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Apps Approaching (Conclusion)

CHICAGO — “We use our app to give our clients the most convenient drycleaning and laundry experience possible. With our app, you can find your nearest store, order ahead, schedule a pickup, track your order, and even pay your bill with the touch of a button.”

That’s Dan Miller, the president of Minneapolis, Minn.-based Mulberrys Garment Care, who describes his company as a premium, toxin-free drycleaning and laundry company with locations also in San Francisco and, coming soon, Dallas.

“We reach thousands of our customers via our app. Our younger customers particularly like the fact that they can order a one-hour pickup and then check the status of their order at any time.”

He’s asked to give advice to other drycleaning owners and operators considering adding an app.

“My advice would be if you’re going to do it, go all in. If not, don’t waste your time and energy. There are so many apps competing for people’s attention right now that only the truly well-designed apps will capture customers in the drycleaning and laundry space. If you’re not committed to that, don’t bother. You’re better off just focusing on providing a great core service.”

He shares a tip based on what he’s learned from offering apps at his fabricare business: “Be prepared to spend some money.

“People like to think of developing an app as though it’s a single project. However, making an app that really resonates with customers takes constant tweaking and improvement. To deliver on that improvement, you really have to commit your budget to building your app on an ongoing basis.”

Being ahead of the game seems to be the tech mantra here, for sure.

Many in the fabricare field want to be players in that “game,” as evidenced by the overflowing crowd that came to hear a new speaker at last summer’s Clean Show, Nick Chapleau, who is the co-founder and CEO of Starchup, located in Chicago.

His firm was started in 2016 to give garment care professionals modern technology tools to acquire customers and operate an efficient delivery service, he says.

“We’ve since expanded into a full marketing, website, and operations platform,” he points out, “so I manage our team, guide the development of the product, and work on solutions with our customers.”

His firm, as he explains, gets involved with operators from their first contact, “when we analyze their current software usage and marketing techniques to see where we can add value before they are even a customer.”

Chapleau says, “We tailor our app to the specific operator’s needs. Do they need help with digital marketing or phone outreach to new sign-ups? An updated website? A mobile app for delivery service?”

His company also determines if the drycleaner client requires software to track production and garments in the store. Or perhaps text-message and e-mail notifications to customers.

“We work with the operator to customize a package that fits their needs and budget, always focusing on how we can drive value.”

Who does this drycleaning app reach, and what feedback does Chapleau hear?

“We offer four different apps: One mobile app for drivers to better manage the delivery process; one mobile app for in-store detailing, order tracking, and garment management; one web and mobile app for customer acquisition and engagement; and one web app for managing your garment care business.”

He notes that, “The customer-facing app is probably our ‘sexiest’ app offering. Basically, dry cleaners love it because their customers love it. They can sign up for service, order pickup and delivery, and pay for it all in a matter of a few taps, and they receive order updates and key information through e-mail and text messaging.”

He says it’s the difference between a 20th-century and 21st-century customer experience, and that customers love the updates.

From his experience, there are tips he offers drycleaning owners and operators.

“Our first lesson,” Chapleau relates, “was that this isn’t an ‘If you build it, they will come’ situation. The app is an amazing tool, but we all still have to put in the work to acquire customers and orders.

“That’s why we have added website-building, a digital marketing package, and customer outreach via phone. We have found that the most successful operators on our platform are the ones that put the most effort out — and we are right there with you working to acquire more customers for your business!”

There’s a theme shaping up here, in case you haven’t already noticed. It’s taking a new view of customer convenience and a team approach to working together — the drycleaning owner and the app/software partner — to shape a real-world product that gives customers exactly what they need.

As Rick Mugno, president of Liberty Computer Systems, Holly Springs, N.C., a software development company servicing and providing technology solutions to over 1,500 drycleaning and laundry operations worldwide for over 30 years, sees it, “We have taken on the responsibility of helping our fabricare owners generate app awareness and convincing consumers they’re worth downloading.”

Showing support for growth in this area, he adds, “We have created awareness through creative marketing content, web integration and in-house CSR reward programs where our owner’s counter staff accumulate points for every customer sign-up.”

Chapleau also attests to the training and support provided by his company: “We start with a kickoff call to work with the cleaner on expectations for the relationship and a road map for launching the new service.

“Rachel, our head of customer success, walks the new customer and their employees through the product and how to implement it. We help the new customer run some test orders and then launch! But it doesn’ t stop there: W e pride ourselves on our customer support.”

Are apps and software going to be a flash in the pan or is this truly the way of the future?

“Using technology to improve your business is definitely going to be the key to success in this industry going forward,” says Chapleau. “Apps are one part of that, but our company is not an app company: We are a technology company.”

He points out: “For instance, many customers wanted the convenience of the app without having to open it every time they want to place an order. So we added the ability for customer to simply text-message ‘pickup’ to the cleaner to schedule a new pickup.

“The bottom line for us is that if there is a technology that can improve your garment care business, we are either offering it, building it, or planning it,” Chapleau says.

Can any of us claim to predict the future? No. But Miller says this: “I would say having an app is A way of the future, but not the way. At the end of the day, the most important thing in dry cleaning and laundry is providing great cleaning quality in a timely manner.”

The owner concludes: “I believe you can still be very successful without an app, particularly if you have a strong website. The app just allows you to provide an extra service for a certain segment of your customers.”

Some cleaners are using apps. Others want to. Which are you? Think about your goals. There are many software companies you can check out. It might be time to go all in on a total software/app approach for your business! 

To read Part 1, go HERE.

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