How Bridgestone made the digital trek
Savings in global development and operating cost savings to date
Supports 50M+ website visits and 50M+ API data calls annually
Growth in trackable digital revenue
“Sometimes those steps you take early on are more expensive. They require a lot of technical energy and monetary investment. That’s the climb up the mountain. Once you’re at the top, the downhill ski is a lot of fun, and you build a ton of momentum as the results over time get better... and better... and better.”
Jeffrey Lack VP of Digital Marketing, Bridgestone Americas
Transforming the tire buying experience
Buying a new set of wheels is exhilarating. Picking the make, the model, the horsepower…and then enjoying the smell of a shiny new interior. Now, fast forward five years—when that new-car smell is long gone and buying replacement tires for those wheels doesn’t quite give you the same thrill. While there comes a time in everyone’s life when tread depth dips too low, most consumers rarely get excited about tires. The tire buying experience can be inconvenient, time consuming, and overwhelming.
But imagine buying a tire online, showing up for your installation appointment, and getting in, out, and on your way. As VP of the Digital Center of Excellence at Bridgestone Americas, Lack is part of a team working to make the customer journey smoother for all.
This visionary spirit encapsulates the purpose-driven character of Bridgestone. A company that never stops moving, Bridgestone is evolving from the world’s No. 1 tire and rubber company to a fully integrated, sustainable solutions enterprise. “Solutions for your journey,” isn’t just a catchy marketing motto. Bridgestone is using smart tire tech and advanced data analytics to improve the way people and goods move around the world, and that includes improving customers’ digital journeys.
Getting a grip on the digital terrain
Let’s travel back to 2013, when mobile marketing started to dramatically reshape the digital landscape. At the time, digital marketing accounted for over 30% of Bridgestone’s total marketing spend, but they weren’t working in as coordinated of a manner as they could be.
Their MarTech platforms were disconnected and designed for the specific needs of each business unit, with limited compatibility throughout. Their online presence, which just a few years prior was ahead of the competition, needed to be refreshed to address the latest trends, including the newer mobile and tablet-based formats. And there was an opportunity for increased coordination and alignment across the organization.
A digital audit revealed dozens of disparate technologies powering the entire enterprise — including seven different web hosting platforms, at least six content management systems, three separate mapping tools, and three unique analytics tools. Such a fragmented digital state made it impossible to share learnings and best practices, let alone update code and content across the corporation’s numerous business units.
“We realized that digitally speaking, we were miles apart and about to fragment ourselves further trying to keep up with the pace of change,” said Lack.
And with over 90% of consumers starting their tire shopping journey online, this just wouldn’t do. Lack estimates it’s a journey that consists of anywhere from 15 to 25 steps and several unnecessarily repetitive questions, like what’s your vehicle’s year, make, and model? You’re right back to selecting a tire you’ve already picked out online.
“Every time you add a step to the process, you lose between 30% and 50% of your potential buyers.”
Building an aligned tech stack would allow Bridgestone to better connect the shopping and buying experience and better support their affiliated dealers and retail partners.
To turn their digital marketing efforts into a distinct competitive advantage, they needed to move as one. So they launched the CB2 (Cross-Border, Cross-Business) program to bridge the gap between where they currently stood and where they wanted to be.
Endeavors aligned around three key elements: creating common web services, building standard platforms and web hosting capabilities, and coordinating efforts across the Americas and globally. To pull it all off, they needed a Martech stack and partner who could provide both the engine and the navigation system for their journey.
“We needed a partner who could really rise to our needs as we got bigger and more effective. We needed someone to grow with us and that we could grow into. And we needed the best-in-class partner. That’s what really drove us to the Adobe stack.”
VP of Digital Marketing, Bridgestone Americas
Bridgestone narrowed its systems down to just one set of robust tools anchored in Adobe Experience Cloud as its MarTech stack. And by year three, they’d shaved ample time off system updates and started to realize material savings.
“We went from six CMS solutions down to one...from far too many different web hosting platforms down to one...three mapping solutions down to one,” said Lack.
By the end of 2015, they’d launched four websites on their new platform, supporting sales for two lines of business in two countries, bringing in 250,000 incoming calls from customers. Bridgestone now has 68 websites in 19 countries supporting 14 businesses in all four Bridgestone markets, all on the same platform.
Over 50 million consumers visited Bridgestone websites in 2020, and millions of them picked up the phone and called a Bridgestone retail customer. Those calls helped retailers sell millions of tires with a material impact on their bottom line.
High performance yields greater mileage
“If you’d asked me back in 2015 if we were saving a ton of money, the answer clearly would have been no. But looking back over the last six years, we’ve saved the organization so much that the system’s more than paid for itself many times over.”
Since 2015, Bridgestone has practically adopted the entire Adobe tech stack, including Adobe Analytics for measurement, Adobe Audience Manager for segmentation, Adobe Target for personalization, and Adobe Campaign for cross-channel marketing management.
“Adobe came with a full suite of tools that really are, in my opinion, best in class in terms of how they perform. But they also came with a partnership mindset that has been invaluable to us over the last five years,” says Lack.
No more losing data when customers click through to a retailer site. Adobe Experience Manager as Cloud Service allows for a seamless handoff so you can land on a tire quote for your selected option and make a purchase right then and there if you choose. And Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target help test and refine customers’ digital experiences. Teams across Bridgestone can stay connected and take action on customer insights, delivering relevant content and product recommendations at precisely the right moment in the customer journey.
“With this aligned tech stack, we can simplify, curate, take advantage of the shifts, and move at pace in ways that we’ve never been able to before,” said Lack.
Bridgestone’s CB2 initiative and partnership with Adobe has saved the company over 30% in operating costs. Over the last 5 years, the average infrastructure cost per business unit has fallen 35 percent. And operating costs continue to drop. Every business at Bridgestone uses a common set of tools, which opens up a world of possibilities for code sharing, site optimization, and efficiencies.
As Bridgestone’s director of enterprise digital services, Daniel Luttrell has been steering the implementation of the Adobe tech stack across the organization and can attest to its far-reaching effects on both accessibility and productivity. He says, “Adobe’s comprehensive asset management system has increased the efficiency of the way we work by making assets available to business units that may not have known they existed or been able to access them before.”
“Adobe’s comprehensive asset management system has increased the efficiency of the way we work by making assets available to business units that may not have known they existed or been able to access them before.”
Director of Enterprise Digital Services, Bridgestone Americas
And there are some measurables Lack is especially excited about because they reflect a better customer experience.
He says, “In 2021, we will deploy over 700 updates to our websites, and expect to only have 750 managed issues with an average resolution time of 25 minutes. For context, we had 250 deployments and 2000 managed issues with an average resolution time of 45 minutes in 2018, so that’s a 10-fold improvement in performance in the past five years.”
Bridgestone’s secret sauce
There’s one more “magic” ingredient behind their success — creating an aligned culture around the technology stack.
Getting everyone on board isn’t easy and takes time, Lack says. “Businesses may feel like new systems cost more money, limit their choices, or minimize their ability to control their own fate.” But it’s absolutely crucial. “More than anything else, creating an aligned culture around this technology stack has had the biggest impact in terms of what we’re able to do with it.”
Bridgestone gathered together a team of business leads, marketing leads, and IT leads to align on goals, processes, and resources. They meet each month to set short- and long-term priorities, work through any gridlock, and develop resources to support their suite of CB2 tools, all the while relying on a data-driven operating model to measure and manage CB2 performance.
“Our philosophy is if we can measure it, we can manage it,” says Lack.
They review at least a dozen reports generated by Adobe Analytics to help track the health of every system on the platform, key metrics on performance, and toolset adoption across Bridgestone. There are fewer surprises, and they can use the data to inform future investments.
Lack’s words of wisdom to other visionaries looking to become experience leaders is this: “You need to make sure you find an aligned tech stack, that your partners are able to take advantage of it, that you build a can-do culture around it, and that you keep on top of upkeep and upgrades to make sure your system stays relevant.”
Bridgestone uses these Adobe products:
Analyze online and offline behavior to get a full picture of the customer journey.
Adobe Audience Manager
Collect and merge all your data into intelligent audience segments.
Visualize and connect personal customer journeys across every channel.
Adobe Experience Manager
Combine Adobe Experience Manager with the power and agility of the cloud.
Adobe Experience Manager Screens
Publish dynamic, interactive digital experiences across all your in-venue display screens.
Test and optimize with machine learning across mobile apps and the web.
Staying two wheels ahead
Since the launch of their CB2 program, Bridgestone has followed the philosophy of an old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
They’ve been able to move as one across each of their lines of business and across online and offline channels. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, Bridgestone will take its MarTech stack and data strategies to the next level – ensuring alignment with both the privacy and experience expectations of customers.
“As we look ahead, we know permission-based first party data will be at the center of our customer engagement strategies and will enable us to build trust and deliver great customer experiences in the future. We’re excited for this next phase of our transformation journey in partnership with Adobe,” says Lack.
At the heart of all Bridgestone’s digital transformation efforts is the customer. You may soon be able to order tires without having to step foot behind the wheel. Or use a touch screen to enter the make and model of your car to see what options look best. And with that kind of experience to look forward to, we might all start looking forward to buying our next set of tires.