No matter how I pose the question to tire dealers, the answer always is the same.
"They just care about price."
Will the pandemic shift people to buying things in a different way?
"Maybe, but they really just care about the price."
Do your customers want a product manufactured in a sustainable way?
"Honestly, they just care about price."
I know this answer is true, because this is how I shop. I do a lot of research before I buy. If anything, the pandemic has just given me more time and patience to seek out and wait for the best deal.
Tire dealers need a "They just care about price" rubber stamp to plant on the forehead of anyone who wants to know.
So, I know the answer is coming, but I ask the question anyway.
Then, Larry Sutton, founder of Tampa, Fla.-based RNR Tire Express, made an interesting point. I reached out for reaction when Goodyear announced it was acquiring Cooper, and I asked if consumers were buying based on whether or not a tire is made in the U.S.
Bring out the rubber stamp.
No, he said, but it made for a good "narrative" to help a salesperson close a deal.
So, while changing consumer trends may not shake the business to its core on the dealer level, they do present a few narratives to follow and present some possible ideas for your shop.
The pandemic didn't completely change the way consumers consume — price still is king — but it did accelerate just how quickly some trends made it to market.
Take a day and count the number of Amazon trucks that pass your house, for example.
Manufacturers knew that online shopping would increase, as would demand for more convenience such as faster home delivery, but COVID-19 kicked those trends into high gear.
The pandemic changed each of us in some way. Collectively, there was a focus on health and safety — aka, not catching COVID-19.
Also, with more time at home (because either you couldn't go anywhere or there was nowhere to go), many focused on projects in and around their home and yard.
In 2021, consumer trends around the world mainly will focus on health, safety and home, according to data research firm EuroMonitor International in its annual "Top 10 Global Consumer Trends" report.
"The coronavirus pandemic affected us all, and we acclimatized. Emerging habits accelerated, and how we now behave, spend and consume will never be the same," the EuroMonitor report said, adding that those habits sometimes are in conflict.
"We want to make the world better — either for our own sake or for humanity. We want new ways to make life both convenient and safe, inside and outside. Where we have the ability, we are balancing our time creatively."
When surveyed in late 2020, 73% of professionals said they believed sustainability initiatives would be critical to a brand's success, the study found.
Depending on the tire you are selling, there are plenty of narratives that a salesperson can focus on, from noting safety to increased efforts for sustainability or even how a tire maker has helped out during the pandemic.
When you have customers deciding between A and B, maybe one of these narratives will help them make a decision.
Technology and virtual experiences are driving interaction.
More consumers are living in a "phygital reality," as in physical and digital, where the same knowledge, technology and social interactions are available both in and out of the home, the report said.
This could be a consumer who is shopping in store but checking prices or reviews online.
It could also be a nice way of saying people are looking at their phones all of the time.
But in a shop it could mean something as simple as mobile appointments or mobile pay in store.
Of course, while the narratives may change, many trends always are on the tip of the consumer's tongue.
Businesses should offer value-added products and services and provide multi-functional and affordable solutions, EuroMonitor said.
I wouldn't be surprised if "value-added" was a term coined in a auto service shop.
Consumers want transparency and agility.
"Communicating with compassion and supporting mental well-being are critical attributes to drive brand loyalty," the report said.
Now, that's a narrative tire dealers know well … even if consumers only care about price.