Consumers now lean heavily toward digital and online resources when shopping for tires, but still rely on local tire shops for final purchases and installation.
So says “Compete Tire Path to Purchase,” a new consumer research study conducted by Google and Compete in September 2012. The 36-page study dug into where tire shoppers look for information and pricing, how they follow through on their search, and how they follow-up post purchase.
The results were both revealing and a bit surprising, especially as so many consumer product categories have shifted heavily to online purchases vs. brick-and-mortar stores. The study also gave a glimpse at how consumers see both “traditional” and tiremaker advertising efforts.
The study fielded responses of 1,356 recent (within the last six months) tire buyers, and the results were compiled last August. More than 80% reported buying tires in a retail store, but 46% leveraged online and digital tools to do significant pre-purchase research. Some 72% of consumers claim they are open to considering multiple tire brands, tire retailers or both – but tire brands and retailers “have a relatively low familiarity among shoppers.”
From a demographic standpoint, today’s tire buyer pretty much matches the U.S. population. The respondent was the decision-maker (67%) or was heavily involved in the purchase decision (19%). Among those polled, 45% were female (vs. 51% of the general population), 59% were married (vs. 48%), 42% had children at home (vs. 46%), 49% were college educated (vs. 43%), 20% were non-caucasian (vs. 22%), and 60% were in homes with combined incomes of greater than $60,000 per year (vs. 42%).
When these consumers considered what they were looking for in their next set of tires, durability (tread wear) was the most important at 86%, while traction ranked third at 80%. Squeezed between the two was price at 85%.
At the back of the list were tire brand (55%), carmaker recommendation (46%) and the appearance of the tire (43%).
With regard to durability as the most considered factor, 95% of tire buyersstated that their purchase was driven by worn out tires or a recommendation by the shop that their tires needed to be replaced. Only 8% of tire buyers made their purchase on a seasonal basis (primarily winter tire buys).
How long did it take for most tire buyers to make a purchase decision and take action? For 2012, 65% acted within one week, but 33% said they bought tires the same day they undertook shopping. This compared to 62% buying within a week in 2011, and 20% acting within one day. It took as much as three weeks for 26% of 2012 tire buyers to act, down slightly from 2011’s 30%.
Google/Compete then compared how buyers acted if they purchased offline (at a store) vs. online. In the case of in-store purchases, 48% said they “needed to go” to a tire retailer to have their new rubber installed, and 41% said they did so because they “needed the tires immediately.” Some 34% wanted to see the tires “in person before buying them,” and 30% wanted to make sure tires for their particular vehicle were indeed available for purchase.
The perceived expense of shipping tires (14%) was another reason behind in-store buys, as was the availability of coupons (11%). Just under 9% said they were not “comfortable providing personal information on the Internet.”
But those buying on the Internet were convinced that better prices were available online (42%), that it was faster to buy online (33%), that it saves time (26%), that there was better selection online (25%), that it was personally more convenient (24%), that it helps them avoid “crowds and lines of people” (17%), and it helps them avoid dealing with a salesperson (14%). Another 18% claimed having a positive prior online tire buying experience.
But most online tire buyers lack bays and lifts, so they have to rely on making an appearance at a tire store. And while they were there, 24% ended up having brake work done, 35% got an oil change, 43% got their tires rotated, and 44% had a complete alignment done.