CHARLOTTE, N.C.—It's not a secret spy agency or a clandestine CIA operation.
Charlotte-based Tire Intelligence L.L.C.'s tagline is “Your Trusted Source for Tire Information”—and that's exactly what the firm has been working to become since its founding in November 2011.
The company compiles an online database of information on 300,000 tires and 90 brands in the U.S., their prices and specifications into one place.
Eric Chaniot, CEO and founder, came from the technology world, previously working for Apple Inc. for seven years and Hewlett-Packard Development Co. L.P. for 10 years. During his time at HP, he did some consulting work with a tire manufacturer—mostly on product lifecycle, etc. His introduction to the tire industry convinced him of the need for his company's technology.
“The foundation of the company really was that it's a very complex business,” Mr. Chaniot said of the tire industry. “There's tons of tires to manage. There's not that many investments that have been made in terms of IT technology.”
He added that “people will have more and more pressure on the revenue and the profit because there's more and more competition coming from Asia. So that's really the beginning of the idea of Tire Intelligence.”
The company's goal, Mr. Chaniot continued, is to “deliver to tire manufacturers and tire dealers the best of the technology world and the best of the tire world.”
To do this, Tire Intelligence builds database and software technology that will enable tire manufacturers and dealers “to better manage their business.”
The first step the firm takes in its process is collecting and qualifying public information on tires.
“So on a daily basis, we are collecting and qualifying 300,000 tires and tire prices coming from the Internet,” Mr. Chaniot said. “We have 18 months of history in our database.
“The description of the tire, the specification of the tire, is much more complex than...taking a look at the iPod product line of Apple, for example.”
Mr. Chaniot said the company believes the data it is collecting can be useful to both tire makers and dealers.
“Tire manufacturers will have more of a strategic vision of the data,” he said, “whereas, the dealers will have a more technical view of the data, so they will be interested to get pricing information, to be able to adjust their prices probably on a weekly basis.”
Currie Gossett, Tire Intelligence's B2C marketing manager, said the company specifically sees an opportunity for tire dealers to increase their margins. “A lot of these dealers have the misconception that price monitoring means they have to compete on price.
“And we've actually found that what it does is it makes the pricing in their geographical market much more transparent, so that they are able to raise their prices and actually increase their margins.”
By monitoring pricing on a regular basis, she added, dealers are able to boost margins more consistently. Otherwise, they might have thought they had to have the lowest prices in their market in order to compete.
Ms. Gossett said the information provided is driven by what is available on the Internet, so “if it's out there, we're going to collect it.
“You'll certainly see a population of the most common sizes more than you will the obscure sizes, but if an obscure size is listed on a website, we're going to collect it and it will end up in our database as a record.”
She said the other benefit for dealers is that they already are checking prices against their competitors, probably by going online, so “they are using a lot of time and a lot of resources and manpower surfing around between sites, tire by tire, on an individual basis.”
Tire Intelligence “certainly saves a whole lot of time and money,” she said.
“We have really granular, local data for major metropolitan areas and we're continually adding local markets into our database as we grew. So the dealers are able to drill down to a specific ZIP code, local competitors, independent guys down their street, rather than just at a national level.”
Mr. Chaniot said another feature for dealers is the company's “Retail Price Compare” software function that allows them to follow three websites and 10 different brands and be able to log into a site and look at tire and pricing analysis.
They also have the option to get updates weekly or monthly and can either look at the information on the Web or download it. Dealers also can look up individual product information.
“There is a search function, like Google search,” he explained, so “they can enter a part number or they can enter a given dimension or they can enter a given name.”
There also is a mobile price monitor that provides information quickly by allowing a user to look up pricing from a mobile phone.
Mr. Chaniot said the company “is adding pricing information on the go or in store,” and its software works on the iPhone and Android platforms as well as on iPads, PCs, and Macs.
By using Tire Intelligence's data, he said the idea is for a dealer to be able to do price checks of competitors with customers when they walk into the store. With this tool, a dealer would be able to explain to a customer that a competitor's price may not include, for example, a service charge. The goal, according to Mr. Chaniot, is to give the dealer as much or more information than the consumer has at the point of sale.
Ms. Gossett added that one of the biggest reasons the company has been able to build the business is because “we really customize our products and services specifically for the individual customer and what their needs are.”
The base price to use Tire Intelligence to receive monthly updates that include the monitoring of three sites and 10 brands is $299 a month. If a dealer is interested in weekly updates, there is an additional $199 charge per month, the company said. Other features, such as additional brands or websites, are sold in an a la carte style.
Tire Intelligence also offers a separate product called Tire Source, which is a library database of high-quality tire photographs and 3D rotators.
“We've been building that out basically across major brands and the use of that is for dealers' websites, really, to enhance their content and increase their consumer experience on their website,” Ms. Gossett said, adding that the material also can be used for training and as a sales tool.
Although some tire manufacturers have shown interest in the company's products, Ms. Gossett said Tire Intelligence “really see(s) a sweet spot with the dealers because if you got out and looked at several dealer websites, you'll notice that all of the photographs are very inconsistent—at different angles, different colors and what not.
“So we've really tried to become the source of that tire library, if you will, or data sheet, so that the dealers have access to very consistent content.”
Mr. Chaniot added that the idea behind providing this material is that consumers are used to online shopping on major websites like Amazon.com, and since larger tire retailers are able to provide a similar feel to these popular sites, Tire Intelligence wants independent shops to be able to compete while still making it their own.
“With our content in Tire Source, (dealers) can customize the content if they want to,” he said, by selecting, for instance, the background they want and inserting their dealership's logos and names.
Tire Source database includes multiple options and items are sold a la carte.
If a dealer wants a multi-angle shot of a specific tire, for example, it costs $10 to license three pictures and 3D rotators start at $20.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143.