Familiarity breeds success.
That, in a nutshell, sums up a recent survey of consumers' tire buying habits by Advo Inc., a Chicago-based company that claims to be the nation's largest full-service targeted direct mail marketing services company. Tire dealers likely will recognize the company as the distributor of the ShopWise weekly coupon shopper.
More than half (57 percent) of consumers responding to Advo's survey said they chose the outlet where they bought tires because they had dealt with the store before; 30 percent said they were referred to the store. And once customers enter a store, they make their purchase at the first store they visit 62 percent of the time.
A customer's experience can be damning to a business, if it's a bad one; 97 percent of those responding to Advo's survey said they tell others about a bad shopping experience.
Along the same lines, only 29 percent of survey respondents said they were ``extremely pleased'' with the store they chose, although 84 percent said they were satisfied and would likely shop there again.
Survey results were based on 294 responses, spread out geographically across the U.S.; 57 percent of the respondents were female.
How much do tire dealers depend on repeat business? Apparently not too much, if the Advo numbers are to be believed: Fewer than a third of the respondents said the store where they shopped contacted them to ask about their satisfaction with the store or the service provided.
Interesting to note: Only 11 percent of those surveyed said they chose a store because of advertising. At the same time, though, nearly three-fourths of those responding said they ``usually buy brands that are on sale or have coupons and special offers'' or ``tend to plan (their) shopping based on coupons and special offers.''
Tire dealers need to do more to distinguish themselves from the competition, Advo suggests. The company cited a survey response that shows 60 percent of tire-buying consumers view auto service establishments as ``all about the same,'' although respondents did seem to view local independently owned businesses at least ``somewhat'' different than the norm.
The survey also underscores the importance of counter personnel. Nearly half (47 percent) of the buyers surveyed said they made their purchase decision in one day, with an additional 36 percent saying they took between two days and a week.
Also, 57 percent of purchases were unplanned, caused by an emergency, vs. only 27 percent who had planned their tire purchases for up to three months. Why did buyers make purchases when they did?- 44 percent said they were replacing worn tires and 28 percent said they had to replace a damaged tire or tires.
As for the purchase decision itself, price was the No. 1 criterion, cited by 59 percent of respondents, and brand was No. 2, cited by 47 percent. Thirty-six percent said the tire dealer's recommendation swayed their decision.
Advo's 2001 tire purchase process research study is the firm's first survey of tire buyers, though the company said it has done business with tire industry clients for more than 10 years and points to its track record in other retail fields.
The 294 responses came from 770 surveys mailed to auto service/tire purchasers culled from an initial mailing of 80,000 households. Information pertaining to alignments and other related automotive services will be released later as part of an auto service report, Advo said.
To tap into the detailed information gathered by these surveys, a company has to be a client of Advo. Among Advo's more well-known clients are Goodyear (both company stores and the independent dealer network), Bridgestone/Firestone's MasterCare store network and Michelin North America Inc.'s TCI/T3 program.