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Editor's Notebook

A Future Without Friction: The Megatrend Behind the News

At the heart of sweeping changes in our industry is eliminating friction, which results in a consumer having a need and seamlessly getting that need satisfied. It should also be an essential consideration when rethinking your approach to your business operations, writes Tire Review Editor Patti Hoying.

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In early August, I had the pleasure of spending a full day discussing the future of replacement tire retail with a couple of forward-thinking tire dealers. It was a casual get-together with two underlying questions to answer: As the industry is evolving, what will it eventually look like? And how can we prepare for what’s next?

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I’ll get into my view of the retail tire landscape and its eventual fragmentation in a later column, but at this point, it might be more useful to explore one of several megatrends shaping the future. To start, let’s review a few recent events, then we can explore the trend that’s behind them. The goal is to understand a broader view of what’s going on here so you can be more strategic – eventually leveraging that understanding to further your success.

Preprogrammed Obsolescence

I recently bought a 2018 Accord. At around 7,500 miles, my Honda “Maintenance Minder” alert came up on my dashboard display telling me I had “Maintenance Due Soon,” reminding me to get my oil changed and tires rotated – an appreciated message. But then my touchscreen offered a disturbing prompt with my car dealer’s phone number. All I had to do was press the button on the screen to call the dealership that sold me the car.

Yes, new vehicles are being preprogrammed against you. OEs are making vehicle service quick and convenient with a connected experience. Even the most loyal customer may stray at the in-the-moment timeliness of click-to-call convenience.

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Installers, Not Sellers

Earlier this year, Sears Auto Centers was integrated as the first national ship-to-store tire solution for Amazon.com customers. Amazon customers select their tires, then select their Sears location and schedule their tire installation. Around the same time, eBay Motors did the same, adding tire-installation services to its online purchase offering. Most recently, the 1,170 retail locations of Monro Inc. (including Mr. Tire, Auto Tire, Tire Warehouse Tires, Tire Choice, TreadQuarters, Tire Barn Warehouse, and others across the U.S.) are in the process of being added to Amazon’s network as a ship-to-store option. For these companies, the focus is on making tire service quick and convenient with a great online tire-purchasing experience.

In May, Dealer Tire, a giant in replacement tire distribution for automotive dealerships, made a “significant investment” in SimpleTire, a digital innovator and e-commerce platform connecting independent tire distributors across the country into a seamless e-commerce network. The focus is on making tire buying quick and convenient with a great online tire-purchasing experience.

In July, TBC announced it was breathing new life into the Tire America brand with the launch of a digital platform, TireAmerica.com, to sell tires directly to consumers online. Once the consumer makes a purchase, the person is directed to make an appointment at a TBC-affiliated retail location (NTB, Merchant’s Tire, Tire Kingdom as well as Big O and Midas franchised locations), or a participating non-exclusive preferred installer (i.e. independent tire retailers that meet the requirements and sign up). The focus is on making tire buying quick and convenient with a great online tire-purchasing experience.

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As ATD continues to navigate through rough waters, the company has placed a focus on digital. In addition to dealer tools being rolled out such as its Radius platform and Traction platform, the company recently hired a chief digital officer with impressive roots in the digital retailer space. No doubt that ATD’s TireBuyer.com property, launched in 2008, will get more attention. The focus is on making tire buying quick and convenient with a great online tire-purchasing experience. Similar to other online tire retail platforms, the ATD-owned TireBuyer.com sells direct to consumers, using Tire Pros dealers and ATD customers as installers.

Across the board, tire distributors are increasingly becoming online tire retailers, driving installation business (versus tire sales opportunities) to affiliated dealers. While some distribution partners continue to push dealers to increase unit sales in order to qualify for more perks and program opportunities, at the same time, they are quietly competing against the same dealers they serve.

Yes, online retail platforms are also making inroads into your space. That’s already happening. But what’s more important is the trend that’s driving it.

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The Future is Frictionless

Not a week goes by that I’m not thinking about you, the industry and its future. My goal is to prepare you as we witness the gradual erosion of business-as-usual as things evolve.

It’s becoming clear that the erosion stems from one of the megatrends I call “minimizing friction” – which results in a consumer having a need and seamlessly getting that need satisfied. At the heart of sweeping changes in our industry is eliminating friction. It’s also one of the essential considerations when rethinking your approach to your business operations moving forward.

The trends continue to point toward minimizing friction at all costs – especially along the path to conversion, the moment that customer schedules an appointment, buys a set of tires, visits your website, etc. Minimizing friction can make it easy and seamless for customer to “convert” to your business. This can be related to the calls, clicks, time and other obstacles that come between a consumer’s first thought of needing new tires to them pulling away with those nubby new tires installed. 

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With that, do you notice a trend in the recent events I mentioned? The focus is on making tire service quick and convenient with a great online tire-purchasing experience.

For your own business, the more you can reduce friction in each moment of customer interaction – in store, on phone and online – the higher the likelihood that you’ll win the business.

When it comes to creating a smooth path to a transaction, how are you doing as a business? How can you make it easy for people to call you, schedule with you, find you, buy from you? Talk to your team and recent customers to identify ways you can iron out any snags to create a smoother transactional experience. 

From Dan Molloy’s “I can help you with that” philosophy to Roger McManus’ advice on identifying points of friction on your website’s pages, all of us at Tire Review remain devoted to helping your business speed toward a frictionless path to success.

To your success,

Patti Hoying

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