To remain relevant today, you have to speak the language of the marketplace, and the language of the marketplace is changing. The rate of change is accelerating, and there is no chance it’s going to slow down anytime soon.
As I shared in an article a few months ago, at its recent dealer meeting, Bridgestone Firestone informed its network that 80% of consumers go online first in their pathway to purchasing tires. That is not real news, as opposed to fake news, but in light of changing demographics and other forces in the market, I’d like to share a few ominous possibilities.
There have been three shifts in the marketplace that are now in play, and they’ll continue to play out.
Shift #1, consumers are changing. Daily, a significantly greater number of tire buyers are millennials and generation Z (those born after 1980). This trend will continue with this very important caveat: Those born after 1980 are called a “Digital Native Audience.” They don’t know of a time without computers and keyboards, cell phones and smartphones. They only know connectedness; they only know instant access. They have had vast amounts of information at their fingertips, and the world has been catering to their needs.
Today, more than ever, more information is more accessible, and the language is not only easier to access, it’s more palatable, more defined, and easier to navigate. It’s served up on a digital platter, if you will.Shift #2, e-commerce is changing. The greatest force in e-commerce is redefining the standards of delivery, convenience, expectations and more. Their system is becoming the language of e-commerce. If you haven’t guessed, I’m referring to Amazon. I’ve read that half (50%) of all e-commerce activity passes through Amazon. Amazon sells tires, lots of them, and they want to sell more, many more. In fact, I’ve heard talk of some hefty claims in terms of their desires. They also are selling automotive parts —brake rotors, fuel filters, strut assemblies, headlights, etc.
What Amazon does better than most any other entity is talk e-commerce. They speak a very powerful language and they know how to take orders and fill orders. Currently though, they don’t talk tires very well, thankfully. Besides the increasing power of the world’s leading e-commerce company, besides the shift in demographics to the Digital Native Audience (DNAs), there are furious cross-current winds blowing in a related industry.
Shift #3, new car sales. We’ve all heard about True Car, the digital marketplace for, among other things, researching and locating cars and trucks for new-vehicle shoppers. A new player has inserted themselves into the new-car game. roadster.com, which provides similar services as True Car and offers the option of purchasing a new vehicle without visiting a showroom, including an option for vehicle drop-off in your driveway.
Certain select new-car dealerships around the country have experimented with BOPIS, ‘Buy Online – Pick-up In Store,’ or BODO, ‘Buy Online – Delivery Off-site.’ Think about this: Some consumers are open to and are actually practicing the process of buying new vehicles online, a purchase many times more complex (selecting just the right vehicle among all the choices and options) than buying tires and many, many times more expensive. Today a consumer can buy a decent set of tires for $750, and according to USA Today, the average monthly new car payment is now at a record $482 while used car payments now average $437. The average amount borrowed for a new car is now a record $28,381.
Do you understand the threat here? Consumers are willing to buy big ticket items (tires) online. The world’s largest online machine is feverishly attempting to sell more tires. The language of the marketplace is changing. Bam! Consumers and online providers are speaking the same language, the new digital language of convenience, price, rapid delivery, etc., etc.
As a point of reference, I remember Sears Auto Centers buying some regional retailers and making a bunch of noise in our industry decades ago. Independent dealers were nervous. I remember visiting a number of Sears locations to access the potential threat. I remember driving away saying to myself, “They do what we do, but we do it better.” I felt better, more assured and less threatened. The difference today, “They do what they do, but they do it better.” As independent tire dealers, we can’t do what they do. Amazon is looking for locations to participate in their program of nationwide installation centers.
Next month I’ll be discussing ways that you can stay relevant/compete within this changing market. ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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