Discount Tire finds its stride with mobile payments
Since its founding in 1960, Discount Tire has had one simple strategy: sell tires and wheels. And while the Arizona-based retailer has done that well, becoming the biggest tire retailer in the world, Discount Tire remains very aware a big part of its success lies in giving customers what they want and how they want it.
That pertains to point of sale and payment options as well.
"Customer service is paramount," said Evan Hunter, product manager, payments and financing, at Discount Tire. "We mean it when we say if you’re not satisfied, bring it back."
As consumers have become mobile-device obsessed, tapping devices to research products and compare pricing on everything, Discount Tire realized it needed to meet the mobile consumer's needs and provide a secure, efficient and satisfying mobile payment experience.
"We're a large company run like a small company and we knew we had to do something about payments. We want to make sure we take care of our customers and yet stay out of the Wall Street Journal," explained Hunter during a panel on future proofing the retail business during the NRF conference last week in New York.
The WSJ mention was in reference to the increasing number of companies landing on the front pages due to data breaches and security issues involving customer data. Ensuring data protection is paramount, noted Hunter, as consumers are very savvy today.
"They are asking, 'how are you protecting my data,' and you need to be able to answer and assure them," Hunter said.
Discount Tire, which operates 1,000 stores in 36 states and is enjoying a 5-percent growth rate, initiated its mobile payments strategy about two years ago and turned to a long-trusted partner, Verifone, to help update and prime systems for mobile checkout.
"We wanted to modernize and we did not want to be in the payments business, which we were at that time with aspects like cashing checks. We're in the tire business and we had an aging payment landscape in place," Hunter said.
The quest, beyond providing great customer experience, is making sure the revamped system would not only meet today's needs but Discount Tire's mobile payment needs in the future while at the same time meeting all compliance mandates.
"It is all about how do I make it easier for my customer to buy tires or a wheel," Hunter said, adding, "while at the same time mitigating risk, keeping it flexible and preparing for the future new payments that will come."
At this point, the $6-billion-dollar revenue company, which employees 18,000 employees, is in the midst of what Hunter calls a "massive" point of sale and ecommerce effort that is being rolled into its 1,000 stores over the next two years.
"We partnered with Verifone as they were a longtime trusted point solutions provider and they had the flexible APIs and support. We wanted to measure twice and just cut once," Hunter said in explaining the technology effort.
Right now Discount Tire has Apple Pay in 51 stores and deployment is taking about two hours total at stores.
"There is no heavy certification, no large scale work. It was pretty much a config change to terminals," Hunter said.
But while actual integration at this point isn't taking tons of time, Hunter said there is plenty of work to do before technology gets put into place.
Embarking on a mobile payments strategy requires some upfront planning and lots of internal discussion, Hunter said. He advises retailers to make sure they get top-down executive support and internal business unit alignment for the mobile payment effort.
"You need to keep calm and start collaborating and above all stay customer focused," Hunter said. "In our business 99 percent of the people are not happy about having to buy tires," he said, smiling, so such a scenario requires extra effort in making the customer experience as pleasing as possible.
"We view it as we are working side by side with our customers and not in any adversarial relationship."
Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.www