Locally, nationally or globally, the World Wide Web is becoming a necessary part of marketing and selling high performance tires. At the very least it can add to your bottom line.
High performance tires are defined as H-rated tires with aspect ratios of 70-series or lower. UHP tires are V-rated and higher.
However, there is some overlap between the two categories — and the sub-segments within them. As we wrote last year, there were four categories in the performance segment 25 years ago: UHP, high performance, performance and cosmetic. Today, there are no fewer than six categories for summer tires alone.
“UHP used to define a segment,” says Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing for Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. “Now it defines a speed rating. And that doesn’t mean anything to the consumer. That’s why you are seeing all these mini-segments cropping up.”
It comes down to how each dealer defines high and UHP tires in his or her market. It may be even more important on the Web.
In 2011, 32 million high performance tires were shipped to the aftermarket in the United States. That number is relatively flat compared to 2010.
Another 29.7 replacement UHP tires were shipped, up 14%. Combined, high and ultra-high performance tire shipments were up 6.5% — while the overall replacement passenger tire market was down slightly.
Read all about it
Before you can market and sell high and ultra-high performance tires online, you have to embrace your website. If you don’t have a website, customers can’t find you. If you don’t keep it up–to-date, it will downgrade your ability to help them.
According to Jeff Wallick, program/marketing manager for K&M Tire Inc., 4% of all tires are sold online. “Expect that to double and triple in the next few years.”
Your tire suppliers can help you make your website viable. That includes both tire manufacturers and wholesale distributors like K&M Tire.
Then you need to start climbing the Google search list. Google is by far the largest search engine, but the tips here apply to all search engines. How do you get your website listed on page one? It all starts with quality content.
In his article “The Internet is your best friend: effective Web-based marketing for retailers, Mitchell Schafer says content is king. “The copy you write for your pages must be stellar. It must be easy to read, grammatically correct and it must be relevant.”
Schafer says that if a Web page has a lot of content relevant to its topic, it will rank well with search engines.
Getting other relevant sites to link to your page also is important. “To search engines, a vote from a related field is more important than an unrelated field,” he says. The more votes you have, the more a search engine will value your page.
“Google looks at sites and pages for the most relevant result possible. If your page is the most relevant out there and others vote for it by linking to it, then your page will rank highly within Google.”
[PAGEBREAK]Trying to get on page one — and staying there — takes a lot of work, says Greg Basich, Web editor for Bobit Business Media’s Auto Group.
“You can’t just do it five minutes a day. It takes a couple hours a day. If you can’t put that much time into it, then you’re better off outsourcing it and paying for it.”
You also can buy your way onto page one with the help of Google Adwords, the sponsored ads that appear at the top and side of most search results.
“You can buy a top listing by using Adwords,” says Schafer. “If your page is relevant, Adwords will cost you less money. You only pay when someone actually takes action and clicks on your ad.”
What if you are a local retailer? How do you target your marketing to customers in your area without competing against nationwide retailers and wholesalers for page one positioning?
According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. To take advantage of this, you can register your business on Google Places for free; same with Yahoo Local, MerchantCircle and Insider Pagers. And make sure you specifically mention UHP tires in any product or service listings in your business profile.
Schafer, who owns Mobile Edge in Lehighton, Pa., sums up his advice with a question: Do you tell every customer who comes into your store to check out your website?
Who’s on first?
Who are the best UHP performance tire marketers in the aftermarket? If you search for “ultra-high performance tires” on Google or Yahoo, the first few entries are either sponsored by wholesale distributors or tire manufacturers promoting specific brands.
American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) was number one in the Google listings with TireBuyer.com. Here is why ATD says the consumer should purchase tires online from the website: “TireBuyer.com is backed by a massive distribution system. We currently operate over 80 distribution centers in nearly 40 U.S. states totaling nearly 10 million square feet of warehouse space. With over seven million brand new products in inventory, each distribution center carries millions of dollars in available inventory from most major tire and wheel brands.”
That can sound pretty compelling to a tire-buying consumer.
The “Dunlop performance tires” entry is listed second on the Google search engine. The www.dunloptires.com link takes the buyer directly to the UHP page. The “Goodyear performance tires” entry is third, and is linked to the “Find my tires” page on www.goodyear.com.
At number four is The Tire Rack (website www.tirerack.com), which is linked directly to its UHP summer tire page. Another wholesale distributor, TireTeam.com Inc., (www.tireteam.com) is fifth. TireTeam is the internet sales division of T&Z Tire Wholesalers.
Sears Holdings Corp., Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have prominent listings. So does Amazon.com(!), craigslist, speed shops, Godspeed Wheels, West Coast Corvette and two Chinese companies.
The first retail tire dealer listed during the Yahoo search was Sports Car Tire, a one-store operation based in Wilmington, Del. (www.sportscartire.com). The link to Sports Car Tire appeared on page six of the search. Next was Perfection Tire and Auto Repair, a 19-store chain based in Spokane, Wash. (website www.perfectiontire.com). Perfection Tire was listed on page 18 of the search results list.
Google and other search engines also take into account involvement in social media. Do you need to be on Facebook or YouTube? That’s another story for another time.
To see our High/Ultra-high Performance Market Share by Brand charts, click here.