Business is based on transactions, a value exchange between buyer and seller. So when I hear about shops considering making changes based on political correctness or some sort of social advocacy (because it’s “the right thing to do”), I always wonder how that change would actually attract more business to positively impact the bottom line.
As a business owner working to milk every dime out of every transaction every day, you may think that you can’t afford to do the right thing when it comes to embracing social issues. But from personal experience, I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to do when there is meaningful, measurable ROI attached to outcomes.
The perfect example has to do with creating a female-friendly environment in your shop. Maybe you see the idea as some sort of women’s rights thing and not worth the investment.
In fact, it’s a great way to help you win more business in 2017.
For starters, let’s look at the growing competition from car dealerships. Car dealers want to elbow in on your tire sales, and your female consumers are helping them do it. If you want to beat the car dealers and grow your local market share (or at least protect it), you’re going to want to do better with the ladies.
A consumer survey of more than 2,400 car owners by AutoMD.com shows that most women (65%) prefer to have service work performed at their local car dealership. At the same time, Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training at TIA, tells me that car dealers are looking at opportunities to capture more tire sales and are very much focused on growing their current 8% share of the market, further cutting into your business.
Don’t let that happen.
One shop that seems to get things right is Northtown Auto Service and Tire Center in McHenry, Ill. In early December, I spent the day with husband and wife owners, Mark and Kristin Hartmann, who run a solid operation and pay close attention to the details of the overall customer experience. In fact, they’re known for having the cleanest bathrooms in town.
When I asked about being a female-friendly shop, Kristin said it was not intentional; they wanted to make sure women feel comfortable, yet it has resulted in their team doing a better job with both men and women alike.
“Women have felt uncomfortable with the whole getting-my-car-fixed thing because they usually don’t know anything about cars. It’s like sending a man into a dress shop,” Kristin laughs. “Wrong, right or indifferent, that’s the way it is. What we pride ourselves in is educating women to make good decisions. The more they know the better a decision they can make, regardless. We do a lot of showing, a lot of explanation.”
She emphasized the importance of consistency. “The way we explain things to a woman is no different than how we explain things to a man – but we do take the time to explain. We don’t treat women any differently than we treat men.” She added that with the complexity of today’s vehicles, men may act like they understand but they need explanations as much as anyone.
Let’s Look at the Trends
Several trends point out the increasing strength of the female consumer.
Big money: Once the kids are out of college, you’ve got a strong uptick in women’s wealth and spending. At the same time, many women are the recipient of double inheritances – from their parents and their spouses. Research says that over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S. and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history, with estimates ranging from $12 to $40 trillion*.
This means they have money to spend, so give them a reason to spend it with you. Show them what they need to know to be an educated and loyal consumer. Tap into their desire to make good decisions when it comes to their vehicle, its performance and their safety.
Influencers: According to the study by Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team, women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. For all the new car and auto-related spending, 65% of those decisions are made by women and another 80% are influenced by them.
Reviews: Increasing numbers of people go online to research auto service options before they stop in or make a call. In fact, the AutoMD study found that 73% of women count on online reviews when making decision on where to have their car serviced as compared to just 64% of men. Be sure you manage your online reputation, especially when those reviews may influence your female customers.
They want you to “get them”: It’s interesting that a whopping 74% of women feel misunderstood by automotive marketers. What an opportunity for you, the independent tire dealer! That means that the market is ripe for you to shift your focus to become the go-to resource for their tire and service work. It’s also a golden opportunity to steal business away from car dealers by addressing their unique needs and taking advantage of the trends.
Get started by simply reversing the roles. Walk through your shop and a typical buying experience as if through the eyes of a female customer, then see what you can do to make it a more remarkable experience. It’s not only about having a clean place to sit – it’s about providing a consistent, professional experience to every person (regardless of gender) who walks through your doors.
If business is based on an exchange of value, doing better with the ladies is an easy path to growth, adding value to the experience of doing business with you.