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Be Bold, Think Fresh (Part 1)

New twists on old adages: Assess your tech

DALLAS — The drycleaning and laundry industry has been around a long time.

Over the decades, owners of dry cleaners have gained tremendous wisdom concerning how to run a great drycleaning and laundry business. Most of the conventional wisdom is truly valuable and too rarely followed.

I remember one of the first pieces of advice I received was from a cleaner who said, “Never forget about quality. You can have all the bells and whistles, but if the clothes come back with stains, wrinkles, or broken buttons, your customers won’t come back.”

That was great advice that should be followed every day.

While most of the conventional wisdom in the industry is spot on (no pun intended), there are a couple of pieces of advice you’re likely to hear which can lead you astray. Here’s a pair of quotes you’ll hear in the industry that you might want to re-consider before following.

The first one goes: “Don’t worry about technology, focus on the cleaning.”

Owners who have been in the drycleaning industry for years can give you a seemingly endless list of “revolutionary” technologies that were supposed to change the industry forever but ended up fading into oblivion.

New delivery methods were going to make stores obsolete. New solvents were going to make traditional cleaning a thing of the past. Home products were going to eliminate the need for dry cleaners.

It is certainly true that a number of drycleaning technologies have failed, but dry cleaners that ignore the opportunities presented by new technology do so at their peril.

The key is to focus on the technologies that add value to your customers and expand the reach of your business.

A great case study for the power of technology in a mature industry is Domino’s pizza. In the early 2000s, after nearly 50 years in the pizza business, Domino’s sales were declining and there was concern that the pizza industry as a whole was in decline.

To counter this trend, Domino’s pursued a new technology strategy that focused on improving pizza quality and making pizza fun again. Domino’s developed the Heatwave bag, which kept pizzas hot during delivery.

They created a Domino’s pizza app that allowed customers to order with the tap of a button. The app and website featured a pizza tracker that enabled customers to “watch” their pizza being made, and showed how long it would be before their driver arrived.

The company also created a virtual assistant called Dom that accepted voice orders. They even allowed users to tweet their pizza orders by tweeting a pizza emoji.

As a result of these and other innovations, Domino’s revenues doubled from $1.4 billion in 2009 to $2.8 billion in 2017. Traditional pizza customers can still go to a Domino’s store and pick up a pizza in the same way they could 50 years ago, but using technology, Domino’s has broadened its customer base dramatically.

By using technology in your drycleaning business, you can expand your reach in the same way that Domino’s has.

For customers who don’t live near your store, you can offer pickup and delivery service through a website. For customers who like to see the status of their order, you can barcode your garments and update their location on a mobile app.

For customers who want to visit your stores after-hours, you can offer lockers or automated kiosks. All of these technologies can broaden your customer base and increase your revenue if implemented properly.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].