BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Center for Tire Research is a consortium involving industry and academia that largely has operated under the radar since its inception in 2012 but quietly has played an effective role in the tire business.
E-commerce has been a key business disruptor across all industries and is forcing change, innovation and growth in the tire market. Still relatively new to the business-to-consumer replacement tire market, online tire sales sites have become significant for consumer research into tire types, attributes, reviews, pricing and availability. This trend and the expansion of e-commerce in general are leading to growth in online sales of tires, according to a new Smithers Rapra report, The Future of E-commerce for Tire Markets to 2023. (TRAC Members receive 15 per cent discount).
Across major tire market segments and geographic regions, the number of B2C replacement tires purchased online is estimated by Smithers Rapra at nearly 100 million units in 2018, or about 6.5% of the global market. This is expected to rise by an average of almost 19% per year to over 236 million in 2023, when the share will be nearly 13%.
E-commerce tire sales channel market 2015-23, by volume (million units)
Source: Smithers Rapra
Value growth will be somewhat higher, at 19.7% per year CAGR, from $7.1 billion in 2018 to $17.3 billion in 2023, faster than unit growth and reflecting modest price increases. While a degree of price competition within the online channel and versus offline retail will continue, the convergence of online and offline channels and the increasing importance of user experience relative to price will support higher prices in the channel over time.
Reflecting the numbers of vehicles in use, rates of tire replacement and rates of e-commerce penetration, the passenger car and light truck (light vehicles) segment is by far the largest, at 81% of volume in 2018, followed by motorcycles (12%) and then medium and heavy trucks and buses (7%). Light vehicles have been and remain dominant in absolute value and volume terms. In unit terms, motorcycles are a distant second, but in value terms, medium- and heavy duty trucks and buses are the next most important, although a much smaller segment.
Trends driving e-commerce tire sales
Consumer preferences are ultimately the main market drivers for tire e-commerce with technology and retail developments enabling the change. Consumer behaviour and retail trends behind the uptake of e-commerce in tires include price sensitivity, reduced brand loyalty, time sensitivity and, increasingly, a desire for an omni-channel, which blends features of online and offline channels (already the case to some extent due to tire installation requirements).
Fitment proliferation, the increasing number of available tire sizes, is also contributing to the growth of tires sales via the internet. This has been driven in part by the increase in rim diameters and the greater use of high-performance tires as OEM fitments, which is putting a strain on physical showroom and inventory space. E-commerce options help retailers and customers alike with education and availability.
Growing economies and emerging markets
General economic and demographic growth serve as top drivers for tire e-commerce. B2C replacement tire e-commerce was initially a phenomenon of developed markets, led by Western Europe, followed by the US, which still enjoy the highest penetration rates. However, Asia-Pacific has already become the largest in unit terms and is on track to pass Europe in value terms during the forecast period, due to its large population and rapidly growing tire market (mostly motorcycle tires). Greater internet penetration and e-commerce readiness in developing markets are fueling the expansion of online tire sales. Very rapid growth will come from Eastern European countries and emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil, where levels of e-commerce penetration and vehicle density are comparatively low and growing.
For more information on the Smithers Rapra market report The Future of E-commerce for Tire Markets, visit https://www.smithersrapra.com/market-reports/tire-industry-market-reports/the-future-of-e-commerce-for-tire-markets-to-2023
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