Today’s consumers are more informed than ever before. They seek information throughout the purchase process and this, in turn, drives their use of smartphones and their consumption of online information. While this comes as no surprise, there is a deeper connection: opportunities exist for savvy tire dealers who find ways to take advantage of this behavior.
According to “Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping: Research Debunks Common Myths,” a study conducted by Google, Ipsos and Sterling Brands that polled smartphone users ages 18-54 found that:
• 87% of consumers looked for information before visiting a store;
• 79% looked while visiting a store; and
• 35% sought information after visiting a store.
The study also found that consumers used the following online sources to seek information about products or services.
Two out of three consumers polled did not find the information they were looking for in-store. When this happened, 43% said they felt frustrated; 41% were more likely to shop elsewhere; and 22% said they were less likely to buy from that retailer. That’s roughly 20-25% of your customers not buying from you because you did not provide the level of detail they wanted in order to make a purchase. Clearly, a lack of information should be avoided at all costs.
Lastly, among those surveyed, 71% of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research said their device has become more important to their in-store experience.
So, how exactly can tire dealers tap into this quest for information and the increased use of mobile phones in-store? The study answers these questions by debunking three common myths, but we took it one step further to get advice from marketing professionals within the tire industry.
Myth #1: Search results only send consumers to e-commerce sites.
Fact: Search – especially by phone – is a powerful way to drive consumers to stores.
Of the consumers polled, three out of four who find local information in online search results are more likely to visit those stores. Shoppers reported the following information as “extremely helpful”:
• The price of an item at a nearby store (75%);
• Whether the item is in stock at a nearby store (74%);
• The location of the closest store that has the item in stock (66%);
• Operations details – hours, phone number, etc. – about local stores (63%);
• Maps showing which stores carry the item searched for (59%); and
• Other products available at the store that carries the items searched for (56%).
Tire dealerships can provide helpful information online to drive consumers to stores. Offering local information – like item availability and store location, hours and contact information – fills the information gap that otherwise may keep consumers away.
According to John Taylor, president of Nashville-based agency JTMarCom, when it comes to optimizing search engine results, one of the most important things dealers can do is to evaluate their website through the free website grader provided by Hubspot (website.grader.com).
“You simply enter your website address and Hubspot provides a wealth of specific information within seconds on how to improve your website’s performance,” he explains. “Right away, you will learn how your website stacks up against millions of other websites through a percentile score. Our experience is that if you score 70% or higher, you are in pretty good shape. You will likely have a few issues to improve, but considering how many great websites there are out there, you should feel pretty good about yourself at 70% or higher.”
Taylor adds the Hubspot website grader also shows exactly where a website is falling short and how to fix it. Users receive specific analysis in four key areas:
1. Performance – Hubspot evaluates page size, page requests and page speed. The heavier the site page, the slower the load. For optimal performance, try to keep page size below 3MB. Concerning page speed, best-in-class webpages should load within three seconds; any slower than that and visitors will abandon your site, according to Taylor.
2. Mobile – If your website is not optimized for mobile, you’ll miss out on valuable traffic, leads and revenue, he adds. Hubspot will give you a specific score on whether your website has responsive design for mobile devices and whether the viewport lets you control your page width and scale on different devices.
3. SEO – Make sure your website is easy for users to discover and easy for search bots to understand with better page titles, page headings and meta descriptions. For instance, page titles should be no longer than 70 characters and should not repeat keywords. Meta descriptions should be no longer than 155 characters and should be relevant to the page. Hubspot will not only tell you where you stand, but also how to fix things, Taylor notes.
4. Security – Is your SSL certificate in order? SSL certificates protect websites from attacks and give visitors confidence that your site is authentic and trustworthy, he adds.
Myth #2: Once in-store shoppers begin looking at their smartphone, the store has lost their attention.
Fact: Stores can grab consumers’ attention through search results and a retailer’s mobile site or app.
Consumers look at competitor sites, but a greater percentage look at search-engine results and the retailer’s website/app. Forty-two percent of in-store consumers conduct research online while on location via:
• 64% search engines;
• 46% retailer’s website/app;
• 30% a different retailer’s website/app; and
• 26% another type of website/app (coupon site, review site, etc.)
This means stores should optimize their online presence (including search results, website, app, and mobile ads) to engage consumers while they’re inside the store. According to Brad Timofeev, director of digital marketing for WebArt, a digital marketing agency with locations in Ohio and Virginia, this involves putting together a strategy with a deep understanding of the customer journey and how you can move them through it more smoothly.
“Potential customers look to your website during more stages of the buying cycle than any other touch point,” he says. “They might visit you online during the discovery, evaluation, conviction and action stages, so the website is where you should invest the most dollars and time.”
Timofeev recommends content marketing to attract visitors at the initial stages, as dealers can craft content based on consumers’ specific search intent. (For example, “What’s the best oil for my type of driving?” or “How to know when you need new brakes.”)
“However, before creating content, you should perform a basic search query for your topics to see which types of content show in the search results,” he notes.
“Mobile apps are a great tool for existing customers to use and for you to retain them,” Timofeev adds. “Your app really only needs to provide service reminders and a way to schedule appointments. The app should push those reminders to your customers’ mobile devices, along with information about why certain services are so important.”
Myth #3: Online research has limited what consumers expect from stores; they really just go to stores to complete a transaction.
Fact: Consumers still visit stores for more than just transactions, but they now expect more out of any place they shop; they want informed, customized experiences.
According to the study, 69% of consumers used physical stores for information during different phases of the purchase process:
• 32% found inspiration – the time they realized they wanted or needed a particular product.
• 33% did research – the time they actively looked and researched the purchase.
• 55% bought – the time they purchased the product.
• 14% post-purchase – any behavior they participated in after the purchase.
Consumers polled said they would be more likely to shop in stores that offer personalized coupons and exclusive in-store offers (85%) as well as recommendations for specific products to purchase (64%).
Tire dealers can take advantage of these tendencies by delivering customized offers and recommendations right to consumers as they search on their phone or by integrating them into the in-store experience.
“It’s important to realize that not all of your customers are at the same stage in the buying cycle, so they’re going to have different tendencies when shopping in-store,” Timofeev says. “For instance, if a customer comes in for scheduled maintenance or to buy tires, he’s already chosen to do business with you. At that point, it’s your job to retain that customer by providing a great experience and adding any value you can. But there’s also this possibility: A customer comes in for scheduled maintenance and, after inspecting his vehicle, you tell him that his car requires more work than he expected. He might pull out his smartphone and start shopping around for that additional service while he’s in your store.”
He adds that while the in-store experience includes everything from the shop’s appearance, cleanliness and aroma to colors, signage, displays, furniture and the music or TV, so much of customer retention is dependent upon your staff and each customer interaction.
“They should be trained extensively in communication of your brand promise,” Timofeev says. “They also need to drive customers to specific actions: using the mobile app; signing up for your monthly email flyer or social media pages, and taking advantage of the resources on your website, such as coupons and tire selectors. Your waiting areas should reinforce those messages, too, through digital signage, in-store audio, table stands, pull-down banners and geo-fencing notifications.”
Rather than marginalizing the value of in-store shopping, Google’s research shows that smartphones and online information offer an opportunity for stores to enhance consumers’ shopping experience.
“It’s important to make it easy for customers to find the information they want and need, whether it’s on a well-designed mobile website that’s intuitive and easy to navigate, or an uncluttered store that features helpful POP displays, audio and video,” Timofeev says.
“At every point of contact, make it easy for customers to choose you,” he adds