BLOG: Tire dealers detail interactions online
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AKRON (March 17, 2014)— In my last blog post, I took a look at how consumers are interacting with companies online. I spoke with some tire dealers about how they are getting feedback and they said that much of it is coming from social media, most notably Facebook.
As we continue through the digital age, I can see how social media interactions will continue to rise. I have been giving advice in these blogs on how to increase engagement on social media and the reasons why it is beneficial. However, I wonder how to increase website interaction and have social media and websites work together.
One feature on websites I have seen with a few tire dealers is the live chat feature.
This allows a customer/potential customer to go to a company's website and instant message a live person.
A Forrestar Research study, “Making Proactive Chat Work,” was cited in a KISSmetrics article and said: “Many online consumers want help from a live person while they are shopping online; in fact, 44 percent of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.”
If we know that people are turning more to the Web as they research, having a person available to answer their questions can be beneficial to your business. Yes, there are going to be people who prefer to call in and speak over the phone and those who want to come into the shop. But we are seeing that there are people who want to speak in via live chat, as well.
“We've had it in place now for about four years and the chats increase each year,” Mark Gillard, head of advertising at Norwell, Mass.-based Sullivan Tire & Auto Service, told Tire Business.
“In 2013 our call center agents handled just under 9,000 chats. The chats range from technical questions about tires to store hours to auto service questions, etc.”
Mark said Sullivan Tire uses it quite a bit on its social channels as well.
“When someone Tweets us a question about tires, we often refer them to our tire experts and link them directly to the live chat service.”
I know, for me personally, I love the Live Chat function when I am doing anything online. Sometimes I don't have the time to pick up the phone and wait for a representative to come to the line. However, I can click on the chat, ask my question and continue on with whatever I am doing and multitask chatting with a representative in an instant messenger. This process could be beneficial when consumers are looking for service.
“Researching tires online can be a daunting process and having a tire expert available at the click of a mouse is something our website visitors love,” Mark added.
Connecting social and website
Both the company website and social media are online platforms and there can be a partnership between them. While each is its own entity, they can partner in reaching your audience. This can go for email newsletters as well. If each element is separate and are never crossed, then consumers may never know about all the ways they can access information from your company.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Mountain View Tire & Auto Service uses its website to allow customers to set up appointments.
“We get an average of 150 appointment requests and 30 estimate requests through our website each month,” said Scott Greggory, vice president of creative services for Madison Avenue Marketing Group, which handles Mountain View Tire's website marketing.
“Our site also has a new instant tire estimate tool. It lets visitors browse tires and check prices. And the prices change instantly as the customer adds extra services or accessories, so they know exactly what their pre-tax total will be. Then, they can print the tire estimate and bring it into one of our stores.”
He said the site gets about 5,000-6,000 visits per month from Search, which is about half of the site's monthly traffic.
“Fifteen percent of our visitors (up to 2,000) come from external directories,” Scott said. “It's very important that we maintain complete control of our external listings so that they're always accurate, and that we manage the reviews from those websites.”
I asked Scott if he thinks it's a good idea to have a social media sidebar on the website. He said no because “we want people coming to the website from social media, not leaving the site to go to social media pages.”
However, Mountain View Tire does use YouTube videos on its website. Scott said Madison Avenue Marketing created the series of “Mountain View Tire Tip” videos for the company.
“While they live on our YouTube channel, we formally debuted each one over a five-month period as separate blog posts. Then, we used Facebook to drive additional traffic to each post. We also included links to each video in issues of our email newsletter,” Scott said.
The video is changed on the home page of the website about once every month or two. Scott said one of the big perks of the videos is that their listings stand out in search engine results and “prospective customers are more likely to click on a video than a traditional listing. YouTube is the second largest search engine, so we'll be incorporating more online video in the future.”
He added, “The website is the hub to which all other marketing efforts point. It's where people can make appointments, request estimates, check tire prices, print coupons and find our stores, so we want them to stay on our site.”
When looking at how the website and social media can work together, Scott said, “We think our Facebook page does a nice job of supporting our brand identity and helping us stay in front of a certain group of people, but we consider any Web traffic it generates to be a bonus. It's not our primary focus.”
Ultimately, both a website and social media have a place in a tire dealership's or auto service shop's online strategy because different consumers have different needs. They will want to reach out to a tire dealer in the way they feel most comfortable, which can include social media, website, emails, phone calls and in person. It is up to the dealer to decide which avenues they are willing to have available to be reached.
Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you'd like to share with our readers? Tire Business would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor Don Detore at [email protected].