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What are Digital Menus?: Expert Merchandiser Aaron Hipple Discusses Car Wash Menu Trends

Posted on 09/07/2017

Technology is changing, and car wash merchandising is no exception to the rule. We sat down with Zep Vehicle Care's expert designer and merchandiser Aaron Hipple to get his take on one of the industry's newest trend—digital menus.  AaronHipple_AmatuerHeadshot[1].jpg

WHAT IS A DIGITAL MENU?

Aaron: A digital menu is a large outdoor monitor used to display a video version of your menu, as well as any other messages you want to promote at your car wash. The monitor has a weather proof encasement that bolts to the ground and a special display that can be seen in any outdoor condition, including direct sunlight. The unit, which is typically professionally powered and installed, is not a plug and play or mobile unit. Just like digital billboards that you see throughout the nation, I believe digital menus are the future of onsite merchandising for the car wash industry.

HOW DO DIGITAL MENUS WORK?

Aaron: Once the unit is installed it functions much like a traditional TV, but is much brighter and comes with software that can schedule your messages. Most models are equipped with a 6GB hard drive that is large enough to hold several videos. Loading your videos can be done by either plugging a USB thumb drive into the back of the monitor unit or loading the video to a special server. Once your video is loaded a remote allows you to organize, view and set your videos to play. Using the built-in calendar software you can pre-set specific videos to play at certain times/days for an entire year ahead. 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DIGITAL MENUS?

Aaron: One of the greatest benefits of digital menus is the ability to change your menu or messaging at any time without the cost of reprinting. For example, with a digital menu you can add a new top package or managers special quickly, easily and cost effectively. You can offer ‘seasonal’ menus or run themed promotions throughout the year including promotions for holidays, early bird/late night specials, fundraisers, or unlimited club membership. Plus, digital menus are very bright and allows you to upsell your top package and extra services with engaging motion graphics.

HOW DO YOU DESIGN A DIGITAL MENU?

Aaron: It's certainly a bit tougher than standard design since you'll need a designer that specializes in video and animation. Our graphic design team at Zep Vehicle Care uses special Adobe software to convert stationary menu files into animated offerings. In addition, our team purchases any stock video footage and images used in the menu design so that our customers know we’ve handled all the correct legal licensing of any video footage or images used in their menu. This is an important, but often overlooked, step in creating digital or printed menus. Once complete we export the video to the appropriate format for that display unit and it's ready to load! 

WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF DIGITAL MENUS?

Aaron: I would say the biggest drawback is the upfront investment in the price of the unit, which may come down as more options hit the market. Current costs can range anywhere from approximately $9,000 to $13,000 depending on the size and structure. It’s also more difficult to source a good creative team that specializes in video, animation and car wash menu best practices. However, it’s a great investment that can modernize any car wash with the latest and greatest in technology for a better car wash experience.

WHAT ARE DIGITAL MENU BEST PRACTICES?

Aaron: It's best to keep your message short and sweet, 6 seconds max per screen and around 3-4 rotating messages. Anything more than that can be overwhelming to customers and you could run the risk of slowing down your business. Just like in printed menu designs, the most effective menus get rid of the clutter and draw the eye straight to the package you want them to purchase to help increase you’re average ticket. Remember, just because it’s easy to create movement and flashiness in every aspect of your digital menu doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. You still want to project a clear, concise, and organized message that customers can pick up on with just a glance. 

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT DIGITAL MENUS AND OTHER NEW PROGRAMS THAT CAN HELP ME GAIN MORE REVENUE?

Aaron: Regional trade shows are a great way to view and research digital menus in one location. Your local chemical sales consultant or distribution supplier can also help you stay current with new offerings and revenue programs available in the car wash industry.

For more great information on marketing your car wash, check out our ebook Boost Your Revenue Today:

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