Going online for any service is the new norm with almost every consumer owning a smartphone. With today’s technology, information can be accessed almost anywhere, making a major purchasing or scheduling decision a click away.
Searching the Web for tire dealers is gaining momentum, making a functioning and user-friendly website more important than ever for your shop’s livelihood.
Tire Review spoke with a handful of the leading Web providers in the tire and automotive industry to outline what your shop should consider when creating, or updating its digital footprint.
Like any aspect of a business, your website should clearly reflect your business’ practices and brand. That starts with what your website’s domain name will be.
Keeping your domain easy to remember is vital. The more complex, the harder it will for potential customers to find your website.
Avoid slang, hyphens, numbers and different spellings of words if possible to avoid confusion, and keep the domain short.
“For a tire dealer in particular using keywords in the domain name can be extremely helpful,” says Holly Biondo, marketing coordinator for Net Driven, a website and Internet marketing provider for the automotive industry. “If you are a tire repair shop, joestire.com, the word tire is right in the domain name. That’s also a big plus. Most tire dealers are targeting their local area, so another thing that they can do to help is actually put a word in there that pertains to the location of the business. So say joestirenewyork.com because that also makes it easier for people to remember and for people to find.”
On the other hand, Patrick Braswell, director of strategic initiatives for TCS Technologies, an ARI company that supplies websites and software tools to tire and wheel dealers, suggests being wary of adding a location. He advises sticking with the tire shop name to get more clicks.
First impressions matter to the consumer when logging onto your website. A poorly designed and outdated Web page can hurt your businesses’ legitimacy on the Web, causing you to lose potential customers.
When deciding on a Web design, the experts agree that clean is key.
“Overall, a clean design that doesn’t have too many links, too many buttons, and drives the consumer to a specific action is the best possible method,” says TCS’s Braswell.
Wild colors are a no-go and branding your business online with your shop’s logo and color scheme are a must. Biondo suggests adding some personable “brand personality” to the homepage such as a photo of the front of the business or the staff.
“You want to have some notable brand names right on the homepage where consumers can see yes they are a Michelin dealer, or a Bridgestone dealer, a Goodyear dealer,” Braswell adds.
Features such as a tire inventory catalog, coupons, rebates and appointment scheduling are ideal ways to get your customer to not only see what you business has to offer, but take action on your website.
“People are really, really busy and your website should act as a digital showroom for your business,” Biondo says. “You should be able to provide just as much information on your website as you would be able to provide to them if they walked up to your service desk and asked questions.”
Biondo adds that a comprehensive tire catalog on your website is probably the most important feature a tire dealer can have on his or her website. Net Driven offers both a tire catalog and a detailed auto service catalog with their solutions.
TCS also creates catalogs that connect tire dealer catalogs to their tire distributers so customers can view what is in stock and get an upfront price, if desired.
“We are providing the opportunity for any independent tire dealer to display available inventory and retail price to their consumers so that huge, ” Braswell notes. “Consumers are looking for what’s available and how much all the time.”
“Pricing is kind of a touchy subject,” Biondo adds. “Some people choose to display pricing some people choose not to display pricing, but either way you should have a way to communicate to people what those tires are going to cost.”
Ezytire creates websites that focus on selling tires and services with clear “calls to action” through tire quoting, appointment scheduling and e-commerce/payments, says Ezytire.
“E-commerce is becoming an increasingly important part of our business. We have many dealers selling online and taking payments over their website, and other channels like Amazon and eBay,” notes an Ezytire representative. “For dealers that want to enter e-commerce, we recommend that they consider their target audience, what products they want to focus on, and their expectations. We tell dealers they need to treat their e-commerce website as a business in itself – it’s not something they can just launch and sit back and wait for orders. It requires commitment, but can deliver great results if done well.”
How your website functions behind the scenes is also something to consider. Especially understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which helps a website’s visibility on search engines such as Google.
“The first thing I would say is you do have to have a strong search engine optimization presence online by partnering with someone who understands every aspect. All the way from on page optimization, which is the keywords and titles and making sure that you have the right meta information,” TCS’s Braswell says.
While a Web expert at Ezytire, Net Driven, TCS or another website provider can help your business with improving SEO, you can also do a few things to better your website’s SEO.
Braswell notes that working with local directories and local listings on Google can help your SEO.
“Google+, Yelp, even Facebook and about 60 directories out there really influence the rest of the Internet and that could be city search, city local, yp.com,” he adds. “Making sure that you information is correct and consistent across all those is probably one of the easiest ways to go up in the rankings and make sure there aren’t any duplicate rankings.”
“SEO is not only really crucial to the success of your website, but you really have to know what you are doing. It’s not just putting your keyword in the domain name, that’s not going to be enough for SEO value,” Biondo says. “Blogging actually provides a lot of SEO value and I don’t think a lot of people realize that, but for SEO, there’s a lot that needs to be done on the backend for programming websites for specific keywords, and that kind of thing but it also has a lot to do with the content that’s on your site, especially the way that sites are ranked on the search engines have a lot to do with content.”
Ezytire also suggests blogging, or a newsroom-type page, to not only improve SEO and increase traffic with unique content.
“A blog or newsroom is great for educating customers and building an audience,” Ezytire says. “It’s also a good way to improve SEO and increase traffic through unique content. It takes commitment though and dealers need to keep at it to see the rewards over the long term.”
For more information on updating your website, read Tire Review’s story on Mobile vs. Responsive websites.