We must never forget that we are retailers. Consumers have never demanded more from retailers than they do today. To win at retail today, you must deliver more, period.
Simply stated, retailers are in the business of selling things directly to customers for their own use. Retailers are at the end of the food chain. Manufacturers make stuff, distributors move it around, but retailers make it happen. Retailing is where products meet people. Not all products are made for all people, so retailers play a vital role in matching the right products to the right people.
As studies have shown, and as tire dealers experience every day, most tire consumers are tire agnostic. Consumers really don’t know enough or care enough about tires to make informed tire selections. As we know, selecting the right tire is about much more than matching a tire size to a vehicle’s make, model and year via a series of drop-down boxes on a website. It’s easy for a consumer to find their tire size online; after that, selecting the right tire is a bit more challenging.
Before I further my point, let me share a quote made in 2006 by Ron Johnson, the man in charge of opening the first Apple stores along with Steve Jobs. Johnson is quoted as saying, “The reason Apple is really good, I think, and the reason their stores succeeded, is not just ’cause we know the big idea, but we have a real passion for the littlest detail. It’s legendary in our products. We have the same passion for detail in retail.”
I’ve heard it said a hundred times, retail is detail. I couldn’t agree more. Counter intelligence is all about creating customer confidence at the sales counter where it matters most. The sales counter is fraught with details. The exchange of ideas and needs shared by the customer, and the solutions shared by the counter staff, are all details. For example, the tone of voice, the pace of the verbal exchange, the level of understanding and agreement, along with the physical environment and product presentation, is all so critical, and details matter. The best presentations net the best results.When I visit an Apple store today, I can feel the attention to details that were established in Apple’s early DNA. There is a rhythm and a cadence to an Apple store that is driven by details choreographed in advance of customer visits. A customer can take time and browse or they can get in and get out. Why? Because it was thought out thoroughly ahead of time. If a customer wants to browse, no problem; there are plenty of properly displayed products, and people do spend extended time. On the other hand, there are plenty of trained and engaged store associates ready and willing to help at a moment’s notice, and each associate is able to complete a transaction so there’s no waiting in a checkout line. Apple has anticipated and executed these details because retail is detail.
Let me give you an example of a lack of detail common to many tire store websites. In doing my research, I was visiting a tire website and found it difficult to locate the “Search by Tire” interface. It was hard to find because it was below the fold and I had to scan down. On most tire websites, the “Search by Tire” interface is in your face. In my opinion, neither is ideal. I think a home page should say “hello” before it starts questioning you. Isn’t that what you do at the counter when a customer walks in? A small detail.
On the website, I entered a 2006 Honda Accord EX four cylinder, and up popped 31 different possible options for tire size 205/60R16. Who offers 31 tires at the retail sales counter? Nobody I’ve ever seen. The search returned 13 different brands, 38% of which would be considered Tier 1 brands. Of the 31 individual options, 23 were Tier 1 tires. Why would any website return six Bridgestone options?
“Wayne, what’s the problem?” you might ask. I’ll tell you the problem. The customer is driving an 11-year-old entry-level Honda Accord. Who would realistically offer top-of-the-line tires from Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Pirelli and Continental to the owner of an 11-year-old car? Why would a store offer tires online that they are unlikely to offer at the counter? They were offered in the wrong order for an 11-year-old car.
Retail is becoming more detailed, and we are going to look into problems and solutions in more detail in future articles. ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc. in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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