HILTON HEAD, S.C.—The opening speakers at the 33rd Clemson University Global Tire Industry Conference began their presentation in a novel way—with an argument.
While John Evankovich, director of Sam's Club Tire and Battery Centers, tried to begin his speech, David Martin, director of sales for American Tire Distributors, yelled at him to keep it down because he was trying to reach the Internet on his cell phone.
Of course, this was all theater. What Evankovich and Martin were demonstrating in their April 19 presentation was the need for tire dealers to have good apps and up-to-date websites to attract and hold the attention of Millennial customers.
The Millennials—those born after 1989—are growing exponentially as a percentage of the tire-buying market, according to Martin and Evankovich. In six years, there will be 140 million Millennial tire buyers in the market, they said.
Furthermore, the Millennials are changing dealers' relationships with their customers, and changing them fast, they said.
"Your use of technology will determine your future success," Evankovich said.
Unlike previous generations of tire buyers, Millennials don't have much brand loyalty and don't generally have strong relationships with brick-and-mortar dealers, according to Evankovich and Martin.
For them, tires are usually an "uh-oh" purchase, and the day they buy tires is not a happy day for them, Evankovich and Martin said. When they buy tires, Millennials' needs are simple, they said—they want it all, they want it cheap, and they want it now.