Rebates: Gimmicks Be Gone!

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Are consumers likely to take advantage of mail-in rebates or “buy four get one free” offers this year as they hunt for bargains? Photo Adobe Stock

Today’s consumers are looking for tire packages that offer value, not promises.

Money is tight for a growing number of consumers this year, and the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new set of tires has many looking for bargains. Some will look online for the best prices they can find, while others may be willing to step down a tier or two as they search for value-priced tires they can afford.

This fact leads to a fundamental marketing question: In today’s challenging economic environment, are coupons likely to earn tire retailers more business? More to the point, are consumers likely to take advantage of mail-in rebates or “buy four get one free” offers this year as they hunt for bargains?

‘I think those offers are losing some of the impact they had say, five or six years ago,” says Dwayne Sawyer, National Sales Manager, PLT, Sailun Tire Americas. “They don’t drive the type of response you want from a consumer. I don’t think people are buying based on the rebates.”

Like all other marketing ideas, rebates were once a great selling tool, but now they seem to be losing their appeal, and some argue that rebates have had their time in the sun and are no longer a viable marketing tools.

“The idea worked about 20 years ago,” Sawyer adds, “because it was something that nobody had done. Then, everybody jumped on the bandwagon, and the idea lost its teeth.”

Rather than try to get people to buy from you with the promise that they can mail in a rebate card and get a cheque in the mail in a few of months, Jack McLure, PLT Segment Manager at Sailun Tire Americas suggests a more direct approach with a more immediate benefit to the consumer.

“Our stance has always been to provide the best price up front to the customer,” McLure says. “We don’t want to make them jump through hoops during a certain buying season or within certain weeks or time periods so that they can benefit from a coupon offer. Just give them the best value up front.”

The informed consumer

Today’s consumers are better informed, and they have more access to information than ever, so they’re not buying tires simply because someone is offering a discount or a coupon. Moreover, consumers aren’t as quick to accept marketing slogans or promises made by tire manufacturers. Instead, they’re looking online for reviews and feedback from third parties, and from anyone who has had experience with the tire brand or the specific tire they’re thinking of buying.

“They Google the heck out of everything,“ McLure adds, noting that consumers tend to do a lot of research before spending money on bigger-ticket items, like a set of new tires.

“They’re looking for the best value,” Sawyer adds. “So it’s not always about the best price; it’s about the best value. They’ll pay a little bit more for a tire that performs better, but they won’t pay for a name or a brand. The brands are no longer the thing that drives the sale. Information does.”

Pirelli Tire President and CEO Ernest Bedia agrees that today’s consumers actively search for product information and that they do their research before making a tire-buying decision.

“Not only are consumers price-sensitive, but they also want value,” Bedia adds. “They’re educating themselves, and they want to make an informed decision. That’s why they’re looking for product reviews, and what’s the most popular type of product review? Other consumers’ experience with a particular product. That’s how people on platforms, like YouTube, are making money: They’re offering consumer product reviews.”

Bedia says that it’s important for consumers to understand why not all tires are the same. “Consumers need to be aware of the technological differences and benefits of one tire over another,” he adds, “and that’s the only way they’ll be able to make a more educated purchase decision.”

Once a consumer understands why one tire might be better than another, Bedia believes that they may be willing to spend a bit more on a set of tires, simply because they understand the benefits of that particular tire over another. “My feeling is that consumers are willing to spend more money, if they see a better value, including the technological advantages of the higher-priced product,” he adds.

EV owners

While most consumers may be counting their pennies, there’s one segment of the market that might be more focused on quality and tire technologies than all others: the electric vehicle owner.

“They understand that their vehicles are different,” Bedia explains, “and if they’re well-informed they also understand the benefits of EV-specific tires, which may cost more.”

The added cost, however, comes with advantages that EV owners may be willing to pay for, even in this tight economy. “If they understand the additional technologies that are part of an EV-specific tire, they’re going to make a more informed decision and may be willing to spend the money,” Bedia adds.

Do the math

Today’s consumers won’t be easily fooled. Regardless of whether tire retailers try to bring consumers into their stores with “Buy four get one free” promotions, or “Buy a set and get the install for free” offers, Bedia says that today’s consumers will simply do the math to see what it’s going to cost to by a set of tires from one retailer vs. another.

In addition, sales promotions that offer a t-shirt, a mug, or some other branded product “with every purchase,” are likely not going to attract consumers, expect in one particular scenario. “Those types of promotions could work with major fans of a particular brand,” Bedia explains. “So if you’re offering something that they would otherwise purchase on their own, like a shirt or a hat or something else, then the value could make sense there.”

If that’s not your target market, Bedia warns, then this sales strategy likely won’t get you the results you’re after. “Most consumers are going to look at the total transactional cost of a set of tires, installed,” he says. “They’re going to focus more on the dollar savings they’re receiving. That’s just the reality of the market today.”


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