CONTINENTAL'S T.A.C. NETWORK UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT
As explained by the marketing manager of Continental Italia in a preview on Pneurama, the Top Automotive Center (TAC) network is focusing on a more extensive coverage of the market by 2017, as well as personnel training and new initiatives to generate greater sales volumes
Among the many retail networks currently present on the Italian market, Continental’s Top Automotive Center (TAC) network has consistently kept a low profile, typical of the company it represents. Now though, the time has arrived for a change of pace, so it has chosen a more effective communication campaign. An open dialogue with affiliates on future programs and initiatives is paramount. Carlotta Capurro, Marketing Director of Continental Italia’s cars, 4x4, and light transport vehicle segment, says: “We will highlight the 2016 program in detail to all TAC retailers early next year: not an improved version of the previous program, as was often the case in the past, but a true qualitative leap. We are working at a complete reorganization which provides for a closer partnership with our network outlets and a direct participation during the company’s various initiatives”.
Major changes in the marketing policies created by Franchising Service Company (part of the Continental Group of companies responsible for organizing and providing services to the group’s franchise networks); in short, the four pillars of the program, know-how, business opportunity, image and promotions are the driving force behind the company’s quest for innovation and technology. After all, if TAC’s 2014 financial statement was positive, we will have to wait until the end of next winter to have a final evaluation of the current year. In view of the market’s future prospects, we cannot be satisfied with simply going along with it.
"Last year, despite the sector’s difficulties - says Capurro - the network’s final balance was positive. With Continental taking the lion’s share of the business(the other brand in the TAC’s portfolio is Barum)".
Know-how! The key factor
"The results of the first half of 2015 are not far from those of the same period in 2014, so the last quarter of the year is going to be crucial". Just as crucial as the ability to offer a wide range of winter tires, reason why the German group has decided, for the moment, not to offer an all-season option at the same time. Not to be overlooked is the training of all retailing personnel that must be able to offer all clients a suitable product for their needs; as well as working hard to establish an effective communication with and about each point of sale, enhancing consumer knowledge on safety, braking distances and products. "We believe - says Capurro - that our wide range of summer and winter tires is the best option for our clients. That is why we involved our affiliates in a series of training sessions to reason with them on the needs of the average motorist: each type of product meets the needs of a specific target. All-season tires, in fact, address a well defined target of motorists". Next year the TAC network will be involved in a succession of initiatives and promotional activities at both local and national level. “Field activities will multiply – explains the marketing manager of the Italian subsidiary – to show our retailers both the profile and consistency of their potential catchment area”. In announcing a program full of changes, on the strength of innovative marketing contents, emphasis is undoubtedly placed on the value of the single retailer’s know-how: "It is the distinctive element of the program, recognized by all the retailers belonging to the TAC network, on which we continue to invest unabated". This in addition to traditional updating and training, both technical and managerial, linked to the central role played by the entrepreneur and good day-to-day business management: from customer acceptance to complaint management, from communication skills to Customer relationship management.
From operators to automotive consultants
“These latter ones are of particular interest to us – states Capurro – because still very few retailers are using them to their fullest potential”. An adequate space must be reserved to setting up a client database that represents an asset for the retail outlet: a business boost to be used every day, making sure that the clients will return regularly, and not only during seasonal tire substitutions. Developing interpersonal skills suitable for the new role as specialized retailer. “Our goal consists in accompanying our specialists in the transition from operators to automotive consultants. That is why a complete set of instruments, in line with the client’s expectations, better informed and more demanding than ever before, will be available for all our partners. All the more so as the average client does not simply want new tires when approaching a tire dealer, since nowadays these can be obtained also from a gas station or a supermarket, but needs adequate and practical solutions to his or her needs”. In other words, an all-round supplier, or at least this is the idea that Continental plans to use as leverage with its TAC partners. “In essence – explains Continental Italia’s manager – since our group deals not only with tires, but has other automotive divisions as well(Chassis&Safety, Powertrain, Interior and ContiTech), making it one of the sector’s premium players, it is able to supply our retailers with a large number of components, from brakes to safety devices, following the technological development of today’s vehicles”.
All this has a bearing on business opportunities, “as shown by the case involving TPMS systems. Thanks to the Group’s expertise and business agreements, we gave our TAC dealers the opportunity to attend training courses and receive the necessary sensor kits to be fitted through dedicated garage equipment. A distinctive feature of all TAC affiliates, along with the advantage of being able to deal with a single preferential partner”. Through the Franchising Service Company - FSC - we provide for the network, not only agreements with equipment suppliers, mechanical components and complementary products, but also contracts with leasing and long-term rental companies. In terms of on-site POS support, Micromarketing campaigns are specifically designed to increase the store’s visibility and consequent in-store traffic. "We are not talking about standard promotional activities - clarifies Capurro - but about tailored initiatives aimed at generating in-store traffic planned by our trade marketing specialists alongside our sales personnel. Knowing the needs of the individuals, these will plan a tailored support". Simultaneously to the growth of importance of the single retail stores, there is the development of the network: Continental is determined to continue developing the network, and by 2017, the goal is to significantly increase number and scope of each retail outlet.
ORANGE AND BLACK, IDENTIKIT OF A NETWORK
Among the different franchising formulas that Continental Italia, through its partnership with FSC has conceived, from BestDrive to Pneus Expert closely related to Uniroyal, The TAC network can boast a rather peculiar profile. A consequence of the need to differentiate between the different levels of partnerships available to the sector’s operators, to whom TAC, with its orange and black banners as to emphasize the direct link with Continental, offers a soft franchise formula. After 10 years on the Italian market as well as in other European countries, TAC can count on around 200 retail outlets, destined to increase according to the German group’s intentions. According to Carlotta Capurro, Marketing Manager of Continental Italia: “We are not interested in growing for the sole purpose of extending our territorial presence, but rather, our intention is to extend our network in order to achieve a significant foothold in every province, and have an identifiable network of stores that can represent a reference for those clients who are interested in purchasing premium products and services, appropriate advice and vehicle assistance”. Franchising partnerships are formed following a specific plan: “We realize that one of the great values in this segment of the market is represented by the entrepreneur and his/her identity; therefore, even though we are determined to do our utmost in making our brand recognizable, this will not happen to the detriment of our business partners, whose presence and importance will continue to be highly valued, helping them with business solutions that would be difficult for them to obtain by themselves”.