Having come into a technologically averse industry, we’ve taken the opportunity to create a new culture and mode of thinking that will serve the business well in the years ahead. Here are some of our guiding principles.
Good websites are built and finished. Great websites constantly grow and evolve.
Innovating, learning, experimenting, failing and starting again are all a fundamental part of building something great.
This is what you need to do:
- Develop a vision of your industry in the future
- Relate that vision to your customers’ needs
- Grow alongside your customers and the technology
- You won’t achieve conversion without engagement
- Localisation & Personalisation need to be the focus
- Connect at your customers’ touch points
- Customer Service is still the key, across bricks and clicks
- Partner with the right products and services
The above is what we have learned and formulated along the way, applying the key points to our digital business logic, practices and procedures.
Here is a summary case study of some of our own digital experiences, focusing on building an eCommerce platform and creating a new market in Australia.
The contemporary digital environment is breathtakingly complex and holds a range of challenges for anyone seeking to introduce a new product or brand into this highly competitive space. We’re all familiar with the pleasures of cross-browser and cross-platform compatibilities. I’m willing to bet almost everyone has had a client or member of management say “but it doesn’t work on my computer!” only to find out that they’re still on IE6. And of course we’ve all spent the last couple of years hearing about how important mobile will be, and now we’re seeing how important mobile is.
Considering the present is challenging enough, but what about the future? The future in our industry for the tyre replacement shopping experience in 2020+ is going to look like this:
- Cars (onboard diagnostics) will alert you to tyre pressures, tread depth, wear and wheel balancing and then notify you when you have something that needs attention
- Car GPS or phone maps will inform you of the location of nearby Tyreright stores
- Your smartphone application will instantly log you in to your Tyreright retail account, review fitting times or available spare bays, give you all the contact details (if needed) and provide suggested actions to place an order, make a booking or request emergency assistance
- Driving into the service centre, the store man / woman (greeting you by name) will instantly know (even if you haven’t booked in) why you are here, what tyres are on your car, when you were last in, what alternative tyres are in stock and then on approach hand you your ‘extra hot skim cappuccino with one’, exactly how you like it.
- If you need new tyres and you requested them before approach, the same ones will be made available and be at your bay (bay number texted through) as you approach
- You will have them fitted and drive off within 15 minutes, through a mobile checkout; you will be billed (reward system and points deducted off the price) by email with an electronic receipt as you pull out of the drive (that is if you didn’t choose to swipe your mobile phone for payment)
- In store: With your phone, you can scan images and codes for various tyre options and receive instant reviews so you compare your own thoughts and peruse alternatives based on previous driving results such as; handling, wet weather, comfort, durability and fuel economy
- Smartphone enabled video product demonstrations can stream in real-time as requested
All of the above technology is currently available; it’s just a matter of how much pressure the consumer puts on the industry to implement the infrastructure or which organisation rolls out the technology first to disrupt the market.
So how do we get from here to there? You can go mad and waste vast tracts of money trying to build the perfect solution for that vision of the future. You may even get it all built and working perfectly, but even if you do that there’s just one little problem.
The future’s not going to work out like that. It’s going to be different; some of that technology won’t catch on. Some will be superseded and other new things will be invented.
But there is one theme that ties all of those ideas that we see in the future together and helps us draw a direct line from our present to the future that we want to create.
We have adopted a simple philosophy that we think will guide us successfully, and that is to consistently and rigorously asking ourselves, how does this make our customers’ lives easier?
And we’ve also accepted that we can’t build it all at once.
Relationship status: It’s complicated
Instead what we’re trying to do is to grow with our customers. To develop lasting, long-term relationships that allow us to understand their needs and to identify the things that we can do that will make life easier for them.
So we decided to build a good website. The best website that we could for right now which would address the most pressing challenges that faced our business.
- New idea for the market as a whole in Australia – it’s been around in Europe and the US for years but online tyres is new here
- Real world fitting – Once you’ve bought them, they’re no good to you just sitting on the ground, you need to get them on your car
- You don’t care about your Tyres – but you should, and we do
- Multiple store owners – Independent stakeholders who need to be supported in their business at a local level
- Customer responsiveness – we want to be agile and engaged
- Lagging lifecycle – 3+ years
- Competitors coming to market – we need to be ready for this
- New technologies (specifically mobile/tablet) – always with the new technologies.
In order to address these challenges we decided to partner with Sitecore and with a web development firm in Sydney by the name of Switch IT. We found Sitecore after considering several CMS platforms, but were convinced by its robustness and its openness. Once we had seen it, we knew it would be the right base to build from. We found Switch IT through a personal recommendation combined with several meetings. Ensuring their expertise and goals were inline with our direction and some benchmarking against other options.
Breaking out of the funnel
We’re all familiar with the traditional notion of the purchase funnel; well the purchase funnel has changed. Traditionally consumers start with a number of potential brands in mind (the wide end of the funnel), marketing is directed at them as they reduce that number and move through the funnel until they end up with the one brand at purchase. This funnel has been taught at schools and universities for the last 100 years right up until this decade where it was turned on its head.
Today, the funnel concept fails to capture all the touch points resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer.
The traditional funnel concentrates on the lead up to purchase. Today there is also a much bigger focus on post purchase, focusing on after-sales service and preparing the buyer for a repeat transaction. What needs to be considered now is a more sophisticated approach to help marketers navigate this environment, which is less linear and more complicated than the original funnel suggests.
The new purchase funnel is based on research, research (readily available anywhere and anytime) has become a much more significant step in this purchase process through; search engines, content sites, comparison shopping, user reviews and ratings, affiliate sites and retailer sites. The steps are now not always in the traditional order either such as shoppers seeking opinion by peers or checking a comparable product or price before making a transaction. As a business you need to consider a presence at any possible touch point where our audience is.
The key factor is in supporting the customer through the selection process so that they feel informed and empowered before they get to the online shopping cart / checkout or a physical store.
And we’re all aware that the traditional purchase funnel no longer adequately addresses the needs or capabilities of the modern consumer. So for us, the challenge isn’t just introducing an idea to the Australian market, that you can buy your tyres online. It’s also about identifying and using every opportunity that we can to help our customers get the best possible experience from their interactions with us. And that’s why we’re committed to evolving our digital presence. Digital is long past being a broadcast medium, we all know that, and we’re all familiar with the concept of a relationship based digital environment, but it’s essential to remember that relating to people means growing with them as well.
Real world problems
Selling tyres online has somehow managed to stay a reasonably new idea in Australia. In the US and the UK it’s now a reasonably common practice and we looked to their experiences to inform our decision-making.
But it’s not enough to just sell the tyres, our online sale isn’t completed with the shipping of a package. Instead we need to get the tyres on your vehicle. And this was an important step for us in our original site build, as we implemented some custom amendments to the Sitecore ecommerce module to allow us to add a booking system to the purchase process. It’s one of the key benefits of working on an open, yet fully supported platform, that you don’t need to spend time ‘reinventing the wheel’ – excuse the pun, and can instead devote resources to the specific needs that are unique to your business.
Once we’ve solved the two core problems of how to sell you a tyre and fit it, we need to have an awkward conversation. You see, the truth is you just don’t care about your tyres. Not really, not like you should. But that’s ok, because we care about your tyres for you.
So here’s what we’re doing about it for you. We’ve created specific performance characteristics for our tyres so that you can compare them based on more than the brand name and the price. We give every tyre a score out of 10 for each of the characteristics. We also have reviews and ratings on the site. These are slowly being built up over time and are primarily actual customer reviews, so you can see what other purchasers have had to say about the tyres you’re looking at.
We’ve added a live chat function to our site that’s available during business hours. We’ll expand that over time to offer out-of-hours support as well. We’re also adding plenty of new information and content to our site to help you understand why your tyres are important and what you can do to make sure you’re operating your tyres safely. We’ll even help you save money as you do it.
Most importantly, we’re not going to sell you tyres. Instead what we’re going to do is help you to understand your driving needs and empower you to select the right tyre for you.
We’re local, everywhere
But we don’t just want you to feel like you’re dealing with a large and largely impersonal chain. Especially because you’re not. Most of our stores are independently owned and have been in their communities for decades. So we also want to help our stores maintain their individual identity and community relationships. So we’re building them full microsite functionality within the structure of the core website.
This will leverage Sitecore’s multiple user permissions and workflow functions, allowing our dealers to update their own store pages with local news, events and details on special services and equipment that they may have that’s outside of the core Tyreright offering. Making use of the workflow functionality allows us to ensure that all content on the site is still edited and approved by our central marketing and communications team without unduly increasing their workload.
How else can we help you?
So you’ve bought your tyres, what now? The average life cycle for a set of passenger tyres is about 3.1 years. Of course that assumes that you’ve been checking your tyre pressure regularly and rotating them as part of your routine maintenance along with getting a wheel alignment at least every 10,000km. You’ve been doing that haven’t you?
This is a very real challenge for our business and the focus of our next major development projects. Customer retention and repeat business is hard when you’re only thinking of your tyres once every 3 to 5 years. Worse still, if you want your tyres to last 3 to 5 years then really you should be thinking about them every 3 to 5 weeks. So what do we do?
First of all we’ve been gathering data and insights into our customers and how they’ve been using our site so far. We’re also actively looking to extend beyond the traditional modes of audience engagement through increased personalisation and localisation. The in-built ability of Sitecore to facilitate this sort of activity was a determining factor in our choosing to build on the platform and is one of the ways in which we believe we’ll be able to change the relationship between our industry and consumers.
Over 30% of our customer enquiries and online purchases are from females. We also believe females are involved in many of the tyre purchasing conversations with their male counterparts. Tyrerigtht has started creating specific artwork and messages, significantly increasing its marketing initiatives towards the female audience. From a website perspective and content serving strategy based on profiles the digital team will start with these seven profiles above. The digital team has another 23 niche profiles it is working on for tailored personalised messaging and engagement.
All of this goes back to our core philosophy of making our customers’ lives easier. Tyre maintenance is the kind of thing that we all overlook and find it hard to care about but something as simple as maintaining your correct tyre pressure can save you several dollars every time you put fuel in your car, and will increase the life of your tyres considerably. So we’re going to make this easier.
We are working right now on developing the tools that will take the hassle out of tyre maintenance for you. We’re developing reminder tools, special service offers and a long-term loyalty program that will make it a lot easier for you to manage the maintenance and life of your tyres. In turn, this will allow us to stay in touch with our customers, offer increasingly personalized service and an ongoing relationship focused on what drivers need from us.
Competition, technology and agility
Of course, we don’t get to do this in isolation and so our competitors are racing to meet us and beat us. A couple of them are currently building new sites on the same CMS platform. And several others are preparing to leap fully into the ecommerce market.
We’re really looking forward to seeing what our competitors come up with, seeing how they solve some of the same problems and to see what new ideas they’ve generated in terms of trying to meet their customers’ needs. Competition is good for us, because it keeps us moving forward. We can’t let up the pace and we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to constantly keep looking for refinements and methods that allow us to better serve our customers.
The pace of technological innovation and change is something we’re all familiar with, and we know that it’s going to continue to present us with new opportunities and challenges. It is important to be aware of new technologies, their adoption and how they will change or disrupt the market.
Not every technology is going to be suitable for our business and so it’s important for us to be aware of the needs of our customers and to again be looking for the tools that will enable us to make their lives easier.
We have no choice but to embrace a constant process of evolution, and to grow and change with our customers. We no longer say we’re a tyre company. These days we’re a technology company that specialises in providing and fitting tyres.
It’s not about the website, it’s about the relationship the website enables
Good websites are built and finished. Great websites constantly grow and evolve. However, remember that a website is just the platform or enabler to all of the channels that you need to establish and use to connect with your customers. Particularly if you have ecommerce functionality, it’s ultimately where you want to funnel your customers. In saying that, if you can get a potential customer to a ‘store contact page’, that is also a win. (You have to define what your metric goals are for engagement and conversion)
The key point we took away from our research and experience is that; consumers want to use all shopping channels. These channels need to work from the same database of products, prices, promotions, etc. Instead of perceiving a variety of touch-points as part of the same brand, you need to ensure consumers experience the brand, not a channel within a brand. Merchandise and promotions are not channel specific, but rather consistent across all retail channels. The bricks-and-mortar stores become an extension of the supply chain in which purchases may be made in the store, but are researched through other “channels” of communication.
Build a roadmap with scalable platforms. These platforms need to be agile and adaptable enough to show a holistic understanding of the dynamic consumer behaviour path. Digital channels are no longer part of the discovery purchase phase. Consumers are looking for total channel integration and an experiential window on the world of your brand.
Connect with your customers in a two-way dialogue. If consumers are made to feel empowered and engaged by a company, they are more likely to act as evangelists for a product without prompting.
My advice internally to our business and one I can offer you is; ensure that your customers have the best possible experience across all channels and touch points.
And; if you have the autonomy to pick your people, partners and products for a web or digital project then take your time and pick them wisely. Don’t rush, benchmark, speak to people that have used the products or services. Spending time here will prevent major project slippage, set backs and extra expenditure.