ROME, Ga.—As the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged Italy—who will forget the videos of quarantined Italians signing to each other perched from their balconies—the country's top tire maker embarked on a journey of its own.
Pirelli & C. S.p.A., the world's No. 6 tire maker with sales of $5.9 billion in 2019, began a digital journey that a few months later culminated in the release of its Click-to-Buy platform.
For the first time, Pirelli now features a digital platform that buyers can access via the company's website, select a set of Pirelli tires and be directed to a dealer partner for service.
Pirelli Tire North America Inc. CEO Pietro Berardi calls it a "tremendous step" in the digitization of the company.
"It's the future, it's the segment that is growing the most in the industry, and we want to be there as we are a pioneer and leader in this revolution," Berardi told Tire Business in an exclusive interview.
Berardi said Pirelli's market research shows that two out of every three people who look to buy tires online begin the process without a specific brand in mind. He said the idea behind Click-to-Buy is to capture those surfers who may know Pirelli as the Formula 1 tire supplier—or in any of its other sports sponsorships—and entice them to purchase a set of Pirelli tires.
Part of the goal, he said, is to drive business to the "best dealers we have," who then will install and service the tires. The dealer is going to be "quintessential for a very, very long time," Berardi said.
"I can't stress this enough. The digitalization journey to us is to further strengthen the dealer in his distribution role. Nothing is going to happen without the dealer. The more the dealer is qualified and provides superior service, the better is the fit with Pirelli."
Berardi, named CEO in March 2020, said Pirelli not only used the slowdown caused by the pandemic to refine and roll out its platform, but also to invest in two main areas.
"How did we use the time?" he asked. "Not to get depressed. Not to get scared. Not to get fired. Not to cut on cost. The opposite. We invested. We invested in the two most important things to get that done: Customers and product.