AKRON—Independent tire dealership Internet sites are visited an average of more than 8,500 times each month, according to a TIRE BUSINESS survey of tire retailers and manufacturers. Ranging from a low of 25 to a high of 125,000, the vast majority of survey respondents said their sites were visited between 100 and 1,000 times each month.
A visit, commonly referred to as a ``hit'' in computerese, is recorded each time someone uses a computer to access information from a particular Internet or World Wide Web site.
It is difficult, however, to determine what effect those hits have had on sales or store traffic, according to the survey and dealers contacted subsequently by TIRE BUSINESS.
Still, 75 percent of the dealers surveyed said the success of their sites has met their original expectations, and another 6 percent said it has exceeded them.
``We are able to let our stores access info about inventory on hand, pricing and specials without (using the) phone or fax,'' noted Nick Hodel, CFO of the Northwest Tire Factory Group.
In Waterloo, Canada, Electra Group International's Michael Bierstock, manager of marketing and purchasing, said he believes the Internet is ``great for locating international interest.''
But 11 percent of the dealers surveyed said they were disappointed in the success of their Web pages, with a number of respondents noting their disappointment stemmed from a lack of increased sales or store traffic.
On the manufacturing side, tire makers with Web sites reported an average 106,000 hits per month—a number more than 12 times the rate for retailers.
Those numbers, however, are expected to increase as the number of people with Internet access increases, both retailers and manufacturers said.
Currently, both manufacturers and dealers said they believe 35 percent of their retail customers have access to the Web.
Tire dealers, however, lag the general public in Web use, according to the manufacturers responding to the survey, who said they believe only an average 27 percent are using the Web today.
Tire retailers and makers created their sites for similar reasons, the survey suggested. Three-quarters of the manufacturers said their site was created for ``public relations,'' and all of them said they wanted ``to provide information.''
By way of comparison, 78 percent of the retailers said their Web pages were created to provide public relations. That same percentage said their sites were intended ``to provide information.''
The interactive nature of the Internet allows Yokohama Tire Corp. to present information to its customers in an ``effective'' manner, according to a Yokohama spokeswoman who said the company's site is hit 25,000 times per month.
``The interactive nature of e-mail allows us to communicate directly with the end users of our product, the driver,'' she said.
When questioned about what areas of their sites had proven most popular among users, most tire makers said pages that provided tire fitment data, retail store locations or information about their motorsports programs.
Despite an emphasis among respondents on providing information, the survey discovered that more than twice as many dealers as manufacturersÃ56 percentÃcreated their sites to be a selling tool.
With generally more ambitious homepages, all of the manufacturers surveyed said they had used an outside company to create their Internet site. That compares with 56 percent of dealers who said they did it themselves.
Only 17 percent of the retailers and 13 percent of the manufacturers thought updating their Web pages was difficult.