NEXT STOP: MULTI-SERVICE CENTERS
“Vivaio First Stop”. This is a new service created, in cooperation with Randstad, an international recruiting agency, to support tire dealers on their quest for a streamlined and efficient retail point. A service aimed at supporting the sector’s specialists in searching, selecting, training, hiring and introducing qualified personnel in the company
Increasingly connected and well-informed users, inclined toward purchasing through cross-media tools and attentive to car care services as a whole: the retail world, perhaps because of the recent economic recession or the new technologies available, is changing dramatically. Coping with these changes means being able to accept the challenge and turn it into an opportunity for growth. Exactly the idea behind First Stop’s strategy for 2016. A pan-European network of tire service providers, part of the Bridgestone Group and launched on the European market back in 1994, but present in Italy only since 2002, offers a wide range of premium tire brands (Bridgestone, Pirelli, Michelin, Goodyear, Firestone and Continental) along with budget tires as well as high performance car care services.
Betting on reliable partners
The network’s goal for 2016 is pretty clear and simple: “To keep on growing, but doing so together”, as explained by Davide Ivac, Manager First Stop Retail, Bridgestone Europe – South Europe Region. “In Italy the plan is to continue relying on partners, since personal relationships between customer and service providers are still a strong part of the country’s culture”, says Daniel Giroud, Vice President Retail Operations Europe, Bridgestone Europe. “Our retail partners have both a strong connection with the territory and a deep knowledge of the social fabric, and we believe this can be an added value for the business”.
The network hopes to go from the current 155 retail points to 185 within 2016, although the ultimate goal is to reach 262 service centers by 2020. The network’s expansion seen in these terms, should not be viewed as a stressful goal to achieve, because quality comes before numbers, and we believe that our service centers, “like books and friends should be few but good”! Conforming to well-defined standards and values, sharing the network’s “mission” and vision of the future, are paramount for anyone desiring to be a part of our network.
A united network to cope with the challenges ahead
We must all push in the same direction, now more than ever, since the "revolution" taking place in the retail world has certainly not overlooked the automotive aftermarket, affected in turn by a number of specific developments. The most recent market surveys indicate, for example, that car care activities contribute toward profitability in larger proportion compared to the mere sales of products and will presumably continue to do so in the future.
Meanwhile, the aging of the vehicles currently circulating on Italian roads (it is estimated that the average age is 9.07 years and that only 25% have less than 5 years) is favoring independent workshops. Observing the tire sector, though, it would seem that, by contrast the larger and better structured tire retailers are experiencing an increase in business volumes. However, it should also be noted that, while on average 98.6% of the turnover of a tire dealer comes from activities related to tires, a growing number of third party workshops now have their own equipment such as tire changers (+22,3% only in 2015): 49% of the workshops are apparently already equipped with tire changing machines, 78% of which are authorized garages, not to mention 92% of car dealerships.
Opportunities as well as threats to the business are quite evident, and for this reason First Stop has identified a series of targeted measures to be promptly implemented: expand the portfolio of products and soon after work on market positioning and brand awareness. “Our password must be: diversification. We must offer more to our clients, even in terms of services”, is the solution, according to Davide Ivac, for the network (and not only). “Therefore, we must clearly define and promote our brand image”.
Wider offer, greater competitiveness
Expanding the range of products and services in First Stop’s service network is a key step in promoting customer loyalty as well as coping with the current market contraction on aftermarket activities. A multi-service system is in fact an attractive proposition for the average motorist, says Davide Ivac, but even more so for rental fleets and insurance companies increasingly attracted towards specialized networks.
In 2016, First Stop will develop new partnerships with some of the key brands of the automotive industry. The strategic agreements signed in 2015 with Alcar, Autronica, Bosch, Repsol and Wurth have produced encouraging results, through special promotions for the clients and high level training for the specialists, not to mention the higher turnover for the dealers! The die is cast, and 2016 will see a continuation of these initiatives aimed at increasing business opportunities. Much on the same line is the incentive program “B2B awards you”, where network partners, based on sales figures, can receive signed prizes by First Stop, Bridgestone and Wurth.
New customer oriented services
An Interesting new feature, introduced in 2016 and designed specifically for the end user, is the simplified deferred payment formula "Rata Facile First Stop" (First Stop easy installment), arranged with Cofidis following its Pagodil formula. A zero rate scheme, activated with a cash card and a proof of identity and without tax on consumer credit, which fills the void between the classic single payment and installments combining the advantages of both proposals. In order to make life easier for the tire dealer, and for the customer, a new service called “Ti Chiama First Stop” (First Stop is calling you) has been created. A professional booking service managed by a dedicated independent call-center aimed at better managing the dealers “agenda” and the customer’s time, not to mention regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the workshop .
Besides promoting brand awareness, in order to strengthen customer loyalty, First Stop struck a new deal to become a partner in Alitalia’s “Mille Miglia” frequent flyer program. Starting on March the 1st in fact, it is now possible to earn miles on the national air carrier buying Bridgestone tires in one of the 155 First Stop stores in Italy.
A tailor made professional retail store
“Vivaio First Stop”. This is a new service created, in cooperation with Randstad, an international recruiting agency, to support tire dealers on their quest for a streamlined and efficient retail point. A service aimed at supporting the sector’s specialists in searching, selecting, training, hiring and introducing qualified personnel in the company.“ This proposal for 2016 meets one of the critical needs of the network, defining and finding on the market the best professional profiles for the needs of the workshop” says Davide Ivac.
Promoting the brand image as an important lever to maintaining a high level of competitiveness. In this sense, First Stop outlined several news for 2016 aimed at positioning and better communicating the brand and its values. First, the “look” must change. "The new" layout "has been planned with the idea that the store must focus on the customer, as well as take into account the characteristics of the store", explains Tecla Mangoni, Trading & Marketing Manager First Stop - South Region.
The new generation of First Stop retail stores and workshops features a strong customization of the spaces, planned to guarantee a true “customer shopping experience” , pleasant, relaxing and captivating making extensive use of infotainment devices such as digital displays in the waiting areas. These integrate in a single screen information, entertainment and specific news from the First Stop network.
In 2016, the network will also be increasingly "social" thanks to the "Facebook First Stop Kit" guide. In addition to having a dedicated Facebook page for each store, the network will, in fact, take advantage of a simple manual to make the best use of the world’s most popular social network, with suggestions on the best graphic layout for their page, how to post information and advertise promotions and other useful activities as well as analyzing the results.
A new agreement with Renault
Though still focused on promoting the brand image of the network, the agreement between First Stop and Renault moves on different grounds, literally. “We have thought of three vehicles – a courtesy car, a van for short deliveries and finally a true advertising vehicle – which can be used by the specialist during his everyday activities, working, at the same time, as transit media for the network as a whole as well as the single retail store”, says Domenico De Feo from First Stop. This agreement means that every First Stop partner could purchase, at favorable prices, three Renault models (Captur Zen Energy, Kangoo Express and Zoe Life) capable of fulfilling the above-mentioned functions. All vehicles will obviously be branded with First Stop logo and colors, besides the address of the local store.
Quality service not just the best price
The network’s strategy for 2016 focuses on placing quality service at the center of First Stop’s mission, although maintaining a competitive pricing policy. “The price is still a strong incentive for the client, but service – meant as speed and efficiency in booking, car care service and the overall experience in one of our service centers – is just as important”, underlines Daniel Giroud.
In the First Stop network, as indicated by Davide Ivac, service must be paramount and should also embrace all those complementary activities in addition to the traditional tire business. At the same time, though, the brand must stand out, always, in terms of corporate value and service philosophy.