AKRON—Many suppliers in the industrial and specialty tire segment have established sites on the Internet to promote their companies and provide information about their offerings, but few have yet embraced actual e-commerce: the buying and selling of goods and services online.
Solideal Group's use of its Web site (www.solideal.com) is fairly typical of most suppliers in this segment of the tire industry. The site contains a good deal of information—product data, features, contact names—but prices are not listed.
Customers cannot purchase directly through Solideal's Web site, though there is a mechanism for requesting additional information. To finalize a deal, however, they still need to contact a company sales representative.
Company spokesmen said the site is generating a lot of "hits"—visits by Internet users—and Solideal is likely to explore actual e-commerce "in the near future."
"I don't know if you can see tangible results (from the Internet), but it is able to disseminate information to the customer," said Victor Li, director of marketing for Nankang USA Inc.
Nankang is using its Web site (www.nankangusa.com) strictly as an informational tool for its wholesalers and distributors, Mr. Li said, and not to market to end-users.
The Internet has improved the efficiency of the company's communications with its customers, he said, adding that some sort of e-commerce might be added in the future.
One industrial/specialty tire manufacturer that has begun using e-commerce—albeit on a limited basis—is Maxxis International (Cheng Shin Rubber USA Inc.).
The company's Web site (www. maxxistires.com) features an "e-store" that offers the entire Maxxis bicycle tire line, one ATV tire (the Mud Bug) and various wearables sporting the Maxxis logo.
The company soon plans to launch a line of pneumatic lawn and garden tires via its Web site, said Scott Griffin, sales manager-specialty tires.
These tires, which are designed for commercial applications and built with Kevlar (DuPont's brand name for aramid fiber) for enhanced puncture-resistance and more uniform wear, will be offered first online, Mr. Griffin said, "where we hope to build interest. Then eventually we'll offer them strictly through dealers.
"We find the Internet a good avenue to launch a product, get onto the market as quickly as possible to build interest...because, after all, nothing sells a tire like word of mouth."
On the retail/wholesale dealership side of the business, Industrial Tire Brokers Inc. (ITB) in Chicago, a small dealership that specializes in industrial tires, has experimented with e-commerce via its Web site (www.industrialtirebrokers.com).
ITB President Charlie Cohen got a push in launching his site—from his son Marc, a computer science major at Purdue University, who designed and has maintained the site since it went live early in 1998.
The ITB site provides information on the company's product and service offerings and specials, with prices, and invites customers to submit orders via e-mail with credit card information. To promote the online business, Mr. Cohen said ITB offers a discount on all orders placed via e-mail.
The Web site has increased the visibility of ITB, which runs three mobile service trucks and posts annual gross sales under $1 million.
People from across the country have contacted the company through its Web site, and there have even been some inquiries from overseas, Mr. Cohen said.
Though sales volumes via the Web site have been relatively small thus far, Mr. Cohen looks for that to change. Currently, the ITB site is offline for upgrading, which will include enhancements to streamline the online ordering process, he said.