In the rapidly moving world of modern collection and delivery services the customer may be king, but the app is the beating heart. Online collection and delivery has been around for only 20 years or so but has come on leaps and bounds in that short time and especially since apps burst into life some seven years ago. Now laundry and dry cleaning choices are very different for many, especially those living in cities. Jean Anderson reports.
Customers can get their cleaning done with a ‘click of their fingers’, which often involves just a few swipes on a tablet or phone. No wonder that businesses offering a range of collection and delivery options, including apps, receiving shops and commuter drop off/pick up points are enjoying success.
Industry entrepreneur Tabish Aiman of SPOT Business Systems has been closely following developments over the years. He said the arrival of the app gave operators the chance to cover larger areas, offer a flexible service and adjust prices locally so you would pay less in Leicester than you would in London for instance.
“You also got a choice for the first time – previously it was fixed list but with the apps customers could say ‘collect my stuff and let me know what I sent you’.
Aiman said the way cleaners operate is now evolving with the high street presence reducing, with smaller drop-off shops and lockers and the growth of central processing units in cheaper but strategically located areas.
“What people like Dry Stream and my company, SPOT, now have developed in the last couple years is an app that dry cleaners can use. The app is not branded for Dry Stream or SPOT. It is branded for the cleaner. So, when you download it you would get say, Bellevue Cleaners (in London). They are one of the people trialling the app for SPOT.”
“On a local level, dry cleaners can either partner with a national app provider such as Laundrapp or ‘ihateironing’, or they can have their own off the shelf app that is customised to look like it’s theirs.
“To develop apps cost between £50,000 and £150,000. They are not cheap but because we pre-developed it and entered into the relationship with Apple and Google we can get that cost down to a few thousand.”
Once the app is up and running, the operator uses it to run their collection and delivery service.
On trialling SPOT’s app, Kenan Djemal of Bellevue Cleaners Ltd, based in London’s Battersea said: “In 40 years we had not done any collection and delivery but we set up our central processing unit three years ago then started an online service.”
He could see how customer demands were changing and wanted to get into this new side of the business. They are covering an area around their SW postcode location and will see how it develops.
“You’ve got to embrace all the technology that’s coming up or you will get left behind. Any punter in our catchment area can register and call on the service whenever they need it. It’s as straightforward as that.”
Bellevue Cleaners haven’t advertised the service but already have 15 deliveries a day on average, “We will grow it organically,” Djemal said.
Aiman’s advice to anyone wanting to enter the fray? “If they want to get into collection and delivery with relatively low risk and low understanding then partner with an established app. “If they are entrepreneurial and already have a small collection of services in the background then now is the time to invest in their own app with one of the Epos suppliers.
“To give you an idea, it’s less than £2,000 to have your own app launched. It’s not a lot of money. There are monthly hosting fees of £180 a month but you are renting the tech, upgrades and the expertise.” He continues: “Consumer preferences, thanks to ever evolving technology, are changing at a blistering pace.
“Where customers were quite happy to visit a local high street, do their weekly round and return home, the convenience of ordering, on the go, from their smartphone, picking a collection and delivery time which suits their lifestyle and automating the payment process have become a must have rather than a luxury.”
Explaining SPOT Business Systems’ role in more detail he said, they are at the forefront of providing the enabling technologies so that a local dry garment care specialist can rise to the challenge of fulfilling this change in customer preference.
“The front end of this process is with a local garment care specialist’s branded app on either the iOS or Android platforms. The retailer’s logo, theme, look and feel, etc., are what the customer sees and interacts with.
“After set up using the retailer’s own graphics and publishing, customers can download the app, arrange collections/deliveries, view their orders and receive notifications, at the touch of their smartphone’s screen.”
But this is just the start of the process in SPOT. Using the latest connected enterprise technology, customer orders go directly into SPOT’s cloud based back end, recording preferences, scheduling and creating collection/delivery manifests, seamlessly keeping the customer informed of progress, as well as managing the production process.
“Once orders are assembled using SPOT’s assisted assembly module or an automated assembly rail from Metalprogetti, the app updates automatically, advising the customer that their order is ready.
“Using the new RouteTrac driver app, garment care specialists no longer have to rely on written delivery manifests taking hours to get right. RouteTrac works in zones and time frames so that collections and deliveries are automatically grouped in an optimised fashion. RouteTrac even takes into account local traffic conditions so that delivery or collection commitments can be met consistently.”
Aiman continues: “For those garment care specialists taking advantage of the existing front-end app’s such as Laundrapp, SPOT’s back end works with these providing consistent app branding for customer facing invoices, pricing etc. and maintaining a tight rein on promised dates. Reporting of contract pricing with the app provider is available to streamline billing.
“While all this is going on, business intelligence data received directly from SPOT reports can identify areas of improvement or marketing. “Do we need to have more drivers on evening shifts as the routes are filling up over the last few months? “Would a slower area benefit from a refer a friend discount to make the route more fruitful? These are just some of the insights this new sales and production environment offered by SPOT is providing leading garment care specialists throughout the world.”
“To give you an idea, it’s less than £2,000 to have your own app launched. It’s not a lot of money.”
The mobile app, RouteTrac, provides drivers with easy access to information such as customer contact details, route progress, directions to the next stop, the time to get there and fastest route details based on the latest traffic information.
The view at CleanCloud, the dry cleaner point of sale and pick up and delivery app software provider, is that the dry cleaning industry is going through a rapid change. The traditional dry cleaning market is expected to grow at just two per cent annually over the next five years. However, they say that the on demand laundry market is predicted to grow at 34 per cent each year over the same period.
John Buni , CEO and co-founder of CleanCloud says: “Just offering a delivery service is not enough to meet customer demands. If a person has to use an outdated booking system or fill in long forms on a site, they will be put off ever ordering.
“Given the time and high costs involved to develop websites and apps, independent dry cleaners have traditionally not been able to run an effective pickup and delivery service to meet customer demands.” CleanCloud has a number of tools at a dry cleaners disposal through their software and online platforms, including free hosted website and app and route-optimisation tools, that can significantly help grow a pickup and delivery service.
Buni adds: “Keeping a current customer is more valuable than getting a new customer, especially if you can get them to increase and grow the amount of business they do with you.” CleanCloud identify that a simple booking service, good organisation and tracking facilities and the ability for a customer to schedule recurring pickups and deliveries are some of the key areas to focus on in order to grow your pickup and delivery service.
Other options available with CleanCloud are the ability to enable loyalty rewards, encouraging customers to continually book orders. Buni continues “ There is nothing worse than losing an old customer, through the metrics section in CleanCloud, you can export a list of customers and send email marketing to encourage them to use your services again.”
CleanCloud make it easy for customers with a simple booking service and tracking facility on their app.
A name already mentioned here is Laundrapp, the on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service which understands that customers are looking for time-saving solutions in all areas of their lives and are increasingly turning to technology to achieve this goal.
The process is simple – customers download the app for iPhone, iPad or Android or place an order online, then Laundrapp collects the clothing at a time and place chosen by the customer.
After a professional clean in Laundrapp’s trusted local partner facilities the order is returned, with a 48-hour delivery timescale offered as standard. The company understands that their customers – who are often working in busy city jobs or juggling household responsibilities – need flexibility, and so the service is available from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week.
Laundrapp’s CTO, Jodie O’Rourke said: “We have found that while a fast turnaround time is helpful, a key benefit that customers enjoy is the ability to have their items delivered to their home at hours outside of the usual working day.
“This home delivery option gives customer’s valuable time back into their lives to focus on what’s important and means they don’t have the awkward journey home carrying their dry cleaning.”
Customers also benefit from real-time tracking functionality that allows mapping of driver locations, just like Uber.
To further enhance the service, Laundrapp have created special packages devised with the customers’ needs in mind, such as with their ‘Nine to Five’ and ‘Dress to Impress’ deals consisting of a suit and five shirts bundle or two dresses, for just £20.
“Value for money is still an important consideration for users of our service, and so we employ economies of scale and improved efficiencies to keep our prices competitive with those found on the high street,” continued O’Rourke.
The operations and technology teams at Laundrapp work tirelessly to improve the customer experience by continuously monitoring service and product quality as well as developing new features.
This includes hiring and training its own fleet of drivers, checking the quality of the cleaning itself and, most recently, introducing a ‘Collect at Door’ service which allows customers to hand off their next order to the driver at the point that their current order is delivered.
The latter initiative not only saves customers even more time but, along with improved logistics technology, has enabled Laundrapp to cut its road miles by over a third since it launched in 2015.
Technology is a cornerstone to Laundrapp’s success, whose service is hosted entirely on a custom built, in-house platform that connects professional laundry and dry cleaning businesses direct to customers via the smartphone in their pocket. In the UK, Laundrapp cleans a garment every 10 seconds – operating in over 100 towns and cities from Ben Lomond in the Scottish Highlands to Sandy Bay Beach in Devon – and continues to expand with the support of partners who are benefiting from this cutting edge technology.
Looking ahead, Laundrapp is looking to grow the market further by reaching and appealing to the ever-expanding group of tech savvy users who continue to seek modern services that help them gain back valuable time in their busy everyday lives.
Laundrapp customers download the app for iPhone, iPad or Android or place an order online, then Laundrapp collects the clothing at a time and place chosen by the customer.
Laundryheap also provides on-demand laundry and dry cleaning services with free same day collection and delivery within 24 hours in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UAE.
Somesh Chopra, business consultant at Laundryheap said: “Our service offers a convenient solution for time-strapped customers, offering multiple collection and delivery slots from 9am-midnight, that easily fits into their schedule and lifestyle.
“Several spas, salons and eateries comprise the B2B customer segment. These clients typically use our laundry services on a weekly basis for their business linen such as tablecloths, towels, sheets and uniforms. “
The quick turnaround and flexibility coupled with the convenience of collections and deliveries straight to their doorstep makes Laundryheap a preferred option for maintenance needs of such businesses.
“In our quest to be the best provider of on-demand laundry and dry cleaning services and to maintain a competitive edge in the market, the business has had its focus on three key areas:
1. Time: how soon can we pick up and deliver the laundry back to our customers while providing the best quality of service and ensuring a win-win for all the stakeholders involved such as the drivers, partners, the business, the customers and the environment.
2. Customer service: how can we better support and repay the trust our customers have put in us for laundering their precious clothes.
3. International expansion: how can we improve and implement our proven business model in more cities and countries and establish ourselves, eventually, as a major industry leader.”
Chopra continues: “In terms of international expansion, our presence is currently in four countries and we are actively seeking investment to expand into other international markets, specifically France and Singapore since the market conditions there are ripe for our business model to pan out.
“In conclusion, we are in the business of dealing with items that are extremely dear, valuable and vital for our customers and to be present and support them throughout the process is one of the reasons why time and excellent customer service are the cornerstones of our business, as reflected in the services we provide.”
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