CLERMONT-FERRAND, France—In response to the many consumers who use the Internet to research tires before purchasing them, Group Michelin is launching a global platform it says is the first in the industry with an open search engine.
The Greenville-based tire maker's plans are to roll out the new digital platform to markets around the globe—with the U.S. the first of 70 worldwide Michelin sites to go live. The goal of the effort is to simplify and enhance online tire shopping, according to Michelin.
Michelin North America Inc. (MNA) follows somewhat in the footsteps of Goodyear, which earlier this year told dealers at its 2015 Dealer Conference in Grapevine, Texas, that it planned to start selling tires directly to consumers via the Web.
Michelin said its global data confirms that more than 50 percent of tire shoppers now use the Internet to research their purchases. Consumers using Michelin's site will be able to find the correct tires for their vehicles by typing their queries into a search box.
“Our ambition is to streamline and make our website much easier for people to shop Michelin tires. We want to assure the experience is gratifying for all consumers, whether they have a lot of tire knowledge or not,” said Olivier Chenevez, global marketing director for Michelin's passenger car and light truck business unit.
“This is why we designed the new platform to be customer-centric, not tire-centric,” he added. “For example, tire models are showcased in a way that is engaging, informative and easy to understand.”
The new global digital platform will be used for all Michelin sites, the company said, and is live in the U.S. at its www.Michelinman.com website.
Features on the new U.S. site include a dealer locator, photos and descriptions of Michelin-brand tires, and a link to a YouTube video showing “My First Car #FirstCarMoment.”
Dave Murtaugh, director of consumer experience/digital for MNA, said the tire maker is “excited to be the first country to roll out the new Michelin Man website for passenger car and light truck tires. Consumers use the Internet to conduct their own research in advance of nearly all major purchases, and our new website will be a valuable tool that clearly provides the information customers need for purchase decisions.”
The new website also allows visitors easy, one-click access to subjects and features Michelin believes they are most interested in—such as tire safety, tire performance features or the opportunity to learn more about tires, the company said, noting consumers also will have the option to communicate directly with a Michelin tire expert.
The launch comes on the heels of the acquisition in May by Group Michelin of Black Circles Ltd., owner of Blackcircles.com, an Internet tire sales company, as part of its strategy to be more innovative in retailing. That deal was Michelin's second acquisition of an Internet-based tire sales company in a month.
Michelin is paying $75.5 million for Edinburgh, Scotland-based Black Circles, which generated $31 million in revenue in 2013, making it the United Kingdom's leading Internet tire sales venture.
In mid-April the tire maker bought a 40-percent share of Allopneus S.A.S. of Aix-en-Provence, France, for $64 million.
Blackcircles.com, run by its founder and CEO Mike Welch, has grown about 20 percent per year since 2008, in particular thanks to its “click & fit” formula, which includes the sale of the product and the service. The Web marketer has recruited a network of more than 1,200 tire installers across the U.K. as partners.
“Our strategy illustrates our ambition to be ever more innovative, efficient and proactive for our customers by offering them products and services suited to individual needs,” said Group Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard, “and by simplifying the entire purchase process, from choosing their tires to having them fitted by professionals.”
The company said its acquisition of Blackcircles.com will allow it to improve the performance of its mix of distribution channels in the United Kingdom.