Why You Are Better Than A Website (by Jeff Short)

Supposedly everyone wants to sell their tires “online.” Not just have a website, but a site that will allow retail customers to select a tire for their vehicle, get a price, and fork over their credit card and close the deal. All while you’re comfortably at home watching American Ninja Warrior. Sounds like a lot to ask of a website? But Mom, all the cool kids are doing it! Goodyear is on it, Tire Rack is the leader of the pack, and all the chains are going after this huge slice of the market. I wonder…

Picture this: It’s a normal business day and you’re at work. The phone rings or a customer drops by. They ask the usual, “I need a price on some tires.”

If you’re like me, the gears automatically start turning in your head. You’ve done this thousands of times. You know the drill. What kind of car do you have? Let me look up the size, load range, and speed rating, or better yet, check the door jam for that little placard. Let’s see this car. What do the old tires look like? How did they wear? Any alignment issues? Were the old tires rotated? Did you like them? How do you use this car? Are you keeping it? How many miles a year do you put on the car? If it’s an SUV or light truck, how aggressive a tread design are you looking for? Up north… do you run winter tires also? Let’s talk about your budget. Is there a rebate that will make this decision easier? And since I’m not a highly practiced retail guy, I’m surely missing some of the other questions that you ask. And of course you are intimately familiar with how your go-to lines actually perform in the real world.

So, I guess we all agree, the proper way to prescribe the right tire fitment is through all the questions that you ask the customer. Each answer the customer gives you will naturally push you towards a certain recommendation. Oops forgot, those super websites that will sell you a tire don’t ask hardly any of these questions. How do they gain a customer’s trust? Well, I guess Tire Rack does it because they are known as The Source. Plus they have thousands of customer generated reviews and a massive advertising budget to drive people to their site. And let’s not forget a highly skilled phone crew to actually make a real live recommendation. Just like you do.

Yesterday I was reading my latest issue of Tire Business. The front page story is about a company that can add a feature to your website that will allow retail customers to see your inventory (or your distributor’s inventory), get a price quote, and process their credit card. Just like that. Their tool will display all the available sizes and sort them by price. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is so much more to this business than sizes and prices. How much real business is out there that will support online tire buying? Goodyear rolled out their new system in the Chicago area first. A Modern Tire Dealer reporter interviewed 6 Chicago area Goodyear dealers to see how the new online program was working. According to the article, 4 of those questioned had not seen any sales yet. One dealer that operates 4 stores said he had installed 2 sets. Don’t forget, this is Goodyear.com with all their advertising dollars at work to pull customers onto their site. If you’re a regular tire retailer and you’re selling tires online without a phone call, I’d love to hear your story and pass it on. In the meantime, let’s listen to Mom, take a deep breath and see how this whole thing plays out.

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