AKRON (July 7, 2015) — A lot of independent tire dealers are upset about some major tire makers and distributors selling their products directly to consumers online, while using their tire dealer distribution channel to install them.
Dealers fear this approach will mean less profit, since they are not earning anything on the tire sale — only the installation — and ultimately could lead to customers developing a loyalty to the company selling them the tires.
While these concerns are legitimate, independent dealers may want to look at online tire selling not so much as a threat but as an opportunity for them to compete just as effectively, or even more so, in the marketplace.
The Internet is, in a significant way, an equalizer. A dealership doesn't have to be huge to have an impactful website, social media presence and online selling operation.
Since the Web is an open forum, everyone — from individuals, to mom-and-pop shops, to major corporations — has an equal opportunity to reach out and make a connection with the same audience.
It starts with an effective website that promotes action, is easy to navigate and creates a presence that allows a dealership to stand out and compete, even among the big boys.
In fact, a small dealership can quickly become bigger depending on how well it reaches its potential customer base and communicating with them while providing an easy, bug-free way to book service appointments and make purchases. After all, there is nothing stopping an independent dealership from selling tires and service online and then scheduling a time that's convenient to have the work done.
The point is, even one- and two-outlet dealerships can appear and operate online like much larger operations.
It all starts with the impression customers get when visiting a company's website.
If it's positive, there's a good chance a dealership can make a customer for life. Conversely, if the impression is poor, or uninviting, the dealership may never see that customer grace its doorway.
Considering that today many customers' initial contact with a company is online, the design and functionality of a website is critically important — and the first impression it makes even more so.
What's exciting for independent tire dealers is that there are companies offering software programs that can help them turn online visitors into paying customers. In marketing lingo, this is called “conversion.” It's what every tire dealer tries to do when a customer calls on the phone or enters the dealership looking for tires and service.
Tire dealers should make every effort to find a way to do this online, turning what's now perceived as a threat into an opportunity.
This editorial appears in the July 6 print edition of Tire Business. Have an opinion on it? Send your comments or a letter to the editor to [email protected].