Athol Daily News 4/17/2010
By Brian Gelinas and Staff Reporter
ORANGE — Continuing to find innovative ways to market its product, Pete’s Tire Barns Inc. has ventured into the world of on-line product sales with the launching on April 1 of an Internet store, which is accessible through the company’s Web site at www.petestire.com.
The move is one of several steps being employed to take advantage of 21st-century computer technology and social networking sites on the Web in order to expand the tire distributor’s customer base, both regionally and nationwide.
Aside from “opening the doors” on its Internet store, E-commerce Manager Amy Putnam and Ray Turilli, director of information technology and on-line marketing, have also established a company presence on Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s the wave of the future,” Putnam said recently.
Initially, the Internet store is offering on-line purchasing of a limited selection of the 20,000 items in the company’s inventory. Currently, Carlisle specialty tires are available on-line, with more brands to be added over the next few months. These include tires for landscaping, lawn and garden equipment; tractors; trailers; ATVs, utility vehicles, and go-carts; golf carts; and industrial equipment and off-road vehicles, such as hand trucks and forklifts.
“Ultimately, the goal is to offer all of our products on-line, but to start with, we picked the tire line that has the most appeal,” said Turilli, “because we’re not focusing just on New England, but nationwide.”
“Within twenty-four hours of launching the store, we made our first sale to someone from Minnesota,” Putnam added. “We had intended to test the site for a few days without any marketing and were surprised to have that sale so quickly.”
On-line orders can be shipped directly to a customer’s home, or at no additional charge to one of the company’s 16 retail stores that are located throughout New England. In addition, from now until the end of June any in-stock tires ordered that are under 150 pounds will be shipped free of charge via UPS ground services.
The plan is to expand the on-line store over time until “it becomes a twenty-four-hour store for us,” said Turilli, who added the company is also trying to appeal to a wider customer/fan base through its use of Facebook and Twitter.
After setting up the company’s retail profile page on Facebook, a kick-off promotion was held and within 12 days the number of page fans went from 0 to 500, said Putnam and Turilli. Of those 500 fans, five were randomly chosen to receive sweatshirts, hats and miniature statues of the Michelin Man.
In a take on the traveling yard gnome photo fad of the past several years, Putnam said that one winner, Athol native Jessica Hall, has taken her statue to various landmarks in the North Quabbin area, such as to the top of Mount Grace in Warwick, and taken photos and posted them on Pete’s Tire Barn’s Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/petestire.
Other promotional giveaways and contests are planned, with a Facebook photo contest currently underway. The contest asks persons to take creative pictures of their cars and tires, or themselves with their cars, and post them on Facebook. At the end of April, those who post the most creative, humorous or original photos will be chosen to receive a variety of prizes, which will be sent anywhere in the country. Participants do not need to be local and do not need to make a purchase.
“We’re trying to make it fun,” said Putnam, “and have people asking themselves, ‘Oh, I wonder what they’re going to give away next?'”
Putnam and Turilli stressed the company’s intent with Facebook and Twitter is to garner feedback and create an on-line forum for customer interaction.
“We’re trying to avoid spamming our fans and are limiting sales-oriented [postings and tweets],” said Turilli. “We’re not using [the sites] as a billboard for Pete’s Tire Barns.”
Of the company’s Facebook fan base (which currently numbers 560), Putnam pointed out that the median age range is 35 to 44, with about 61 percent being female and 38 percent being male. She added those statistics are helpful to the company with regard to its marketing efforts.
The company also has an Internet presence on LinkedIn, but “Facebook has proven to be the most interactive,” said Putnam.
Commenting on what Turilli brings to the company, Putnam said, “We are thrilled to have Ray Turilli on board with Pete’s Tire Barns as our new information technology director. As our business has grown, so has the need for someone solely dedicated to keeping the company up with the newest technology available so that we can better keep up with our customer’s needs. Ray brings with him many years of IT and e-commerce experience and, in the two months he has been here, we have already seen dramatic changes not in only in the way we interact with our customers, but also the way we communicate internally as a company.”
Putnam added that with so many locations, one of the biggest challenges is the way in which information is shared internally to keep the company uniform in its practices and policies. “Ray has implemented a new employee-only intranet Web site to be able to share a variety of information such as our employee handbooks, training material, new promotions, current sales and advertising campaigns, as well as updating the employees on new employees, promotions, and also some lighter information, such as employee milestones — marriages, births, and other personal achievements. All of this information can be accessed remotely and is proving to be an extremely valuable tool,” she said.
The e-commerce operation at Pete’s is currently a two-man operation, but it is expected to expand as the on-line store grows in the future.
“When Pete’s Tire Barns was started in 1968, no one could ever have imagined such a thing as the World Wide Web where you could literally research and buy your product from the convenience of your own home, or for that matter, from your cell phone,” said Putnam. “The advancements in technology and how we do business are ever-changing and, ten years from now, there will be new ways of doing business that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. This technology is not limited to any particular generation either. I know people in their 70s and 80s who are on-line. The bottom line is that we are in the business of serving our customers, and understanding the way in which they want to do business is vital to our growth.”