May Change the Game for Many Operators
Early last year, this magazine published an in-depth cover story examining the on-demand home delivery and locker-based drop-off models that were changing the laundry business.
In that article, PlanetLaundry Editor Bob Nieman wrote: “The ‘app economy’ has generated dozens of new service businesses, making help for just about any mundane chore available to consumers at their fingertips. As part of this app-driven, time-saving movement, several laundry apps have come online, promising on-demand pickup and delivery for wash-dry-fold services.
“In addition to these fledgling on-demand home delivery businesses, locker-based services are another ‘next generation’ laundry business that seems to be accelerating in popularity and sophistication. These services enable customers to drop off and pick up their laundry or drycleaning at secured lockers in convenient locations, such as their own apartment buildings.”
Since this article appeared, the mainstream media has caught onto the trend in a big way – with articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.
On-demand laundry is, in a word, hot!
And, as I look around and see what’s happening in the media and, more importantly, what’s occurring in our industry and within many of our marketplaces, I thought it was time to revisit this topic.
After all, on-demand, app-driven service is probably one of the biggest concepts to hit the self-service laundry industry in decades. In my opinion, it’s on the same level as the frontload washer and the emphasis on energy efficiency. Home owners in today’s world, where outsourcing has become commonplace, are really buying into this new laundry concept – and the media are one of the driving factors raising awareness among consumers that they don’t have to sit around and do their own laundry every day.
Clearly, the number of these service providers is growing. In fact, in the large metropolitan areas across of the country – such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia – there typically are several app-based laundry providers, not just one or two. A quick online search within New York City yielded at least 10 such laundry service providers for residents of the Empire State.
In Minneapolis-St. Paul, where I’m located, we’ve got three app-based pickup and delivery providers – two of which just started up in the last couple of years. To me, what’s most interesting about this movement is that nearly all of these businesses seem to be priced in ways that will make them feasible and potentially profitable ventures; this is exciting, because nobody seems to underselling their service.
Some of these service providers are national companies, and some are smaller, more localized businesses. And, with regard to these services, there are a few varying business models being implemented as well. However, together they’re all creating more availability and more awareness of the fact that wash-dry-fold pickup and delivery even exists.
Even the drycleaning industry is getting into the act. Last year, I read two articles in the drycleaning trade press about home delivery of wash-dry-fold services; that type of coverage would have been unheard of just five years ago. However, many of today’s drycleaners are getting into the wash-dry-fold business as a way to better utilize their equipment.
At my store, the phone will ring two to three times a week with someone looking for a wash-dry-fold pickup and delivery service. Just five years ago, I would get maybe one or two of those types of calls per month.
That awareness has been created. Consumers are looking for this kind of service. And it’s an industry-changing market right now. Everybody I talk with tells me their wash-dry-fold business is up – and that’s even with more players entering the marketplace.
I recently had a conversation with a salesperson who was calling me from New York City. She told me she had used app-based laundry providers Washio and FlyCleaners.
She was a young, busy sales professional. She explained that she has a self-service laundry directly across the street from where she lives, and the owners charge 80 cents per pound for wash-dry-fold – and, when money is tight, she’ll drop off her laundry there. However, on a regular basis, she uses one of the app-based services.
There is an increased level of comfort that the younger generation has with app-based services – a level of awareness and a level of accountability. As a result, more than half the time, the woman I spoke with will to pay nearly three times as much to get her laundry done.
Now that’s a game changer.
Next time, I’ll discuss the different app-based business models out there, as well as outlining how laundry owners can leverage the growing consumer awareness of this type of laundry service.