How do Mobile Apps fit into Tyre Sales and Marketing?
Buying tyres was originally an exclusively face-to-face experience. But it didn’t take long for the role of the telephone to become an integral part of consumer tyre buying research. The latest technological step forward saw the Internet become a sales channel in and of itself, not to mention a vital tool for wholesalers with the right business-to-business e-commerce systems. Now with some sources putting online tyre market share just shy of double figures, could the fast-growing mobile Internet market driven by the latest generations such as the Apple iPhone represent another new sales and marketing territory for tyre companies?
With mobile phone technology accelerating at a rate of knots, and following the recent high profile launch of Apple’s iPhone 4, Tyres & Accessories took the opportunity to survey the two leading online application markets for a glimpse into the future of online tyre selling. Apple’s App Store and its only real competitor, Google’s Android Marketplace boasts tens of thousands a quarter of a million applications between them. These small pieces of software offer users handy utilities, games and – crucially for this market – shortcuts to news, information and shopping services. Well-known online auction site, a system that has been used to market significant numbers of tyres and wheels for years now, has been offering both iPhone and Android versions of shopping platform for sometime now, allowing uses to bid on the move, however so far there have not been too many moves in this market from tyre companies. That said, some of the biggest players in the tyre industry have got in on the act with their own mobile phone applications and here is a brief look at some of the best available today.
Online retailer Popgom, which currently runs stores in eight European countries and has a link to a future site in the Netherlands on its corporate homepage, is arguably the most advanced in terms of selling directly through mobile phone applications.
The Popgom app is practical and focussed on providing users with detailed information about tyres and helping them choose the right type when they next need to find a replacement. The app is free to download and it allows users to work out the dimensions of the tyre that is required for your particular vehicle, before going on to find the nearest garage or service centre that can provide you with the replacement and carry out the fitting. Like the Michelin app this harnesses the iPhone`s onboard GPS functionality for accurate location-based performance.
Prices of tyres are displayed at relevant merchants, as are the different brands from which you can choose. You can even see when appointment slots are available and how you can get in contact with a centre to arrange a fitting. This app links up with an online payment system which can be accessed via email, or alternatively you can contact Popgom customer services in order to finalise any transaction and get the tyre replacement process rolling.
ViaMichelin Traffic UK
Michelin has always been interested in branching out its business and brand into new areas and this iPhone app designed for use in the UK is evidence of its enterprising nature. It is an app that lets users get real-time updates on traffic information in the key towns and cities of the UK, as well as on the motorways that snake between them. It also has information on the position of thousands of speed cameras designed to help drivers keep safe and avoid fines when they are out and about.
ViaMichelin, the French tyremaker’s online mapping service, launched the app free of charge to iPhone owners back in July. The announcement followed the launch of a similar product for French roads a couple of months earlier. In this case information for all of France is accessible through a total of 22 matrix codes, 21 of which focus on specific cities and one for the whole country. To access the French service, iPhone users need to install one of two free applications – MobileTag or ViaMichelin. This traffic app, went on sale on 3 May at 6.95 euros.
This app is available to both iPhone and BlackBerry owners and like the Popgom app its main aim is to let users know which tyres are best suited to their car. The app has access to an extensive database of vehicle information and you only need to provide the make and model of your car in order to get useful advice on tyre selection.
The Dunlop app does not just present you with a tyre choice without justifying its selection, as each search will also give you information as to why a tyre is right for your vehicle. Of course the only tyres being recommended in this particular app are those that make up the current Dunlop range, but it is designed to be used as a marketing tools as much as a useful service to consumers.
Tyre Pressure Checker
This is an Android app that is designed to help improve fuel consumption, safety levels and tyre longevity for all motorists by ensuring that each tyre is inflated to the correct pressure. You need no information about the vehicle other than its registration plate and once this has been entered into the app it will check its database and come back with the pressure requirements of every tyre. After your first search you do not need to search again as the app will save your details to your phone, although you can always use it on as many other vehicles as you want.
Goodyear Highway Helper
This iPhone app from Goodyear is packed with a variety of content, all of which is designed to help you out when you are behind the wheel. Four tabs along the bottom cover emergency help, useful guides, road safety quiz games and a store locator for local Goodyear dealers. The emergency tab will give you phone numbers for the local police, fire and medical services to get you assistance when there is a disaster. The guides provide a practical approach to various common vehicle problems, with the most important being a step-by-step walkthrough that teaches you how to change a tyre. This is obviously useful for people who do not want to get stranded when they get a flat.
It is clear that most tyre manufacturers who build their own smartphone applications are using them to promote their own businesses while simultaneously helping out their customers. And what’s more, according to leader phone retailer mobiles.co.uk, this is “certainly a platform which will grow in relevance, as over the next five years it is predicted that the mobile app market will expand exponentially, with tens of billions of apps downloaded every year by 2015.”
The one concern in such a market is that tyre firms will find their own apps being lost amongst the huge crowd of alternatives. However, experts in this market told Tyres & Accessories: “The big names need not worry because they have sensibly created multipurpose applications that strengthen their brand and offer a variety of functions to users. It will be more difficult for third party developers to produce tyre apps for the iPhone or Android platforms and find popularity unless they have something unique to offer.”
This is a particularly salient point. As the internet is already being harnessed by tyre manufacturers to sell their products it is important to remember that although mobile applications are being used as conduits for retail, many people still use the native browsing software on their mobiles and PCs to search for deals and make purchases. So this could mean that the mobile app, while a useful sales and marketing tool, will not be the dominant platform for retail, but mobile phones themselves seem destined to take a significant chunk of the market using in-browser platforms.