She walks into your dealership and you already have her pegged.
She doesn’t know much about tires, you think, and she most likely hasn’t put any effort into researching them before coming. After all, buying tires isn’t really her responsibility anyway; it’s her male partner’s. She probably just has a lot of spare time, so she randomly stopped by to try and get the cheapest deal. You know how women are about spending money on things like tires, right?
Of course, she only knows two or three brand names, you think, so she’ll automatically buy them despite any presentation of new information. And she won’t likely get such information through the Internet, given that women are so technologically challenged. It’s all about coupons and clean restrooms for her anyway, so forget trying to earn her loyalty. Just sweet-talk her a bit. This, after all, is a woman!
Boy, do you have a lot to learn.
That last statement sums up what researchers at Real Simple, a women’s lifestyle brand and magazine, found when commissioned last year by Goodyear to study the tire-buying habits of women. Despite the notion that genders in 2015 finally largely understand one another, that’s not entirely the case in the tire industry. Old assumptions and stereotypes about women’s purchasing patterns still often pervade the historically male-dominated business, ultimately serving only to limit sales for dealerships themselves.
“Dealers realize that they need to understand female consumers better and cater to them in their stores,” says Julie DeGarmo, associate publisher for sales at Real Simple. “That’s what they’ve turned to Real Simple for: advice on how to do that. We’ve been fortunate to have a strong partnership with Goodyear, as their primary female magazine partner, for several years. They look to Real Simple as an expert on women. As part of our media partnership, we conducted this custom survey for them with our reader panel.”
Women don’t feel comfortable delegating chores. Only 9% say they delegate to their spouses or partners daily, and 17% do so with their children. They’re more likely to ask their kids for help than their partners.
Results of the 12,000-woman survey were presented earlier this year at a Goodyear’s annual dealer conference, evoking interest and possibly provoking change. “I can only speak to conversations that we had at the Goodyear dealer conference,” DeGarmo explains, “but there is definitely an acknowledgement and understanding on the dealers’ part that women are very involved in tire purchases and are often the primary decision makers. We also heard that they are the ones actually making the purchase more than 50% of the time, which is a change that dealers have seen over the past several years.”
Most glaringly, though, is that even after more than 10 years of intense focus on talking about the importance of women customers, the tire industry still has a long way to go.
So, in light of the Real Simple study, what can tire dealers do to make the most of female purchasing power? Read on and find out.
Respect Her Time
Women – including the 70% working outside the home and the 64% with children younger than 18 – are not sitting around watching soap operas and eating bon-bons. A third say they don’t have time to watch a single episode of their favorite TV show a day, as more than 40% have less than one hour a day of “me time.” That number rises to more than 50% for moms.
But many say that “free time” is “contaminated” by chores, such as shopping, so it’s not really free time at all. And women either make or influence 80% of household purchasing decisions. So it’s in a dealer’s best interest to be conscious of a female customer’s time.
“Why that matters to you,” Real Simple’s Ann Gobel told Goodyear dealer-conference attendees, “is that you have to be respectful of her time when she’s coming into the store, because when she’s doing this, it’s during her free time. But it’s a chore to her. So you just have to keep that in the back of your mind and be as efficient with her time as possible.”
The Primary Tire Shopper
Women don’t feel comfortable delegating chores. Only 9% say they delegate to their spouses or partners daily, and 17% do so with their children – meaning they’re more likely to ask their kids for help than their partners. Those numbers rise to 49% and 59%, respectively, when it comes to delegating chores once a week. So, women will probably not pass off that responsibility and will be the primary tire shoppers. Therefore, their habits need to be understood.
“Two-thirds of married women feel if they did less work around the house they’re not taking care of it properly,” Gobel explained. “We find that when she has her shopping list, she’ll send her husband to the store for peanut butter, right? But he’ll come back with the wrong peanut butter. She wants nutty butter and he’ll come back with creamy. So she’d rather just do it herself.
“So, again, she’s more likely to be the one tire shopping,” she added. “It’s important to her. She’s not delegating it. She’s the CEO of the household and she wants to do it herself.”
Open To a Variety of Ideas
When examining the genders’ shopping patterns within a store, Real Simple found that men go straight to the items they want while women scan various shelves and displays. That indicates, Gobel said, that women are not bound to one idea when purchasing. Dealers, therefore, should offer more than one product option and educate women on the benefits of each so they can make the best decision.
“Men are very specific when they come into your store,” she said. “They know exactly what they want. They want the Goodyear Fuel Max tire. They come in and this is what they’re going to buy. What we’re finding in our research is that women aren’t married to one idea. They’re open to exploring all different types of ideas. So, know that when she comes into your location, she really wants to be educated on the benefits and she’s open to having that dialogue.”
Focus on Educating
While women make or influence 65% of tire and car purchases, three quarters say they feel misunderstood by car marketers. But they’re confident enough, Real Simple found, to solicit help and education.
It’s like that old joke about asking for directions: men won’t, but women will. So, dealers would do well to educate female customers about such considerations as fuel economy and vehicle performance. Also of note is that long-term benefits are more important to women than the satisfaction of immediate needs, which men tend to value.
“What’s important is that she’s confident enough to ask for help, and she really, really wants to make the best decision for her family,” Gobel said. “So, she’s willing to be educated. Case in point: 64% of women will call their IT department if they’ve got a virus on their computer, whereas only 30% of men will.”
Mobile and Websites
Speaking of IT, women are very involved with technology when it comes to mobile shopping. Females, in fact, are rarely without their mobile phones, according to Real Simple, and are more likely than men to use them throughout the shopping experience. That includes sharing photos, making lists, finding coupons and using scan bars.
In addition, more than 60% of women prefer to research products on a computer or laptop, while only 11% prefer in-store research. Most of them – 27% – start their searches on Amazon, while 19% start at retailer locations or web sites. But that only applies to research: 54% of women’s purchases are made in the physical store, compared to 46% online.
“The key takeaway with this is – and you’ve heard this before – make sure your mobile site is engaging, user-friendly and working properly,” Gobel stressed.
Give Her Credit
A third of women track the wear of their tread themselves or pay attention to the odometer in relation to tire use, “which was really surprising,” Gobel said of the Real Simple finding. A majority, at 54%, still knows it’s time to get new tires because someone tells the woman. But, fortunately, only 3% wait for a tire to go flat or blow out before purchasing.
When it comes to researching which tires to buy at that point, women tend to study price and type with the help of sales reps (60%), spouses (50%), car owner’s manuals (48%), friends and family (46%) and from manufacturer’s websites (38%).
“Women are more involved,” Gobel said, “and they know more about tires than you’re typically giving them credit for. If one-third of them are saying that they’re tracking tire wear themselves, they know what’s going on.”
Streamline the Process
“A majority of women – 68% – spend between one and three hours purchasing tires and having them installed,” Gobel explained. “Not surprising was that they were surprised about the time that it took. One in four women expected the process to take less time than it actually did.
“We’ve talked about women and how you have to respect their time, so if it’s going to take three hours, say it’s going to take three hours,” she added. “If you tell her it’ll take an hour-and-a-half and it takes three, she’s going to be pissed.”
One way to streamline the process is by offering a tire selector or wizard that allows women to shop for and purchase tires online before coming in for the installation. Any resulting problems can be rectified on location.
“She really wants it streamlined, but she’s willing to come in to the store,” Gobel said. “And then if it’s not the right tire, tell her. Say, ‘I see what you bought, but it’s actually not the right tire for you and let me tell you why. How much time do you have?’ She will be open to switching as long as she has that communication with you.”
Speaking of technological help, 90% women say they’d prefer receiving a text message or phone call letting them know when the installation is done instead of waiting for the car on location. Once again, taking advantage of the female affinity for technology is a good idea.
Know What’s Important
From a list of 14 factors considered by women when purchasing tires, safety comes up on top, followed by durability. Then comes performance, braking, price, driving comfort, availability, service and fuel efficiency. Lower on the list are expert ratings, recommendations and run-flat capability.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Gobel said. “She’s very, very interested in price. But what we know is that she’ll pay more for something she knows and trusts and has quality. So, key takeaway, educate her on the safety and durability of your tires.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to the in-store experience, being treated with respect tops her list of importance. Other things mentioned, in order, include the knowledgeability of the sales staff, friendliness of employees, aesthetics of the shop, shuttle availability and free Wi-Fi.
“How important is cleanliness?” Gobel asked. “It’s important to have a clean place. But the number-one thing that came up was being treated respectfully and feeling like they’re not being taken advantage of. That’s the most important thing.”
Bridging the concepts of respect and communication is a poignant anecdote that Gobel relayed at the Goodyear conference:
“There was a woman doctor in our survey,” she explained, “and she said that she hates it when she goes in to a tire dealership and they’re only speaking to her husband. ‘I’ve actually told the sales staff and mechanics that they can speak to me because it’s my car, I’m a doctor, and I can understand complex ideas,’ the woman wrote.
“We looked at tire communications that resonate with women and the ones that did the most provided trustworthy information, clearly-stated product benefits and have an emphasis on product safety,” Gobel said.
“At the end of the day, you’re trying to create a sense of loyalty with her. Women tend to be relational, and they want to feel a connection with you. Consumers enrolled in loyalty programs are more likely to spend more money than nonmembers, and women are more likely to be members than men, 62% versus 54%.
“So the takeaway here is that coupon programs and marketing initiatives are important,” she said, “but rewarding loyalty can ensure she doesn’t go somewhere else when it’s time for her to buy tires again.”
That’s the way to treat – and keep – a woman customer.