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More Than Just a Website

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By now, the majority of tire dealerships have websites – roughly 70%, according to the latest Tire Review research.

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But in today’s ultra-competitive online environment, just having a Web presence isn’t going to cut it. In order to get – or stay – on top, dealers need more than the basics. Bells and whistles can be costly, but fortunately for tire dealers, many website providers have custom-tailored solutions for the industry. Staying Competitive.

This page on Crompton's Auto Care's website clearly notes location, details and services offered and offers a relevant coupon with a clear call to action for the customer.

This page on Crompton’s Auto Care’s website clearly notes location, details and services offered and offers a relevant coupon with a clear call to action for the customer.

We asked several dealers and website providers to weigh in on the latest features that can help shops stay competitive online. Their answers centered on ways to maximize website efficiency and visibility.

“Having a website and having the ‘right’ website are two very different things,” says Ross McArthur, director of North American sales for Net Driven, who added that having the right website that fits consumers’ buying habits and answers their questions is the next step. With 70% of consumers researching online, it’s important that research tools like tire fitment guides, side-by-side com-­ parisons, customer reviews and tire promos be featured on a dealer’s website, he says.

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He adds a customized solution will reflect the uniqueness of the dealer’s business, and having the right search engine optimization elements allow customers to easily find a dealer’s site.

Ryan Wilmot, product architect and CEO of Kukui Corp., says there is a very strong trend toward platforms and away from basic websites.

“Platforms tend to offer much more powerful analytics and advanced features such as tire selectors, online appointments, customer review sections and more,” he notes.

“Just being on the Internet doesn’t guarantee that potential buyers will find your site, become a regular customer or return to the website again and again,” says ARI Network Services sales manager Nathan Lehmann. He adds that dealers should consider updating or adding several features to their websites, including content, mobile-friendly capability, e-commerce and appointment scheduling.

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“Dealers who have websites without many of the latest and greatest add-ons can successfully drive consumers to their sites by simply keeping the content up-to-date and relevant,” Lehmann says. “Not only will that content engage visitors and entice them to return, it will improve a site’s search engine ranking.”

Since more than 90% of consumers use mobile devices to research and shop online, he advises dealers to have a site that is mobile-friendly.

“A great way to increase cash sales is to allow shoppers to order products online, either for shipping or in-store pick­up,” Lehmann says. “Key to success here is to make sure that the shopping experience is easy and secure. Adding in functionality that allows shoppers to request a quote or to receive more information also is important.”

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The Latest Features
A relatively new feature built into some of the most advanced website platforms is conversion rate optimization (CRO) – the process of maximizing the number of leads and new customers a shop may get from its existing website traffic and online marketing, according to Wilmot.

“This is done by utilizing advanced analytics to discover what causes consumers to respond at a higher rate to a retailer’s Web page with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of new customers to the business,” he explains. “We can maximize search terms to their full potential and research which key terms are searched for the most in a retailer’s local area. Some dealer websites also have additional tools and modules that can help maximize leads.”

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Wilmot says basic websites tend to convert about 8% of visitors into leads, usually in the form of phone calls. CRO can help increase this rate, increasing a business’s leads.“This also makes your online advertising now twice as effective,” he says.

Net Driven’s Automotive Repair Catalog, which offers more than 1,000 pages of custom-branded automotive illustrations for every specific service a dealer offers, is a “tremendous help in explaining to customers the specific services that were performed on their vehicles,” says McArthur.

The catalog offers the additional benefit of SEO rankings since Google will index every page in the catalog. “This essential tool answers consumer questions about automotive repair and makes the dealer a trusted resource,” McArthur says. “Additionally, there are custom solutions available for each dealer’s business.”

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Having the right website with easily accessible information results in more visitors, he says, adding, “a website with up-to-date and accurate data enables dealers to turn their 9-to-5 business into a 24-hour online business.”

Lehmann says ARI’s Tire and Wheel Fitment module offers an enhanced vehicle look-up option that enables consumers to quickly find and compare wheels and tires. “The ‘Wheels to Fit’ and ‘Tires to Fit’ option makes it easier for dealers to custom-bundle products to generate more online and in-store sales,” he says.

Wheel Studio, an extension of ARI’s Tire and Wheel Web solution, allows consumers to research and buy wheels and tires online. The system lets consumers see side-by-side, high resolution images of wheels on their specific vehicle make and model; an easy-to-use filter allows customers to search by vehicle brand, wheel diameter, color or finish. The site also allows the option to save, email and print search results.

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Dealer Experiences
Heeding the advice regarding consumers’ shift toward mobile devices, City Tire, headquartered in Springfield, Mass., recently partnered with ARI for a mobile website, as well as updates to its core site.

“We have had great success with the mobile site,” says Andrew Bewsee, manager. “Customers are able to hop on the site, get tire quotes, find a location and use the map feature on their phone to find directions to a store. They also can link right to our Facebook and Twitter pages from the mobile site, which has been huge in keeping our customers in the loop about happenings at City Tire.”

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City Tire has also seen a significant increase in Web traffic. “People like the ease of use. They especially like our coupon section, and they like that it feels personal in that our manager’s and assistant manager’s names are right on the site.”

Samaritan Tire, in Minnetonka, Minn., has been online for 11 years, but partnered with Net Driven two years ago for a custom website with up-to-date tire pricing, according to owner Chris Mortensen.

While some dealers shy away from online pricing, Mortensen says it is key for attracting consumers who increasingly do their own online research before buying. “We realize pricing is not for every tire dealer,” he says. “Because we are competitive with similar retailers, we found having our pricing brings more customers.

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“When building our website, it was important to us to have input on the design,” Mortensen added. “The website had to have ease of use … we wanted our website to be straight forward with giving the customer a price for a set of tires while also allowing the customer to be able to navigate the different tires we offer if they want to research more.”

Other website offerings vital to Sam­aritan Tire’s business include a mobile site, Web marketing through Google AdWords that is managed by Net Driven, a wheel selector, and a listing of manufacturer rebates.

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Virginia Tire & Auto, with 12 locations in the greater Washington, D.C., area of northern Virginia, redesigned its website as part of an overall major rebranding effort in 2013. Among the site’s new features is a live chat function that has proved to be very successful, according to vice president Julie Holmes.

“We added live chat because we wanted people to have access to all possible methods of connecting with us,” she says. “If they’re at work and can’t talk on the phone, the live chat is another option.”

The proactive chat – meaning if someone has been on Virginia Tire’s site for a certain amount of time, a box appears asking if that person would like to use the live chat feature – has a 40% close rate, Holmes said, adding there are roughly 100 live chats each month, including 15 in which tire quotes are given.

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Ben Wilson, sales associate, mans the live chat during business hours. “We get a wide variety of questions, anything from services offered to how long the current wait time is for inspections,” he explains. “It’s primarily new customers – people who don’t already have a relationship with us might find it easier to chat in this way.”

Moving Forward
If your website needs some polishing – or even a complete overhaul – it may not be as difficult as you think.
Start with content, Lehmann advises. “It’s one of the easiest ways tire dealers can up their search engine ranking, reinforce their branding, drive repeat traffic to their site and sell more product.”

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He recommends exploring competitor websites, as well as those of big boxers to see if there is anything they’re doing that you aren’t.

“Talk to your website provider about your specific goals to make sure you are taking full advantage of everything they have to offer,” Lehmann says.

Net Driven’s McArthur agrees, saying, “A dealer’s website and Internet marketing strategy are so crucial to success. They should carefully compare all options available, do their homework, talk to other dealers who use that company, and make sure your vendor can do what they say they can.”

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