Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2003   by Auto Service World

Winter Hot Spot: Freezing Wipers Spell Market Opportunities

With all due respect to wiper blade manufacturers, suggesting that people change their wiper blades once or twice a year is way off the mark. They should be replacing them when they don’t work anymore.

This is particularly true when drivers are experiencing the type of freeze-and-thaw-then-freeze-again weather that has been prevalent in many parts of the country this season.

A brand new wiper, frozen solid to the windshield, will literally tear itself apart if the conditions are right. And, judging by the streaks of ice, snow, and salt I have seen on the windshields and rear windows of cars and SUVs during the morning commute, this is not that uncommon.

In the U.S., a recent survey found that 21% of vehicles checked had wipers that smeared, streaked, or chattered across their windshields. That is greater than one in five.

The challenge for you, the jobber, is to get the message out that the worst time you could imagine replacing a wiper is precisely the time it should be done. This means it is time to bring out the big guns: marketing and advertising.

You can choose to offer wipers on sale through your local newspapers, or put the big push on for your installer customers as part of an oil-change special, but whichever you choose it is important to consider a few important rules.

Consumers don’t care about windshield wipers; they care about seeing. That’s why some drivers will go through gallons of windshield washer rather than replacing worn-out or damaged wipers. Throw enough liquid on a windshield and it will keep clean, for a little while. Think of a marketing message that gets this point across (e.g. “Can’t get a clear view? Maybe your wipers need replacing.”).

One of the continuing barriers to wiper sales is the nervousness of the consumer regarding installation. While virtually every wiper blade on the market today is easier to install than its forefathers, this reluctance persists. Consider capitalizing on this with a free installation message, either by you or your trade customers. It only takes the learned hand a few seconds to install the wipers, and it could make the difference between getting the sale and not. Don’t listen to your own arguments against providing this service. Yes, your counterpeople are needed to answer the phones, but it is not as if there will be a line-up of cars waiting for wipers, pulling them away from other tasks. (Though, come to think of it, if there was a line-up, it might just be worth it from a profit standpoint.)

Target your point-of-sale signage, especially outdoor billboards and sandwich boards, to the lousy weather. Imagine if you’re a driver peering through a streaked windshield and drive by a sign that says, “Wiper Blades $X, Most Cars. Fast, Free Installation.” It’s a compelling message.

Use manufacturer resources. Merchandisers, planograms, and assortments are a good start. Ask your supplier what other resources they have. One supplier, for example, has web-based image resources that allow customers to download images, logos, etc., to help them create local advertising campaigns more quickly than if they had to wait for these resources to arrive by mail, of either the electronic or snail variety. Radio spots are also available, focusing on car care issues for consideration in your own local radio campaign.

There’s an old saying that everybody complains about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it. While you can’t will away winter’s cold, you can take advantage of it as a sales opportunity and warm up your bottom line at the same time.