While e-commerce sales have skyrocketed in many consumer categories, tire buyers remain reluctant to shop online. This may be due to the fact that buying tires is a big purchase that requires expert knowledge of tire size, vehicle compatibility and driving preferences. Additionally, consumers don’t want to deal with the hassle of returning a product that doesn’t fit.
Nevertheless, tire e-commerce sales have grown in recent years and can offer advantages to both consumers and dealers. Online shopping provides more selection and can save time. For example, the shopper can shop at any time of day or night and doesn’t have to spend Saturday running around town comparing prices or rush into a store on their lunch break.
In addition, shopper’s can buy tires that aren’t available in their local shops, such as specialty tires designed for mud and snow or race tires. Using an e-commerce site, the consumer can compare prices and reviews of multiple brands before making a decision. This gives the shopper more confidence in purchasing the right tire and can help reduce returns, which can strain dealer inventory levels and shipping processes.
Another benefit of shopping for tires online is that the buyer can be assured they are getting a fair price. While online pricing isn’t always the same as in-store pricing, it can be close. And if the shopper chooses to have their tires shipped, they can instantly compare shipping costs from a few different retailers.
As more consumers take their tire-shopping to the web, savvy independent tire dealers see opportunities for new business. For example, Burt Brothers in Utah offers its customers an online platform that allows them to shop, compare and purchase tires without the need for a trip to the store. The dealer has partnered with a software company called TireConnect Systems to build this digital platform.
The system is inserted into the dealer’s website and culls the tire dealership’s in-stock inventory, as well as what it has available from its distributors. After a customer conducts a search — either by tire size, vehicle or, in the United States, by license plate number — the dealer controls what shows up as top recommendations and how the list is sorted. The dealer can also highlight and prioritize specific brands or identify a brand as the best match for certain vehicles, according to Harrington.
While Tate Boys and Burt Brothers use TireConnect’s software in slightly different ways, both dealers are embracing the potential of this innovative tool. Schoenthaler believes that if more consumers will buy their Tires Online, it will reduce the amount of tire return traffic and the logistics cost associated with it. This will free up more time for the tire dealer to focus on sales, marketing and service. The more time the tire dealer can dedicate to those areas, the more revenue they will generate. This will allow them to invest in inventory, staff and equipment to ensure their future success.