The state of the economy has many in the tire industry worried, but American Car Care Centers Inc. (ACCC) remains positive about its future, the company said Feb. 5 during its dealer meeting in Riviera Maya.
At its ACCC 20/20 event, the Memphis, Tenn.-based retail marketer celebrated 20 years in business by focusing on the next 20 years. Continuing its Retail Revolution re-imaging campaign, ACCC is working to combine consumers' image of the independent local tire dealer and the high-tech dealer into one package.
Jeremy Lewin, ACCC's director of marketing, credited the re-imaging campaign for helping the company and its members to continue moving in a positive direction.
In relation to the overall market, our results were far better than the market trend, Mr. Lewin said. Part of that is we were able to offset a lot of the economic downturn with a pretty high degree of excitement because of the re-imaging.
Mr. Lewin hopes to keep that excitement strong with the launch of ACCC's TireTouch showroom kiosk featuring touch-screen technology, which the company unveiled during the meeting.
TireTouch, he said, was designed as a replacement for the ACCC TV video product display concept, introduced last year as part of the company's re-imaging campaign. Whereas ACCC TV simply would have been a television monitor programmed with a loop video of corporate messages, national promotions and customized dealer advertising, TireTouch will add to those capabilities by allowing customers to research tires for their vehicle and look up other information.
It's a lot more modular than what we were thinking about, makes a lot more sense and most importantly, it's a touch-screen interface, which is where we want to go in the future, Mr. Lewin said.
ACCC said the system is designed to provide customers who enjoy the benefits of using the Internet to buy tires with a way to pick up their tires at a store and avoid delivery costs. At the same time, it will give customers who want face-to-face service with many of the research benefits of shopping online.
This is, for us, a way to take back some of the tire sales that we've lost to the Internet, Mr. Lewin said. We want to offer that same online buying environment but go farther and also offer a place to put (the tires) on. We're the ones that sold it to you, but we also exist brick and mortar.
Using TireTouch, customers will be able to look up and price tires for their vehicle make and model, view sales specials, complete tire orders and fill out an ACCC credit card application. They will be able to see how a set of tires appears on various vehicle makes and models, and they also will be able to upload photos of their own vehicles to see how different tires will appear on them.
Some dealers said they were excited about the prospect of using the kiosk and bringing in customers using the Internet.
Loved it, said Lori Young, manager of Victory Lane Auto Care in Pine Bush, N.Y. I can't wait to get it. Anything that can make sales easier.
Ms. Young added that while she liked the idea of the in-store system, she feared that online tire purchasing can really separate you from your customers.
Other dealers felt that the kiosk would compete with counter salespeople for attention, but Mr. Lewin said the system can be beneficial to all customers.
Those that like to buy online won't need a bunch of these (features) in the store, Mr. Lewin said. Those that don't like to buy online will get a lot of the same benefits that they would buying online except that they won't have to buy online, so it gives every consumer the best of both worlds.
It gives the online consumer a little more personal interaction and professional help if they need, and it gives your non-online consumers some of the tools that only online consumers normally get, he added. So everybody gets more.
The system also will include a separate section for dealers that will contain training programs and videos and a number of other features.
According to Mr. Lewin, the kiosk could be available as early as May with most of its features. The company plans to implement an online version of the interface that will allow customers to order tires over the Internet via ACCC's consumer Web site, but he said it will take several IT package projects to accomplish.
With just the (basic) functionality, I expect to have it up and running within 90 days, he said. The part that is going to be sort of a later add-on is synergy with our forward-facing e-commerce platform.
Mr. Lewin said a price for dealers to add the kiosk has not been determined yet, but it likely will fall between $1,500 and $2,500.
Everything with us depends on participation, he said. We don't make a profit with stuff like this, but our pricing is going to depend on how many members want to take this on.
In addition to the launch of the kiosk, ACCC has updated its Americash spiff program to help dealers earn more money for selling products.
This is sort of a whole new approach to Americash that we've launched starting in February, where we're looking at some special rewards for membership in some of the manufacturer associate dealer programs, he said. This is something we wanted to try out to really bring everything as much as possible from a marketing rewards standpoint into line with some of the tools that are available to us.
Mr. Lewin noted the company is also working on adding a few very important supplier arrangements in 2009.
This year we will definitely announce the addition of a couple of new suppliers, but there's nothing really set in stone yet, he said.