Imagine a time when the average consumer learns or realizes he or she needs tires. But instead of the shock of learning a set of tires for the family SUV is $1,000 — an expense that wasn't planned for — the customer not only was aware of the wear need somewhat as well as the upcoming replacement, but also had been kept informed through marketing that tires would be needed soon.
For purposes of telling a story, let's say the customer has a Toyota Highlander, with 245/60R18 tires — a very high-demand CUV, somewhat of a premium vehicle.
Say this customer has brand awareness of the typical Tier 1 brand offerings and has a middle-class household income.
This customer was made aware of the fact that your shop exists through a series of brand impressions via traditional local TV ads and targeted social media that was customized to the customer's preferences. Your store showed up in the customers' Instagram feeds and in Google searches for things not necessarily related to a direct search for tires.
You were able to target this customer — who had never been to your store before — by leveraging market data that told you how many Toyota Highlanders were registered within a 20-mile radius of your store.
Based on this unit count — and using U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) data of size popularity — you made a modest stocking decision for your store based on unit size volumes but tailored specifically to your market reach, and to those Highlanders close by.
As a dealer, you have been able to take your marketing spend to target specific vehicle owner demographics in your market via social media campaigns, based upon vehicle registration data.
These data also are used by you internally — or your key distribution partners — to suggest selling opportunities based on vehicle sales and auto registration data within that targeted radius, be it five miles or 60.
These data, suggesting OE fitments of these vehicles, give you insight as to potential stocking opportunities, where you may stock X amount of sizes in your store racks, but missing a key size, for example, on Honda Accords that have a spike in popularity in your area.
The right price
Suppose you attract this Honda Accord shopper. You employ a polished point-of-sale system that manages your inventory options. Hopefully this consists of a browser tab with the logins of the eight wholesale distributors that can service you within 48 hours or less.
Of course, you can get any tire a customer requests. I presume you ideally sell your tires from a methodology of demand and margin that sets your selling price of that customer's size options also.
Sadly, I see a lot of people selling tires "at $20 over my cost" regardless of brand, size or fitment when the reality is you easily could be selling many offerings to your customers at a 50-percent margin or higher, if you know what margin selling is, and presuming you look at profit opportunities.
That said, you also build value with your customers by offering complimentary tread and/or an alignment inspection when they arrive at your building. In the tread example, your counter salesman encourages the customer to join him outside to "take a look at the vehicle and gather information."
Because this is 2019, we are not leaving the counter with a notepad and a pen but rather with our tablet. Or even better, a device that employs a built-in laser to be pointed on the surface of the tire (with customer present).
Imagine that this device then scans and makes a laser measurement to point out that the tires are at 4/32nds-inch tread depth. The salesman then takes a picture of the customer's VIN or license plate, and then a printout is sent inside to give the customer a tangible selling sheet that discusses the need for work on tires specific to their car.
It is agreed that the customer will buy tires based upon your selling techniques and product offering.
Now, when the customer pulls the car into the bay, he or she drives past a small box that does a laser measurement of alignment angles on the car. You return to the customer waiting and point out that one of the causes for the tire mileage wear is because of the alignment being out of spec. This provides one more sales opportunity, as well as a printout of the customer's exact car.
You complete this upsell, as well. You have the tires in stock, because you recognized the need for that OE size and were able to keep a set on hand in advance of your targeted marketing and using these data available.
And you made a great margin on it because you stocked that size in the brand that is most profitable for you — and offers the customer a solid quality and value.
When customers leave, you send them a text automatically for follow-up to ensure their visit was satisfactory, ask them to leave a great online review and offer to have them return in 1,000 miles for a free torque check.
You also send them that reminder via your customer relationship management (CRM) system as well, so they think of you within the next 30 days.
The customer has left feeling like your store anticipated all of his or her needs, showed that there was a need for tires and gave that customer a great deal (that made your store money). Your store provided an opportunity to address future problems, plus you showed him or her a great value while you took care of his or her car.
In other words, you were on the ball the entire time because you leveraged — and invested in — the technology of tomorrow for the benefit of your customers, and for your business.
Even better yet?
Every single bit of technology outlined in this process is available to you at this very moment, by a variety of companies that offer products and services to help you do just that. These are conversations worth having.
Edward Koczan, a sales manager at Kenda, is a tire industry veteran and founder of Tire Authority, a consulting firm.