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Be careful, Google is smarter than you think

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Be careful, Google is smarter than you think

Well, the digital world keeps on changing, and it’s changing at digital speed. As the digital world accelerates, it will continue to impact the retail, aftermarket sales counter like never before. We are in for some very dramatic changes!

In the last few weeks, I have witnessed several interesting events in the new digital world of tire-and-service retailing that will be of interest to you. I believe these two examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Searching for a great deal

The first example has to do with smartphones and customers looking for maximum value.

Once upon a sunny day in Los Angeles several weeks ago, a local tire retailer was busy selling tires. A younger customer came to the sales counter and asked for a set of Goodyear tires for his midsize sedan. Assuming that the young motorist was looking for a low price, like so many customers before him, the retailer quoted a lower-priced Goodyear tire.

As often happens, the customer trusts the retailer’s recommendation and proceeds to purchase the tires. The transaction was completed and, as so often happens, the customer sits down in the waiting area.

What happens next, however, does not often happen, but is certainly more likely to happen in our fast-paced, easy-search, smartphone-connected, information-rich digital world. While sitting in the waiting area, the young customer reaches for his smartphone and does a Google search. He is checking via Google the real value of his five-minute-old tire purchase.  After looking up reviews on the tires he just purchased, he determined the tires he purchased did not meet his “value equation.” He became concerned about his selection and the retailer’s recommendation and returned to the sales counter.

Armed with his smartphone and reviews delivered via Google, he felt the tires he purchased were receiving unsatisfactory reviews and asked if the retailer had a better Goodyear tire. Because this all happened so quickly, there was no demounting of the original tires, and it turned into a win-win-win situation. The consumer received a better tire, the retailer sold a better tire, and Goodyear wins, as well, by presumably making more profit on the better tire.

Let’s review. In the end, the consumer was completely satisfied and is certain to return to the retailer. The retailer handled the objection or “clarification/concern” professionally, resulting in more profit plus a satisfied customer, and the customer is ultimately driving on better tires.

Technology, digital technology, smartphones, and Google search made this all possible. It may bring little beads of sweat to your forehead if you think about the potential of each customer doing a “digital audit” on each and every sale, but the key, as always, is professionalism, knowledge and, of course, counter intelligence.

As a retailer, you have to be what I call “digital smart.” I know the retailer in the story, and to be honest, it would be difficult to have all the reviews and the technical knowledge on hand on a tire-by-tire basis. In this case, the customer was “Google smart” and had more up-to-date information than the retailer. The retailer was smart enough and experienced enough to work with the customer while at an informational disadvantage.

Groupon impact

People are becoming familiar with Groupon — a deal-of-the-day website that offers discounted certificates that are redeemable at retailers, both local and national.

Groupon is a new digital giant and is making an impact on the aftermarket through retailers who are willing to accept what I call “deep digital discounts.”

Another dealer who I work with in the Los Angeles area re-opened a location that was formerly an under-performing national franchise. They are progressive retailers and needed new customers. Understanding the power of digital promotions, they accepted the deep discounts required to participate in a Groupon certificate promotion. During “Carmageddon,” the infamous 405-freeway-closing weekend in Los Angeles, they sold 500 certificates for a low-price oil change in two-and-a-half hours! Though the original intent was simply “customer acquisition,” the results via additional add-on sales proved profitable.

These new technologies and sales approaches are just the tip of the iceberg.

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at

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