MOOSIC, Pa.When American Car Care Centers Inc. (ACCC) revealed its intentions last year to dissolve, it came as a surprise to many, including longtime member distributor Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc.
We were a member distributor of ACCC for 25 years, said Scott Williams, president of Jack Williams Tire. When we got the news that the program was going to end, there was the initial shock'What are we going to do?' 'How do we cover ourselves?' and 'What's the next thing?'
The Moosic-based dealership's management began brainstorming and came to the conclusion that it was time for the company to launch its own marketing program, my-TireShop Certified Shop, which it unveiled to dealers in February during its 2014 annual meeting in Cancun, Mexico.
First, the company hashed out which benefits of the ACCC program it would retain.
We boiled it down to a few elements that really the dealers and even our own stores were taking advantage of, which was the credit card program, the coast-to-coast warranty, the 'Freedom Plan'which is a road hazard warrantyand spiffs, Mr. Williams told Tire Business. That was really it. A lot of the other bullet points of ACCC were not really being utilized.
While the program includes some of the key elements that made the ACCC program successful, Jack Williams has enhanced it with tools to drive online shoppers to local dealers.
It's designed to give the independent dealer the elements they need to compete just like ACCC did when it was conceived 25 years ago, Mr. Williams said, but the one thing ACCC didn't do was deliver an actual customer to a dealerand that's what myTireShop is designed to do.
We're giving the associate dealer the programs that they need in order to competethere's an oil program, there's a spiff program, warranty program, uniforms, all that stuffbut on top of that we're giving them the ability to compete with the Tire Racks.
During its presentation to dealers, Jack Williams noted that while approximately 60 percent of consumers research tires online before buying, e-commerce purchases account for only about 10 percent of actual sales. The idea behind myTireShop is to convert these online tire researchers into buyers by eliminating anxiety points, such as providing credit card information online and dealing with return policies and shipping cost and time.
A key program component is a retail-facing website, myTire-Shop.com, that allows consumers to browse available tires, view prices and choose a local program member to buy from. Jack Williams will not charge the customer for the sale; rather, the company will serve as a middle man to connect shoppers to tire businesses.
We're like an online dating service for tires, Mr. Williams said. We're taking our local inventory availability out of our warehouses and marrying it up with the dealer's capacity to install the tires, and at the same time the dealer is the one that's charging the customer, not us.
The dealer's actually setting their own pricing and they're kind of managing their own online profilewe're the piece in between.
The myTireShop site has a call center with retail agents whose job is to interact with prospective customers and cultivate sales for local dealers. The process begins like many online shopping experiences, Mr. Williams said, with the customers' visiting the website and putting in their zip code to find the closest dealers.
If they're presented with more than one, they select which one they want to deal with, he said, and then they go into an online shopping experience that shows them pricing, shows them features and benefits and when they make the commitment to buy it's simply a commitment.
We don't collect any credit card information or anything like that. It's a lead that comes into the my-TireShop call center, which then reaches back out to the customer via email or telephone and verifies that all the selections that they made for the vehicle were correct.
At the same time, we're reaching out to the dealer using the dealer portal website and saying, 'Listen, we have Mr. Smith who wants to have four tires installed on his minivan tomorrow morning at nine. Do you have the ability to do it at that time?' Then it's pretty much 'yes' or 'no,' and we move forward from there.
Mr. Williams said he believes there are a lot of frustrated online buyers who want conveniences such as same-day installation and dealing with a local business but still enjoy the ease of shopping via the Internet.
Where we have an advantage over some of the online tire retailers that are currently out there is that we can control the installation, and we can make it happen essentially the same day, he said. We don't have to worry about shipping, delivery, potential future maintenance issues on the tires, warranty issues, all those things.
Jack Williams' primary focus for the program will be its wholesale customers in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, and the company is targeting independent dealers who don't have the best online presence. Already more than 30 dealers have committed to join the program when it launches, which Mr. Williams said he expects will happen by July.
Mr. Williams stressed that dealers must already be involved in a tire manufacturer's associate dealer program in order to participate.
The manufacturers, at the end of the day, are most interested in market share, which means their tire being installed on consumers' vehicles, he said. When this is all said and done, that's what we're deliveringwe're delivering a retail sale to a supplier.
By doing that we're helping the dealer hit their number by promoting them on the myTireShop site and directing volume through them, but at the same time we're delivering associate dealers to suppliers.
Other requirements for the program include participation in myTireShop professional training initiatives, such as the Tire Industry Association's Automotive Service Professional and TPMS Professional training programs and a customer experience certification program, Jack Williams Tire said.
The program includes the my-TireShop Nationwide Road Hazard Program, which offers three-year road hazard damage protection on tire purchases, 12-month free replacement for non-repairable damage and three years of free tire repair. Customers spending at least $25 on tires and service are eligible to receive 12 months of free roadside assistance from the date on the original invoice for a transaction.
Other notable features of the program include rebates and incentives on select tire lines; parts supplier rebates; discounted prices on oil and batteries; sales and management training; business planning; marketing planning and ad design; a tire rotation plan for customers; and a flexible business development fund.
Mr. Williams said there will be a nominal fee associated with the program and that it is set up in an a la carte fashion, with participating dealers charged based on the features they use. Some program details have yet to be finalized, he added.