He noted that comparable programs can cost around $200-$300 per month. However, even when Bridgestone starts charging, he said the program will be 75 percent less than what it would cost a dealer if he or she were trying to participate on their own.
Although there will be a price for social/CRM aspects of the program, the other parts will still be free for affiliated dealers.
Bridgestone originally had two affiliated dealer programs—one for dealers purchasing directly through the tire maker and another for dealers who worked through authorized distributors. In 2012, the company combined the two programs to create the Bridgestone Affiliated Retailer Nationwide Network.
"The dealers purchase from Bridgestone and in return receive various types of support, the Mitch-ell program being one of them, and being one of many different types of programs that we make available to the retailers," said Jay Glover, manager distributor programs U.S. and Canada.
The goal for the program going forward is to put a focus not just on dealer needs but their customers' needs as well.
Mr. Feasel said when Bridgestone launched the new program in April 2012, one of its first new elements "was a nationwide tire protection plan and a nationwide service warranty program that was available for all of our affiliated retailers throughout the United States to offer to consumers."
That was the first big change in the program, with the new change for 2013 being the social/CRM component. In all, the program has a variety of elements, including more than 60 support programs geared toward retailers.
The program includes a "Bridgestone Consumer Loyalty" website. If a consumer goes to a Bridgestone affiliated retailer who is participating in the social/CRM program and has purchased services, Mr. Feasel explained, "that consumer is basically given a private website that they can utilize where their repairs and tire purchases at that Bridgestone affiliated retailer are automatically populated onto that website."
If the consumer has work done in one state, for instance, then moves to another, or is traveling and needs vehicle service, those repairs and/or services will be logged onto the consumer's Web page, where it will be available as an electronic record.
"So the benefit there is the consumer is going to be more apt to do business with a Bridgestone Affiliated Retailer," he said, "because they have the ease of keeping track of the vehicle's services that are being performed on their various vehicles."
"We offer programs—everything from waiting lounge television programs to education programs to office supply programs," Mr. Feasel added.
"It's everything and anything a retail business might need access to that we can use our negotiating powers and the power of numbers with preferred partners to secure a good deal for our affiliated retailers."
Mr. Glover said the parts of the programs that "stick out are the ones that benefit the consumer, but at the same point in time, there's a benefit to the retailer as well."
He said Bridgestone also has Internet development programs—working with companies like Net Driven, 50 Below and reputation.com—that help dealers with their reputations online, capturing reviews and providing "information to the retailer on reviews that he can follow up on with consumers."
Bridgestone also offers a digital showroom solution that helps dealers incorporate different digital avenues and keep a consistent message with customers.
"It encompasses digital menu boards, customer lounge digital television and on-hold programs for the retailers' phone systems," Mr. Feasel said.
"The nice thing is it allows the dealer to manage all those touch points and all that messaging in his retail store by simply logging into an account that the dealer possesses and being able to change messaging instantly and consistently.
"It's all digital technology and it allows us to help that dealer manage his messaging to the consumer."
Mr. Glover added that one of the things Bridgestone kept in mind for the restructuring of the program was that it "was going to need a touch point from various resources within our company. And we've had extremely good support out of everyone involved in this."
The Bridgestone Affiliated Retailer Nationwide Network has nearly 2,700 members.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143.