It's difficult for tire dealers, or any other business for that matter, to figure out the right approach to selling and promoting themselves on the Web.
There's no easy template to follow that works in every situation, so companies are forced to develop their own approaches to an online presence—or, as many firms are want to do, hold off as long as possible from doing anything Web related.
More than likely, many tire dealers still would like to see this form of business activity and communication with customers go away. “Why can't tires be sold face-to-face as in the old days and marketed through traditional media channels?” they may wonder.
The reality is that Internet use among small businesses, in general, is growing rapidly, including the use of social media to attract and identify new customers.
A survey last December by the Small Business Success Index of 500 small businesses, for example, found that 24 percent of such firms were using social media in their operations—double the number in 2008.
Those are companies that have a presence on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, or the like.
If that trend continues at the same pace, by 2011 close to half of all small businesses will have a social media component to their Web activities. Talk about rapid change.
The survey also found that the top technology investment in the next two years will be company websites, with small businesses either adding new features or functionality to their existing sites or building one from scratch.
The days of ignoring the Web as a part of daily business activities are just about over.
Even if companies wanted to operate without a Web presence, the mere fact that more and more consumers are using the Internet to research products and search for providers will force them to establish one—or face the potential loss of business and the opportunity to cut costs and attract new customers.
A Specialty Equipment Market Association survey at last year's SEMA Show illustrates how far the use of the Internet by consumers has come. It found that 74 percent of enthusiasts use the Internet to research their parts and accessories purchases.
These are the same customers tire dealerships cater to and who are influencers in their local communities when it comes to maintaining and accessorizing their vehicles.
Rather than look at the Internet as a necessary evil to doing business, tire dealers and other small businesses should embrace the opportunities it offers and look for ways an online presence can help them serve their customers better.
Customer convenience, information, cost savings, communication, data collection, marketing, purchasing—these are some of the areas dealerships should look at to see how the Internet can help them.
This editorial appears in the June 7 print edition of Tire Business.