Women really are from Venus

Feb. 28, 2012

What percentage of your customers are women? Fifty percent? Eighty percent? More than 80%?

There is no national average, although many in the automotive industry, including tire manufacturers, have offered guesses over the years. The number has been close to 50% for as long as I can remember, and it was always used in this context, regardless of how much time had passed: “Women now make up 50% of your customer base!”

That would make me laugh, because in one of Modern Tire Dealer’s issues in 1919, a dealer was quoted as saying women made up 50% of his business! My guess is that number hasn’t changed much for a very long time; everyone just thinks it has.

That is until now. Lately, the number actually appears to be moving up. And as the number increases, it’s more important than ever to understand how  women think.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC says 50% of the drivers in the United States are women. However,  they are responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases, and are actively involved in their car maintenance and purchasing decisions 90% of the time.

“The majority of women make the decision themselves on what tires to purchase,” says the company. Interestingly, only 46% of Bridgestone tire purchasers are women, the company says.

Delia Passi, CEO and president of Medelia Inc. and author of “Winning the Toughest Customer,” believes that when it comes to car maintenance, a women’s influence may be higher than 95%. She created the WomenCertified program to help tire dealers and other retailers cater to this growing market.

“Women now buy the majority of all new cars sold in America,” she says. They tend to involve more people in decision making, which explains why they are twice as likely as men to make referrals.

“Women follow more elaborate processes to decide and buy,” she writes in her book. “They tend to expect more service and more nuanced communication than other customers might.”

Women take longer to make the decision. They need more input. They expect more attentive service. And  they require more follow-up. With men, “it’s about direction and action: Let’s get to the point, solve the problem, close the sale and move on,” she says.

See? Men really are from Mars, and women really are from Venus, as the book by John Gray suggests. 

AskPatty.com has a certification program of its own and has been mentoring tire dealers  like MTD’s 2011 Tire Dealer of the Year, Nick Mitsos, CEO and president of Mountain View Tire and Service Inc., for years. Last month, K&M Tire Inc., a wholesale distributor based in Delphos, Ohio, announced a partnership with AskPatty.com.

At the 2011 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas, Nev., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., with help from AskPatty.com, embarked on a new marketing campaign aimed at child safety.

 “We tracked four key consumer groups and found that there’s an information gap when it comes to women and tire maintenance,” says Hal Gardner, Cooper’s vice president of marketing communications and intelligence. “Through our surveys, we learned that women need more tire information and we came up with the ‘Precious Cargo’ campaign with a focus on caution and safety.”

According to Cooper’s survey of U.S. mothers, only 1% of the respondents consider tire maintenance a priority when they think of keeping their children safe. Less than 1% reported automotive maintenance as a tactic to ensure their child’s safety.

Adding to this disconnect between you and your female customers is this telling stat from Cooper Tire: 74% of women feel automotive marketers could understand them better. Wow.

It all comes down to relationships, and the sooner you understand that women and men have been different since the Garden of Eden, the better.

As the late Josephine Roberts, manager of  United Tire Stores in Indianapolis, Ind., once advised our readers, “Women never know exactly what they want when they start out to buy something. They like to look around a great deal.

“With men it’s different. They know what they want and they know what price they want to pay and it is not difficult to do business with them.” That was in 1919.

If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at [email protected].

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.