Pirelli P Zero World : Cathedral of Commerce

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Pirelli’s flagship store sets a new standard for tire retailing.

Pirelli’s 8,000 square foot P Zero World store in Los Angeles features luxurious retail design, an espresso bar, customized advice on tire fitting, and a full range of products. It’s the ultimate brand immersion for those who take tires seriously—but what can other tire retailers learn from this approach?

According to Maureen Atkinson, senior partner at J. C. Williams Group, experience is very important through retail. “In the tire business, much of the shopping is done online,” she says. “This helps bring people into your store, get them interested in your brand, and go beyond simply looking at price.”

The challenge is to make the customer experience special. “Retailers need to pick up their game, so the tire sale goes beyond a single transaction and becomes more of a relationship,” Atkinson says. “It’s that future sale you’re working towards. You can start promoting and communicating to them so that next time, you’re first up on their list.”

Experience retailing

It’s part of the overall trend in experience retailing, says Alan Middleton, Executive Director, Schulich Executive Education Centre. “It’s not just the tires, it’s everything surrounding the product,” he says. “It’s all about building the experience with videos, special deals, maybe even test drives.”

The advantage of building the experience is the opportunity for pricing flexibility. The better the customer experience is, the less they’re going to be focused solely on price.

But he cautions, it’s not just the experience at the time, but also follow up. “You need to stay in touch with these customers,” Middleton advises. “As they change cars, you want them to change to your tires. You’re after lifetime customer value.”

Laddering emotion

It’s important to focus on what Middleton refers to as the “car-ness” of the experience. “Make them feel like anybody who really knows cars does this to the car,” he says. “The centre of the communication is all about feeling good about what you’re driving, and feeling good as a driver. That can go across income groups, that good experience you have going to the right tire dealer.”

He recommends inviting customers in for a special event, whether it’s a test drive or a special promotion. “Make them feel like they’re going to learn something within car culture that’s of value to them,” Middleton says. “Make the experience of coming into the store a bit special.”

Perhaps it can be talking about the science that’s gone into the design and compound of the tire, and “laddering” emotion. “With laddering, you remind people that tires keep you safe in accidents, hence, laddering up to the human emotional protection of loved ones,” notes Middleton. “When you provide more information about what goes into the tire, you position yourself as the expert, so people feel better about buying from you.”

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