Updated: Sep 7
Finding a cashless payment solution for your laundromat can be daunting. There's so many different types of solutions. Card reader, Mobile, Mifare, Kiosk and then all the jargon that goes with each payment system.
This is a generic guide designed to help you choose a cashless payment solution that is best suited to your laundromat. I'll try my very best to keep this guide as generic as I can so you can independently weigh up the differences for yourself.
Let's get started!
First up, there’s lots of competitors, Tangerpay, Spyderwash, Payrange, Shinepay, the list seems to go on forever! Annoyingly they all look really good on paper too. But which one is right for you?
Start with your demographic
Before we dive into the pros and cons of this technology or that, let’s start with the most important question. What is your demographic? Is your store full of young customers all using their mobile phone, or do you have 40+ customers walking in the door. For most it’ll be a mix, but for some laundromat owners, they may be located close to a student housing and have purely younger customers, or be located near an RV park and have mostly older customers.
Whatever you do, don’t choose a solution that is not right for your customer. For instance I probably wouldn’t recommend a Mobile Payment to my grandma, instead she'd be more likely to reach for her credit card, whereas an 18 year old wouldn't even carry a credit card these days opting instead to use their mobile.
So... start with your demographic. Choose a solution that suits your customers, and not something that sounds good on paper.
Ok, we've made a good start, let's dive a bit deeper into the differences between Mobile and Card Payments...
Mobile Payment VS Card Payment.. which one is better?
Straight up, these are both great options, but not suited to everyone. 18 – 30's love Mobile Payments! In fact, they trust mobile more and find it just flat-out more convenient. So if you’re located near student housing you could solely run with Mobile Pay and everyone would be super happy.
A 35+ would tend to reach for a credit card to do their payments, but of course there’s exceptions to every rule, this is just what the statistics show.
"Darn, that didn’t help me choose!" That’s ok, you’re not alone. Just laying it out for you so you can see there a bit to think about. Don't worry I'll summarize at the end... but keep reading - lots more tips coming your way.
Ok, it’s time to dive into each one now to properly understand what they are and how they work.
Mobile Cashless Solutions
Mobile Cashless Solutions for laundromats can be amazing, there's no doubt about it. You walk into the laundromat, pull out your mobile phone and start a washer or dryer, sounds simple right? Unfortunately not, some guys have done it amazingly well, and others are.. well.. terrible. I’m not here to tell you which one is better or worse, just to lay it all out for you. You'll still need to work out which one suits you, but I’ll point out the good, bad and ugly to help you choose.
Let’s put ourselves in your customers shoes to visualize it all. I’m a customer, I walk into your store. I look around and can see a sign on the wall telling me I need to start the washer/dryer with my mobile.
Do I need to download an App to get started? – Bad!
Do I need to register or setup an account? - Bad.
Do I need to load up a wallet before I can get started? – Bad.
Do I need to run flaky Bluetooth on my phone so I can try and pair to a magical dongle that sits inside a washer or dryer? - Bad.
All of this is just unnecessary noise customers shouldn't have to bother themselves with. Would you like to download special apps and setup accounts, and load wallets at your grocery store, and then for your hardware store, and for your hairdresser? Probably not!
“Wait a minute, I thought you said mobile was amazing?”
Ok, here’s what good looks like.
I’m a customer, I walk into a store, on each washer/dryer there’s a sticker telling me how to pay, I scan a QR code and I land on a website that is as convenient as any app, then I select my machine, pay using my credit card, apple pay or google pay and I’m done. No wallets, no account setups, and no app downloads.
Here’s a couple of tips on things to look out for:
Even with all of the ugly clunky solutions out there, the brochures for these systems still make them sound cool, they distract you from the terrible customer experience. They may even offer free hardware, but think passed today and look into the future in 6 months, or 2 years. Will all your customers be ok with this payment system, will they even be able to use it? If the answer is NO, then keep searching, even if it does initially cost you something for hardware. Nothing worse than a future of reduced turnover as a result from choosing the wrong solution.
“Oh, but it’s free – Free is always good”. Haha, yeah. Like that free sandwich someone threw away - you might regret it later.
How do the "Free Hardware” solutions work? Sneaky companies force customers to create an online wallet and top it up with a balance, lets say $30. The customer does their wash and leaves $20 on the wallet, and then never comes back to your laundry again. After a period of time the account is closed under a special clause in their sign up contract, and the money gets shuffled off to the cashless solution provider's bank account. There's even a term for it (“the float”). The float is then used to offset the cost of the upfront hardware for other customers and the cycle continues.
So back to our customer. Would you tolerate that from your grocery store? What would you do if another grocery store opened up next door where they didn't have these practices? Probably do your shopping elsewhere right?
To muddy waters further, some providers let you keep some or all of the float. And on the surface this might seem appealing, but tends to backfire on you the second competition opens up next door with a more friendly payment option.
Let's take a bit more of a look at the good.
Mobile Payments are great. If done properly without any sneak tactics that drive customers away. They are convenient and if you choose carefully you'll find a clever cashless solution will add lots of awesome features in the mix. Features like loyalty, promotions, remote start, and allowing customers to give real-time feedback. Look out for guys that have these extra features.
Ok, that’s a lot to think about! If done right though, mobile can be an amazing way to start a machine. But that's only going to be good for the young folk, we better focus on the other half of your customer base now – let’s look at Card Readers.
Card operated washers and dryers are convenient, you can usually be certain it’ll keep at least half your customer base happy. They are simple and customers understand them. The big problem is that these things can be expensive, ranging between $500 - $1000 per machine.
You’ll also be up for additional installation costs as each card reader is that little bit magical and needs the attention of a specialized installer. They’ll drill holes in your washer/dryer and then have to run wiring throughout the machine. I won’t sugar coat it, this is a great solution, but can be darn expensive – for a 80 machine site you could be looking at between $80,000 – $100,000
From a features perspective you also don’t get much. Pay.. and ummm... oh that’s about it. So no Loyalty, Promotions, Customer Feedback or Remote Start with this option.
So it's expensive and doesn't offer much else... but you'll still probably want these in your store. Keep reading though, it's not all bad news, there’s other ways to bring the cost down – see the “All-In-One Solutions (Mobile + Kiosk)” or “Kiosk” section.
What is a MIFARE Card readers
Think Card Reader, but instead of the tap of a credit card the customer taps a special plastic card they’ve purchased from a store or from a vending machine. Also a great option, but much like the card readers, holes are drilled into the machine and special wiring run through, which means an expensive installation. Some of the cheeky cashless solution providers will charge you to purchase plastic cards directly from them only, with a hefty markup (which is how they actually make their money) and only their magic cards work with their solution so you’re locked in. Also like a credit card laundry machine there’s no smarts that allow Loyalty programs, Promotions, Customer Feedback or Remote Starts.
Now we're getting to the tail end of the options - you nearly have all the info you need to make an informed decision.
These can come in all flavors, but essentially see them as pay stations like you’d see in parking lots. Kiosk units are a bit hit and miss – some are done well, and some are plain awful.
Let's start with the bad. Unfortunately it seems most kiosks are designed by aliens, with lots of panels, blinking lights and buttons that make no sense – with things having to be done in some magical sequence. You’ve most likely seen some really confusing implementations yourself elsewhere in parking lots.
But… if done well, a Kiosk can be amazing. And because it’s centralized you won’t have to pay to fit lots of card readers to every machine, saving you from big installation bills.
Just watch out for the weird ones though.
All-In-One Solutions (Mobile + Kiosk)
Wouldn’t it be good if you could have it all? Mobile and Card and Kiosk and keep all your customers happy. The good news is you can. Most companies are ALL mobile, or ALL Card Reader, or ALL Kiosk, but there are some that offer Mobile + Kiosk + Coin – keep a look out for these guys if you have a mix of younger + older customers, or if you just want to cover all bases.
What does amazing look like? Remote Start, Multi-machine start (driving up number of machines a customer would normally start), Loyalty, Promotions, Customer Feedback, Receipts and one card reader (or a few) to serve all your machines in-store.
The cost for solutions like this are much cheaper than a card reader per machine, and a little more expensive than just Mobile alone - but you can take comfort in knowing you've got a future proofed system that ALL your customers will be able to use.
For a store with younger + older customers (which is most stores) an All-In-One solution (Mobile + Kiosk) is your best bet.
For a store with ALL younger customers between 18 - 30, Mobile is the way to go – just make sure it’s done well (see “Mobile” for more details).
For a store with ALL older customers over 35+, Card will be their go to (see “Kiosk"). This is a good way to go.
Do your homework. There’s lots of good cashless laundry solutions available, but for each one you need to weigh up whether it will suit your customer base, and if it’s something that will positively impact YOUR customer. If your customer isn’t going to like the cashless solution then keep looking.
I have tried to keep this as generic as I can so you can make an informed decision that's suited to your store. Whether you go with Tangerpay, or someone else, it's all good. Happy shopping!