DIAMOND BAR, Calif. — Years from now, they'll reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic as a seminal moment in history.
No matter your industry, no matter your community, no matter your race or socio-economic status, the world as we know it has changed, perhaps forever.
The tire industry, unlike many others, not only has persevered, but in many areas, has prospered. And as the world shut down — with most tire factories soon following suit — some tire companies looked for ways to engage with its customers that didn't involve masks or social distancing.
- This article appears in the Oct. 12 print edition of Tire Business.
Nexen Tire America Inc., the Diamond Bar-based subsidiary of South Korea's Nexen Tire Corp, used its time and resources to launch an enhanced mobile app — one side is for the dealer, another is for the consumer — that the tire maker said is designed to provide improved support to its dealer network.
According to the tire firm, the mobile app streamlines communication between the dealer and consumer, serving as a lead-generating tool for dealers and as an all-things-Nexen-tire resource for consumers.
"The goal is to make this a resource and tool for our dealers that really helps their business and obviously also build brand awareness with consumers," Megan Wentz, marketing manager for Nexen Tire America, said during a recent Zoom call — another stark reminder of today's new realities.
"In this day and age, we need to be a lot more aware of both our trade and our consumer marketing approaches," Ms. Wentz said. "While we have a great brand, a great customer service department and excellent fill rates, we also need to build our consumer brand awareness in order for the consumer to trust us and for the dealer to feel more empowered to sell the Nexen brand.
"... This will make us a much better partner for our dealers."
Ms. Wentz said that when the pandemic hit, Nexen realized very quickly that it couldn't commit to other programs it had done previously, particularly its Nexen Hero campaign that awards a well-deserving veteran a custom Jeep outfitted in Nexen tires.
"So we decided to focus our attention on this," she said.
The new app — dealers are encouraged to trash the old app, as it no longer will be supported — has several key features for both dealers and consumers.
The app gives consumers the ability to research any Nexen tire, using either the size of the tire, the vehicle's make, model and year, and/or the VIN number of the car. It helps the consumer identify the nearest Nexen dealer, allowing the consumer to request an appointment to set up installation of the tires.
The dealer, or his or her designated representative, is notified of the consumer's interest.
Nexen suggests the dealer contact the consumer, either by phone or email, within an hour of the request. If that doesn't occur within that time, Nexen representatives will reach out to the dealer to offer support for the possible transaction.
"In essence," Ms. Wentz said, "we want to make sure the consumer gets contacted within 24 hours."
One of the most intriguing attributes of the app is its "augmented reality" component.
The consumer has the ability to put any Nexen tire virtually in any real-world environment.
"You can drop those tires next to your vehicle and see how they look," Ms. Wentz said.
Consumers also can register their tires as well as access warranty information.
The app can be downloaded free from the iTunes and Google Play app stores and is available for Apple and Android devices, for use on phones or tablets. Dealer and consumer training videos are available on YouTube.
Nexen is using its social media platforms, as well as its website, to invite consumers to download the app.
Nearly 85 of Nexen's Next Level dealers have downloaded the app, and according to Ms. Wentz, the feedback thus far has been positive.
"There is a learning curve for dealers to really see how this is going to benefit their business and start to apply it," she said. "People are getting more comfortable with receiving notifications, following up on the lead, so I don't want to try and force this to be very speedy signup and for everyone to be immediately be comfortable and interested in this.
"It's our job to show them and teach them how this can benefit their business. I'm always more about quality than quantity, but with quality will come quantity."
The app, she said, will continue to be refined and improved. But one thing is clear.
"I see this becoming an integral part of our sales approach on a commodity that we can all offer to our dealers, improve our service, improves the way we are there for them and improve on our partnerships."