When it comes to buying tires, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company wants to transform the experience. It might sound like a tall order, but Fred Thomas, vice president and general manager of Goodyear Retail, says the brand is ready to make it happen. After careful development, they’ve launched Roll by Goodyear concept stores to help change the way people get their tires.
“People are looking for things to come to them,” Thomas says. They also want to do their buying online. That’s in direct contrast to the way sales have historically operated in the tire industry: Not only have shoppers needed to make a trip to the tire shop to complete their purchase, they’ve also been stuck waiting while their new tires are installed.
Roll by Goodyear flips that process. Following the mantra of “tires on your terms,” the new stores are designed to make tire buying effortless from beginning to end. The updated experience starts when customers walk into a Roll store and continues through to installation.
The layout of the new stores is vastly different from what most have come to expect from a tire company. There are no floor-mounted tire displays to break up the clean, crisp, simple lines. “You won’t walk in and be overwhelmed by the tire-buying experience,” Thomas says. A vibrant yellow wall grabs customers’ attention and makes the small space — ranging from about 400 to 600 square feet — feel bright and airy. This one wall also showcases fewer tires than before, with just 20 or 30 selections to help customers narrow down what they want. There’s no seating area, no TV playing in the background.
“We’re expecting it will take you no time, because we’re fitting into your schedule instead of the other way around,” Thomas says.
From there, an associate is available to help customers find the right tire. “We ask how you drive and what you’re looking for in a tire,” Thomas says. “Then we offer three easy suggestions.” Consumers who prefer to complete the process on their own can simply scan the QR codes mounted on the wall next to their preferred tire to determine the right size for their car. The out-the-door price, traditionally a confusing mixture of tire size and installation charges, is clearly displayed so there are no questions and no surprises.
MAKING IT CONVENIENT
Roll’s simple approach covers the details, too. Customers no longer need to know the right tire size or remember what the R and P designations on the side of the tire mean. It’s those issues that have often stopped people from completing their tire purchase online.
“Sometimes people want reassurance,” Thomas says. Even a customer who’s skilled at online research might still want to know they’re making the best decision. Now they can make a quick stop at Roll, and an associate will confirm their selection is the right one. Finishing the transaction is equally easy — browsing and buying are done through a mobile device. “It’s a seamless transition from the online experience to the in-store experience,” he says.
Tire installation also has been made convenient, with customers able to choose from several options, including bringing their car to an installation center. “We also have a valet driver who comes to you wherever you are, whether it’s work or home or your kid’s soccer game,” Thomas says. The driver takes care of shuttling the customer’s vehicle back to have the new tires put on, and the car is then returned to the customer’s choice of location. Alternatively, a mobile van can come to the customer and complete the installation on the spot.
It isn’t just the inside of the stores that have been transformed. Roll locations are carefully chosen, eschewing the traditional mall-based strategy which has dominated the industry in recent years. Instead, the goal with Roll is to place them in vibrant lifestyle centers within high-density areas — environments where customers are already spending time, whether it’s getting in some gym time, taking care of other errands or grabbing a bite to eat. “You could just give us your keys, we’ll take your car to our installation center, and when you’re done doing what you’re doing, we’ll have it back,” Thomas says.
The location strategy addresses a common customer complaint: The process takes too long. People need to leave work or miss other parts of their life while they go to a traditional store that may not be in their normal sphere of travel.
“The time piece kept coming in,” Thomas says. As consumers increasingly expect to have things come to them — groceries are delivered to their homes, prescriptions arrive in the mail, online purchases show up seven days a week — tires are no longer an exception. “People really want us to come to them, save them time and make it convenient.”
Though customer feedback was used to develop Roll, Thomas says the team didn’t set out to go after a certain group with the new concept. Even so, millennials and women are two demographics likely to discover that Roll fits into their lifestyle. The early adopters of technology are often younger and more willing to embrace a new way of shopping, and juggling kids’ activities alongside work schedules and other errands frequently falls to women.
“We aren’t going after those groups specifically,” Thomas says. “We’re going after those who have a time crunch lifestyle.”
The first four Roll stores have already opened in the Washington, D.C., area; Philadelphia is next on the list. In a departure from the typical concept launch strategy, Thomas says the brand doesn’t have a set timeline for new store rollouts. Instead, “We want to see how it
The Goodyear team is committed to understanding what people like and don’t like about the process. Much of the planning has been done in a research setting, and Thomas is keen to see how it goes in the wild. Feedback on the new stores, with their casual presentation and customer-centric style, will drive future plans.
Amid all this change, it’s worth asking how an established brand does something new without losing itself in the process. “We’ve been around 120 years, and we’re leading the way in innovation,” Thomas says. He acknowledges that change can be difficult, with long-standing practices being reevaluated and opportunities to improve identified. “It’s hard to get someone to think about things differently.”
The organization worked hard to create a different culture, particularly around training, a critical step in creating a new customer experience. Because delighting consumers is a primary goal, the team underwent extensive training.
With careful planning and a dedicated team behind it, Roll succeeds in making a simple process out of something long considered complicated. “We want you to feel that great vibe and that great experience,” Thomas says. “Like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even realize it was tires.’”
Julie Knudson is a freelance business writer who focuses on retail, hospitality and technology.