When Discount Tire unveiled its Atlanta Pit Pass concept store in early October 2022, it officially completed its transformation from a traditional tire retailer into a strong omnichannel leader in the automotive category. Discount Tire worked with retail experience agency ChangeUp to ideate and execute this new store concept, which gives customers a racetrack pit-crew style experience that puts them in the driver’s seat of the shopping journey.
“We really started thinking outside of the box with digital adoption and how to build a smaller footprint to meet the changing customer needs,” said Tom Williams, Chief Experience Officer at Discount Tire in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We started identifying new markets to help grow and create more opportunities for more of our people.”
Putting Technology at the Center of the Experience
The core mission of the Discount Tire Pit Pass experience is to allow consumers to shop more efficiently. Customers remain in their vehicles for appointments, which tend to last 15 minutes or less. Technicians work in a manner that resembles a NASCAR or Formula One pit stop and the experience is augmented by a powerful mix of technology, including:
- Digital displays that guide customers into their assigned work bay and allow them to view the entire process and status in real time;
- Embedded tire scanners to evaluate tread depth and condition;
- Discount Tire’s exclusive Treadwell tire guide for a self-guided experience that is augmented by personalized recommendations;
- Digital displays that provide service updates, as well as product or service recommendations;
- Zebra Technologies mobile devices that allow technicians to communicate the completion of services; and
- An after-hours service that allows customers to check tire quality and safety via a drive-thru experience that offers a digital readout of tire conditions.
“We’ve really worked hard over the last few years to create what we call ‘your bay time is your wait time,’” said Williams. “One of the big pain points about buying tires is nobody wants to sit around for hours while they wait for their car to be serviced.”
While the new process is engaging and easy for customers, it also was designed with technician comfort and safety in mind. Working outdoors while exposed to the elements can prove challenging for associates and technicians, which is why Discount Tire closely considered these issues when designing the Pit Pass concept.
“First and foremost is the guest experience, but we always keep our associates in mind when working on design, so that’s why we have a larger canopy and made sure there were fans and heaters,” said Jamie Cornelius, Executive Creative Director at ChangeUp in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We discussed the width of the check-in canopy and made sure to look at where the sun was coming in, so we could give workers enough coverage.”
A Small but Mighty Concept
To connect the Pit Pass concept to the larger, more well-known Discount Tire, ChangeUp incorporated the company’s typical color scheme of red, black and gray. Designers also helped relay the message of efficiency through a canopied check-in area separate from the numbered banks where work is performed on customers’ vehicles.
“The building definitely exudes confidence and it relays a sense of being innovative and fast, which I think goes back to the experience itself,” said Cornelius. “There’s a big push right now for convenience and making retail easier, but you don’t want to make it forgettable and that was really key to make it innovative.”
The new Discount Tire Pit Pass space features 5,000 square feet of ground floor space, as well as a 2,600-square-foot subsurface workspace, which is much smaller than a traditional tire retail shop and service center. Pit Pass eliminates the need for excess inventory that hasn’t been requested by a customer and, as a result, the concept space requires only 10% of the inventory of a standard Discount Tire retail location.
“Typically, a store will get one truck a week but for this store, orders are picked, packed and shipped nightly,” said Williams. “That was a game-changer for us. Without our ability to deliver on that, the concept wouldn’t work.”
Transforming the Automotive Retail Experience
With Pit Pass, Discount Tire also aimed to provide more transparency into the broader automotive service experience. The combination of store elements and touch points allows customers to go through a flexible journey that includes:
- Browsing tire and wheel options online for a BOPIS-style experience, or onsite if they choose;
- Booking services through the branded mobile app or online at DiscountTire.com;
- Arriving for a service appointment at the canopied Pit Pass drive-thru lane;
- Meeting with an associate who greets them at the car and confirms services;
- Pulling up to one of three service bays; and
- Watching technicians complete the service through a pit-stop style experience while remaining in the car.
“Unfortunately, our industry is not looked at favorably in some ways when it comes to salespeople,” said Williams. “We are able to truly digitally empower consumers with real-world data and have a trusted recommendation based on real-world results.”
While Discount Tire has not developed a timeline to expand this concept from its sole Atlanta location, the retailer has already identified additional markets for future expansion. In the meantime, Discount Tire is monitoring the performance of the space and is learning how it can further cultivate its fresh, digital-first approach to empower its customers.