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Dealers Need to Understand Online Buying, Says Tire Consultants Group

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Dealers Need to Understand Online Buying, Says Tire Consultants Group

How much are consumer tire-buying habits being affected by online buying opportunities? Results from a recent proprietary survey by Tire Consultants Group LLC (TCG) shed some light on the relationship.

According to a survey of adults aged 18-54:

* 65.5% don’t search online and buy at the tire dealership;

* 20% search for tires online before buying at the tire dealership;

* 14.5% search for tires online and buy online.

Some two-thirds of the respondents who conducted online research did not buy the tire that they investigated online. “This means the buyer discussed tire options with the dealer, and it is the dealer who ultimately proved more convincing,” says Rich Clarke, principal of TCG and co-founder of Fifteen Degrees LLC, a New York City-based branding agency.

Also, the online-buying percentage in the 18-34 age group was higher than the average, something tire dealers need to be aware of when marketing their business, he says.

“Whether it’s gauging prospective buyers’ attitudes toward online purchasing or the propensity of end-users to search for and ultimately purchase online, a tailored analysis is the first step toward embracing and capitalizing on digital marketing.” Ultimately tire marketers need to respond to the needs of their customers, “whether it’s in the showroom or through a live online chat on their Web site.”

Not only is a broader array of buyers becoming more technically savvy by researching tires online and visiting manufacturers’ Web sites and dealer sites, but also those same buyers are relying on non-traditional online sales platforms like Amazon.com, craigslist.net, Facebook, and other online selling destinations to buy tires. The same can be said of tire sellers.

“These online platforms have become the new 'classifieds' in terms of buying and selling,” says Clarke. “It is simple, cost-effective, and an effective way of finding new and/or used tires, and more specialty products, like tires for classic cars, etc. It does circumvent the traditional sales environment to some degree, but buyers are more trusting of these online platforms and are willing to explore these options and pay for shipping.

“The trend is clear: The tire-buying landscape is clearly changing.”

Whether or not this proves to be “a disconnect” between the younger consumer and the tire dealer depends on the tire dealer. The key is engagement, says Clarke.

“Consumers are informed, and it’s the dealer’s role to acknowledge that fact. Meet the customer halfway, honor their intelligence, and reduce the chasm between buyer and seller. And give credit where credit is due; an informed customer needs to feel empowered and emboldened, convinced they’ve made the right decision based on enlightened research.”

And while consumers appreciate technology, they’re not always willing to pay for it, he says.

“Case in point: TCG’s analysis reveals that younger drivers are so technologically savvy that they feel their vehicles should already have advanced tire technology. They almost expect it as part of the cost of the vehicle.

“Again, dealers need to convince prospects that there is value in understanding that tire technology benefits the end user. And it’s worth every penny.”

Clarke says tire dealers need to take advantage of the technological divide between traditional and online marketing.

“While the delivery systems for traditional marketing have expanded -- everything from ads in trade pubs and auto enthusiast magazines to TV advertising -- online marketing has opened up an entirely new and boundless arena for retail tire marketers. Advertising messages can be more targeted based on Google searches and Adwords. Drivers in Michigan can log on to a publisher's Web site and see an ad for winter or all-season radials, while a site visitor in Florida can visit the same site and see a pop-up ad for high-performance touring.

“In effect, dealers now bridge this divide between a local newspaper ad and online messages. They're the final say in what a customer buys at the showroom.”

Tire Consultants Group provides guidance, expertise, and solutions that help tire manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers navigate “the challenging and evolving” tire industry. For more information, contact President Skip Viola at (610) 272-5182 or skipviola@tireconsultantsgroup.com.

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