AKRON — With about 80 percent of consumers researching tire purchases online — and a growing percentage of consumers buying tires on the web — it is important for tire dealerships to sell tires and installation services on the internet, according to eBay Motor's director of parts and accessories, Marie Niewiroski.
In a webinar — "5 Tips to Growing Your Online Tire Sales" — broadcast Sept. 25 as part of the Tire Business Educates Live Online Conference, Ms. Niewiroski said it is important for independent dealers to have an online presence in order to grow their businesses.
"With all the technology out there, consumers have all this information at their fingertips, different brands, different prices. And so they do a lot of research, not only in tires but in any industry. So having a presence online is very important for your business that can really help it grow," she said.
"More than 80 percent of consumers search for tires online. That is a staggering number. Eighty percent of consumers do some kind of research online. It doesn't necessarily mean they purchased online,…they do a lot of their research."
She noted about 43 percent of these consumers are looking at prices and brands; more than half of consumers are migrating to different brands because of price or tread life; and eventually 12 percent of these consumers end up buying tires online.
"We're seeing huge growth in this as well, the shift from offline to online sales. We're seeing growth rates of 20 percent year over year. It's definitely starting to explode," she said.
"Although tires is one of the last industries to join the trend of online sales,…we are seeing that the trend is growing quite a bit."
Ms. Niewiroski claimed about 96 percent of consumers who buy tires online are apt to buy again online. She said the youngest generation of consumers are more likely to shop online due to the convenience and self-serve options.
Her advice for dealers to boost online sales are:
1. Move from good-better-best to a spectrum of value
"We find that these online consumers are very savvy. They do a lot of this research (and are) more savvy than your offline consumers.… They want to compare the value and the price and really what's out there at the end of the day.
"In order for you to grow your online sales, you want to make sure that you're not just carrying Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 tires, but that you're carrying Tier 4 as well, at least for your online business in some way, shape or form," she said.
She noted Tier 4 brands are growing in popularity and since online shoppers are comparing prices on different sites, dealers should at least offer some value-priced tires to attract online shoppers initially.
"You want to make sure that you're in that mix, so even if they don't necessarily buy a Tier 3 or Tier 4 brand, they can still come to your website and see what you have to offer. We find people sometimes come in looking for a Tier 1 or Tier 2 brand and they shift over to a Tier 3 or Tier 4 brand and vice versa," she said.
"They just want to do a search for cheap tires and as they start doing the research, they will land on a Tier 1 or Tier 2 brand. So it really all depends on the consumer preferences, the research they do."
2. Seize the retail moment
She encouraged dealers to do promotions during the spring and fall selling seasons and stock enough inventory for those seasons.
She also advised online retailers to promote any manufacturer rebates that are available and create their own coupons, noting these are really popular with consumers.
3. Optimize your listings
She stressed the need to offer fast, and free, shipping — a perk most online shoppers have come to expect.