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OTHER VIEWS: Mobile platforms can drive tire sales for dealers

INDIANAPOLIS As a business and leadership fanatic, I have been a longtime believer in spending less time worrying about what the direct competition is doing.

Instead, I suggest becoming an observer of other industries and use that knowledge to implement in your business. In turn, you then end up doing something that your competition likely is not doing, and therein lies your competitive advantage.

When it comes to the tire industry, I have seen how many retailers and wholesalers (and even some manufacturers) can be behind the times. There are plenty of people in our business who fear change, and many who fail to use available and emerging technology to change their own game when it comes to getting a leg up on competitors, or just making their own operations simpler, faster and better.

To that end, I spoke with Craig Howes, CEO and president of Red Deer, Alberta-based TireForce Solutions Ltd., recently, and learned that TireForce is putting this practice to use.

Mr. Howes’ mobile tire installation company, GoTire, launched an in-house-developed mobile app that allows tire buyers to have an easy interface to select and purchase tires.

To the consumer, it is a very straightforward way to purchase tires and let installers come to you. However, for TireForce, the technology available to dealers goes way beyond what the end consumer sees.

As such, the GoTire app back-end can allow the tire installer (in this case GoTire, although the app technology is available to other dealers via TireForce) to localize all their tire supply points. Be it distributors in their shop/delivery radius, tire manufacturers who could embrace this point of sale (POS), other dealers (think aged inventory or special buys, etc.) or just about any other supplier who ties into the app.

The TireCRM system offered by TireForce is one other facet available, which manages customers in one localized database and offers an order management application. Mr. Howes states that a “pay in app” feature to finalize the sale and purchase is to be implemented soon as well.

The implications of this service and shop efficiency, inventory management and customer relationship management is that it allows a dealer or distributor one-stop access into one easy point of sale that can integrate and be truly customer facing. This technology is able to be tied into a dealer’s traditional website.

According to Business Insider, retailers’ apps were responsible for 44 percent of e-commerce transactions in Q4 of 2017, while the mobile web (think browser purchases) controlled 23 percent, and desktop website sales accounted for a third. Those numbers are just going up.

For TireForce, the ability does not end with its app solution. For customers who have downloaded the app, Mr. Howes said they have the ability to push DOT recall notifications to the customer alerts.

Even the ability to link a GPS-based OBDII scan tool can be handled, giving a dealer who embraces this a unique ability to be the one to get the first call from a customer in need, or to build loyalty in a customer-facing program. Think about the captive nature of a customer calling you and only you, contacting you via this tool.

The TireForce app takes it a step further, asking customers if they need help.

If so, he or she can call from within the prompt from the app, and the Tire-CRM platform records this as a viable customer lead as well. The retailer could follow up with this customer for potential service scheduling as well.

I have seen many distributors using their own in-house programs and offering additional value-added services to their model to swing retailer loyalty in-house to that distributor. I see these uses of technology truly changing the game.

I am a huge believer in spending less time on what the shop brand down the road from you is doing. Instead, look where they are not. From the mobile-app perspective, a distributor or retailer who embraces this is way ahead. Look no further than Starbucks Corp.

The Starbucks mobile app is slick, allowing mobile payment, loyalty programs and order-ahead ability. In 2017, Starbucks reported that mobile app usage represented 30 percent of the brand’s transactions. That makes Starbucks far and away THE most successful mobile payment platform in the U.S.

Granted this is one example. However, TireForce appears to be onto a key component that is often missing: one-stop convenience.

My talk with Mr. Howes left me seriously impressed. Too often, we think of inventory management, a sales report database, your website and a customer database as individually fragmented components of a day-to-day operations and a sales process platform.

The implications of this type of integration is huge, for time-saving, ease of operations, and if you have integrated this to be facing your end-use consumer, you already are able to capture that hard-to-get customer loyalty as well.

The key to changing the game is making your technology implementation seamless across the front and back end and in what the customer sees.

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Edward Koczan is a veteran of the tire industry. Currently corporate key account manager for Hankook Tire America Corp., Mr. Koczan is passionate about the industry. You may reach Edward at itstiretime@gmail.com.

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