I’m tired of talking about the internet, but I might be the only one. It’s a subject that tire dealers talk about all the time, and it doesn’t appear the internet is going out of business anytime soon. There aren’t any future plans to turn it off.
By nature, I’m a sales optimist. I’ve always looked for the opportunity, and more importantly, I have an ability to see the other side of a challenge. My dad was the same way. He fixed problems. He worked for General Motors in the assembly division (GMAD), and when you build 55 cars per hour under a million-square-foot of roof with 3,000-plus employees, there will be challenges everywhere and frequently.
When consumers shop for tires, they research on the internet, everywhere and frequently. The information they receive is often less than complete and leaves much to be desired. That being said, shopping on the internet is fast, easy and convenient. Many of today’s largest tire companies and retailers are operating sophisticated websites competing online for customers and tire sales.
The other side of opportunity
It might seem impossible to compete, but I’d like to talk about the other side of this challenging opportunity. Very few tire consumers have tire changing equipment in their garage so they must end up at a local tire store for installation. Yes, some enthusiasts buy tires and wheels and self-install, but the vast majority of consumers need professional installation assistance. This is a huge advantage to a local tire provider.
Also, studies show that customers want friendly, professional help in selecting tires, and they want to see and feel tires before they make a buying decision. As local tire dealers, we have an advantage that we don’t often think about; it’s the other side of the internet challenge.
The internet has its own problems. The problem that I’d like to address today is the problem of “abandonment.” Abandonment is a term used by internet marketers, and it measures the rate at which consumers abandon their shopping sessions without making a purchase. In the internet world, abandonment is a big issue. The typical abandonment rate for online retailers varies from between 60% to 80%. My research shows that the average abandonment rate on the internet is 67.9%, so let’s call it 70%. I’m going to call this the “60/70/80 Percent Advantage.”
What would happen if on average, 70% of your customers abandoned you? You’d be out of business! If your close rate was a lousy 30%, you should fire yourself and go sort mail at the post office or sell paisley couches at Sears. You’re toast!
Some of the reasons for the high abandonment rate on the internet are:
- Concerns about product description versus actual product.
- Complicated checkout process.
- Required “sign-ups.”
- Privacy concerns.
- Hidden prices.
- Selecting an installation station.
- Lack of product knowledge.
- Poor product organization and presentation.
- Unclear product descriptions (written by tire engineers and advertising companies).
Remember, tire consumers are basically tire agnostic. Tire customers won’t easily or completely understand the difference between buying tires online or locally if they don’t receive a clear presentation with understanding.If you can’t clearly articulate the advantages to buying tires locally, then maybe the post office or Sears is the place for you.
If a local tire store can’t close the gap between the perceived value of an internet tire purchase and the value of buying locally, then perhaps that store doesn’t deserve the sale.
Local advantages include, but are not limited to:
- Free tire inspections and inflations.
- Free tire rotations.
- Free flat repairs.
- Alignment services.
- Never any shipping charges.
- Free shuttle to work or home.
- 30-day, 45-day, or 60-day ride guarantee.
- Professional service recommendations.
- No sight unseen purchases.
- Risk-free/hassle-free installation.
- 1-year / 2-year / 3-year free replacement.
Winning requires confidence. The staff of a local tire store must, absolutely must, positively must, create customer confidence.
Trust me, internet providers are feverishly working to reduce abandonment rates. It’s one thing to buy toner or a pair of socks using the internet, it’s a small risk, but purchasing a set of tires is considerably riskier due to tire agnostics and cost.
My prognostication is that consumers will want to buy tires online from their local tire store, make an appointment, and then drive in for installation. This will be more commonplace in the future, but only if your website creates customer confidence.
Customers are less likely to pull-the-switch on a set of tires unless the website makes the process more seamless and reduces the inherent lack of confidence. Today, selling is as much about building confidence as it is about reciting features and benefits.
Here is my advice: Remove friction, bridge gaps, create confidence! ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected].
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