To help independent tire dealers capture some of the seven million -- and counting -- tires sold online, American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) has created TireBuyer.com. "We think this is, for us, maybe the biggest thing we've done since we started servicing dealers every day," says Ron Sinclair, senior vice president of marketing.
ATD will launch TireBuyer.com in the spring, tentatively around the beginning of April. The Web site, which is PCI (Payment Credit Industry) compliant, will be structured like other retail sites, giving consumers the information they need to make purchases, plus the ability to buy immediately, all fees included.
They also will be able to choose the local dealership at which they want their tires and/or wheels installed.
Based on its own research, 3% of the tires sold in the United States this year will be sold over the Internet, according to ATD. "We think we're going to see even more consumers buying off the Internet," says Sinclair. The percentage "will grow rapidly in the near future."
Breaking consumer demographics down further, consumers between the ages of 18-34 will represent 5% of the tires purchased domestically in 2008. The percentage of consumers at least researching their tire purchases online is even higher.
Sinclair says participating dealers will receive all revenues. That includes the gross profit on the tire and wheel sale; product and installation income; tire disposal and other shop fees; and sales tax if applicable.
The tires will be ordered through ATDOnline, so ATD earns the normal wholesale price. However, the consumer deals strictly with the dealer, or vice versa, when scheduling the installation time.
A single, national "competitive" price point per product will include a small transaction fee that helps ATD defray costs. "We're never going to let somebody lose money on a TireBuyer.com transaction," says Sinclair. Dealers will determine their own installation fees.
In most cases, there will be no shipping charges from local distribution centers, and one- to two-day delivery.
ATD says there will be other benefits to its dealers.
* There will be no additional inventory needs.
* They will receive hands-off e-commerce capability.
* They will get add-on sales opportunities.
Dealers also earn units credits for ATD's ServiceBAY program and vendor marketing programs.
There are three types of independent dealers who can qualify to participate in TireBuyer.com. "Tire and auto service dealers" have to achieve and maintain ATD ServiceBAY level five or higher. "Performance wheel dealers" have to have purchases in excess of $25,000 annually.
ATD's "Certified Performance Retailers" are held to even higher standards, and are designated as CPR dealers on the Web site.
TireBuyer.com will include a Web page per dealership outlet. ATD has created a template for each page, but it's up to the dealer to fill out the information.
The Web site is designed to be highly interactive. It will feature ATD's Wheel Envizio technology, which allows consumers to see what the wheels and tires look like on their vehicles, close enough "to see the sipes on the tread," says Kevin Johnson, director of online marketing.
Only proper sizing will be listed, even if consumers want to plus-size their tire and wheel packages.
There is also a dealership rating system that will appear on the site. "We don't rate dealers, the consumers rate the dealers," says Sinclair. Participating dealers will have to keep their ratings high, although ATD will help low-ranking dealerships improve their customer service.
ATD will back the site with a designated call center and, eventually, a "learning center," says Sinclair. "We're committed to a quality purchase and installation experience."
And ATD will "focus on paid search campaigns" with Google, Yahoo! and MSN, to put TireBuyer.com on top of consumer tire searches. "We'll have tens of thousands of page depth."
The online customer is not a customer the dealer would normally sell to, says CEO Dick Johnson. "So it's incremental business for them. It allows them to compete in the e-commerce world using our system."
"You've got to recognize how consumers are shopping these days," says Sinclair. "If you're a retailer and not online… you're closing yourself out of potential sales."