Dominic Byrne is the chief technology officer for Tyreright and the company’s digital arm, Tyres4U. Together the company is one of the biggest wholesalers in the country, with revenue exceeding $350 million.
But getting people to buy tyres online is a huge challenge. Byrne spoke to SmartCompany about how the company is managing that transition, and the unique challenges of selling the automotive product over the internet.
I started out in IT sales many years ago. I always had the intention of moving into a marketing role. I liked the creative decision-making involved instead of a functional sales role. So I started marketing in the IT space.
This was back in 2007, when payment gateways were starting to come on. My first role was at a pure-play e-commerce portal, and a start-up company that was relatively small. I got a lot of experience there, and that was a time when SEO was becoming paramount.
Tyreright has been around for several years. It’s a successful business in the wholesale and distribution part of the tyre industry, and we’ve aggressively decided to get into the online retail space as well.
Members of the auto industry are very big laggards when it comes to adopting new technology. When it comes to moving into the digital world, the CEO of the company would probably even classify himself as a little bit of a dinosaur. But he knows we have to be in the digital space and have to be there quickly, or we’ll lose market share.
We’ve started out with a good distribution model. We have a competitive advantage; there are major challenges out there in regard to that. But the biggest challenge has just been trying to make the market aware that you can buy your tyres online.
It’s a very common occurrence to buy a set of tyres, which can mean turning up at a store and never feeling comfortable.
You often buy the tyres the dealer wants to sell you. And they may or may not be the best ones for your car or your driving style.
The other challenge is organisational. Coming into a business that’s been around for 25 years and trying to influence that change is a massive challenge. They’ve been doing things for years and they have an established way of doing things.
I think we’ve already disrupted the market in some ways. We were the first to launch an e-commerce solution, and up until that point no other retailers were even publishing their prices online. That’s changed – three or four of our competitors have redubbed their websites and a lot of them show their prices.
We’ve been approached by Carsales.com.au. They approached us and we had several meetings about their venture Tyresales.com.au. But we weren’t happy with the model they were using at this point.
We just need to continue to innovate. We’ve spent a lot of time building a good e-commerce platform, making sure there are good solutions. We need seamless tech so people are able to choose their tyres and actually select them according to their characteristics.
We’ve got very big personalisation objectives. Our audience is anyone with a car, so we need to have those personal conversations and be relevant to those people.
We’ve finished optimising our site for mobile. I had someone last Thursday buy their tyres with their mobile phone all the way up in Kalgoorlie. A year ago, I didn’t envisage that happening.
We’ve moved from 7% of our traffic on mobile to 17%. Now it’s 30%, and it’ll be 50% within the next 12 months.
The biggest challenge and what I’m really keen to solve is being able to target consumers with the relevant information at the right time. But it’s difficult because the average time someone needs to replace their tyres is every three years, so being able to let them know when they should replace their tyres is one of the biggest challenges.