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How to better connect with consumers

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How to better connect with consumers

The changing nature of connecting with the consumer was a major theme during the Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC (BATO) 2012 Consumer Dealer Meeting Oct. 17-18. The company brought 450 representatives from 200 tire dealerships to its hometown of Nashville, Tenn., to discuss how Bridgestone is promoting its tire brands to the consumer.

Much of the strategy and terms were borrowed, and referenced, from Proctor & Gamble Co., including that company’s well-known “Moment of Truth” philosophy, and calling the consumer “The Boss.”

John Baratta, president of BATO’s Consumer Replacement Tire Sales Division, told dealers they have done a good job on “the first moment of truth”: That is, the consumer makes a buying decision within seven seconds of entering a retail store.

Baratta said dealers, who also are responsible for the “second moment of truth” — when the consumer buys the product and takes it home — are doing a good job in this regard, too.

The twist, according to Baratta, is that there is now the “zero moment of truth,” which means that a customer’s perception about a product has begun before they even start to do business with a company. Bridgestone research shows that 70% of consumers are online looking at product reviews before they make a tire buying decision. Also, 79% of consumers are shopping with smartphones.

Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer for BATO’s Consumer Tire Division, informed dealers that women are becoming a larger force in buying cars and requesting service.

Statistics were shown that indicate women make 68% of new car purchase decisions. In addition, 65% of requested services at car dealerships are made by women. Dobbs said the company was planning to increase advertising in media targeted at women as a result of its research. Bridgestone also is targeting the rapidly emerging digital media marketplace. Citing smartphone growth statistics from 38% to 50% between 2011 and 2012 and Android and iOS users increasing from 38 million to 84 million over the same period, Dobbs said Bridgestone was developing a three-year roadmap to shift to digital media.

The company recently launched a site for desktop, mobile and tablet platforms, and hopes to launch a site for the Firestone brand in early 2013. Both sites are listing manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing (MSRP) information, as the company believes the consumer wants this information when going online.

Referencing some negative issues that Bridgestone had with its dealers earlier this year, Gary Garfield, CEO and president of BATO, said Bridgestone is committed to growing its relationship with its dealers.

“You are a competitive advantage. Earlier in the year, we didn’t do a great job in our partnership.” Garfield assured dealers the company had made the necessary changes to improve the partnership.

Larry McGee, president of the Consumer Tire U.S. & Canada Division, drew the biggest applause of the event when he announced that Bridgestone was returning as an original equipment supplier to Ford Motor Co. He said the company would have its Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza on the 2013 Ford F-150 truck.

Dealers also were told that Bridgestone had completed integrating its operations. Previously, the company had BATO North America servicing its OE and replacement tire sales to customers and a separate retail store operation for the end user. Both are now under the BATO umbrella with unified brand, marketing and product strategies.

Four new products

Four tires will be launched by Bridgestone during 2013.

1. The Bridgestone Potenza RE97 AS will be launched in March. It has a blend of performance and touring characteristics and will come in 22 V- and W-rated, 45- to 60-series sizes ranging from 16 to 18 inches.

2. The Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 A also will be launched in March. It was described as an ultra-high performance tire that will come in 10 V- and W-rated, 40- to 50-series sizes ranging from 15 to 17 inches.

3. The Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport AS will be launched in April. It was described as a performance tire for all seasons for CUVs. It will be available in nine H-, V- and W-rated, 40- to 65-series sizes ranging from 17 to 20 inches.

4. The final tire, a high-end Bridgestone Blizzak LM-32, will be launched in July. It was described as a tire that preserves performance and sportiness when it’s not snowing. It will come in 33 V- and W-rated, 35- to 50-series sizes ranging from 16 to 20 inches.

The company also told its dealers that its Affiliated Retailer program was receiving some enhancements. They include an expanded fill-in program to allow dealers better and quicker access to products; a nationwide warranty program; and a new credit card.    ■


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