Tire Pros Unveils New Programs, Tools to Enhance Consumer Experience
Group Wants 2,000 Locations Within Next Five Years
American Tire Distributors Inc.’s Tire Pros franchise group is building for the future with new support programs for its members - all unveiled during its recent dealer meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
“We want to bring new customers into Tire Pros locations,” says Greg Bell, president of Tire Pros. “We want to show what we can do for them. And we want to create this connection and emotional benefit” with consumers.
That includes new, “flexible ways to engage with customers,” such as a new showroom concept - which Tire Pros displayed during the trade show component of its meeting - a digital portal that lets consumers “interact with our dealers when they want,” a refreshed Tire Pros logo and tagline and more, according to Bell.
The Nashville conference was “foundationally about setting our three-year strategic direction. And this isn’t Tire Pros telling our franchisees what the direction is.
"Our national dealer council - representing the (whole) group - came to us and said, ‘Here’s what we need to do.’
“You see the new Tire Pros logo. They brought that to us. They made that decision. We have an updated tagline, ‘Love the Drive.’
“We want to create a new connection with consumers. But in order to support that, we have to understand what (Tire Pros members’) needs are. And their needs will vary."
Newly formed partnerships with third party vendors like CareerPlug - a service that automates the steps of the hiring process - will “create an opportunity for dealers,” says Bell.
“We have opportunities to bring things forward like Spark, which is a micro-learning program. It transcends what we have done traditionally and helps supplement things we’ve done in the past.”
Into the future
Tire Pros’ “Showroom of the Future” concept includes a variety of components - each designed to enhance the consumer experience, says Bell.
“If you think about a traditional retail tire store, when you walk in there’s a counter with sales staff behind it. We want to create ease of use and convenience for both the consumer and the sales team, so we have brand new Tire Pros (store) kiosks.”
Some Tire Pros customers have already installed them “and feedback has been remarkable,” says Bell.
“In a traditional location, you see a lot of physical tires on display. We’re taking that into the digital world” with minimalist wall displays featuring “QR codes that customers can scan" to receive content about tires, instantly downloaded to their phones.
“We’ve also created a consumer portal that connects right into the point-of-sale system” at Tire Pros members’ locations.
Through their smartphones, consumers can enter information about their vehicles, view invoices, access “a digital tire health report,” track their vehicles through the various steps of the auto repair or tire service process in real time, authorize or decline additional work and pay for services rendered.
During the event, Tire Pros unveiled “digital key drop boxes” that dealers can install outside their stores.
“If it’s convenient for the customer to come in at 7 p.m. and drop their car off, they can go to the portal, scan a QR code to open up a secure locker and drop their keys off. The shop opens the next morning and the work order has already been created in the point-of-sale system.”
In the meantime, Tire Pros will continue to develop individualized marketing programs for dealers.
“We’re able to tailor marketing plans at the local level to meet the needs of dealers, whether they are in Los Angeles or Boston or Kansas,” says Bell.
“The connections that Tire Pros dealers have within their own communities is unparalleled. We will double down to support them.”
“When I talk about the road map for Tire Pros, it’s how we unpack all of that and bring it forward.”
The Tire Pros program has “far more single-location members than multiple-location members” says Bell. But all Tire Pros members will have access to new programs, he adds.
“Whether (you’re opening) your second store or your 11th store, we want to be there to help you.”
Two thousand or more
Tire Pros currently has 400 “owner-operators and they represent 609 locations,” says Bell.
The group has added 25 locations during 2021 “through a combination of prospects we’ve brought on and growth through our existing franchises.”
One - Van’s Tire Pros, which is based in northeast Ohio - added seven Tire Pros locations “within the last 18 months,” notes Bell.
Tire Pros’ location growth rate has been “flat” versus 2020, he adds. “But we recognize that we’re in unique times. The fact we've been able to keep pace during the last 18 months of the pandemic is something we’re proud of.”
Tire Pros wants to grow to 2,000 locations within the next five or so years. “But we don’t want to stop there.
“We have more locations in California than anywhere else. Texas is a close second. The southwest - as well as the southeast - is pretty well-saturated” with Tire Pros locations.
“We’re (entering) newer in markets like the northeast and the upper midwest,” says Bell.
“We just signed a two-location dealership in Wisconsin. So we are starting to fill in some strategic areas where we lack a little bit of density.”
A number of Tire Pros dealers told MTD they were impressed with new programs and concepts that were presented during the conference.
Commenting on “The Showroom of the Future,” Korey Cutlip, co-owned of Regal Auto Care Tire Pros in Everett, Wash., says “I could never contemplate undertaking something like that on my own.
“Even if I had 10 stores, the cost” to develop something similar “would be astronomical. And there are other things that I want to at least try. I’m one of the first to say ‘yes’” to a new program or tool.
“Think of how far behind we would be if we did things the same way today as we did five years ago.”
Others said they continue to benefit from existing Tire Pros programs.
Ryan Goff, owner of Roger’s Tire Pros, a two-store dealership based in Caldwell, Idaho, says he "doesn’t know how a small, independent dealership without access to training, buying power and infrastructure support can stay profitable.”
Mbie Dowd is the general manager of Casey’s Tire Pros & Automotive, a two-location dealership based in Greensboro, N.C.
She says that “when you’re a small company, there are things you don’t necessarily have access to - marketing initiatives, buying power.
“There’s no way I can go to a supplier and say, “I want your best possible rate!’ But they now come to us because we’re a Tire Pros dealer.”
Tire Pros is successful, “in my opinion, because the dealers are the main voice. We are consulted. We are involved. We’re asked for our perspective on what’s happening in our own markets. ‘What do you see? What’s important to you?’
“It’s not arbitrary. It’s not pulling something out of a hat. We’re not being dictated to, (as in) ‘This is what you have to do to be part of us.’”
Dowd is part of Tire Pros’ Women of Tire Pros group, which met during the conference.
Jessica Johnson, general manager of Marc Yount’s Tire Pros in Evans. Ga., also is part of the program, which she says provides a forum for the exchange of ideas.
“We are all in different markets, but we have enough in common so we can pick each others’ brains.”
Judy Zimmerman-Walter, co-owner of Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Pros in Mechanicsburg, Pa., says Women of Tire Pros provides an opportunity “to lead, mentor and train.
“What I really like about this group is that all (members) either own the shop or work in the shop. And the thing I’ve found is that we all have the same types of customers and they all have the same problems.”
Zimmerman-Walter has been in the auto service business for 40 years.
Her company - which also owns two quick lube locations and a used car dealership - joined TirePros two years ago. Prior to that, “we almost sold tires by accident.”
Since joining Tire Pros, tires have become a profitable part of her business. “They support us. They incentivize us. They work with us on issues,” like supply.
“They provide training for my employees. They have customer financing programs. They realize that we are the ones who open the box and put the tires on.”