Why sell parts online?
Because the global automotive aftermarket size is expected to reach USD 513.8 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 4.0% over the forecast period, according to Grand View Research (2020). Both the volume and the size of the automotive online market has grown significantly globally. According to stats from the European market, the online sales volume of the automotive industry is growing by 7-8% yearly and is expected to reach a EUR 3.6 billion by 2025. The stats from the North American market shows the US automotive parts industry nearly doubled in the 7 years from 2009 to 2016. Online parts sales in Canada will reach CAD 3.8 billion/USD 2.9 billion, which in Mexico will amount to around USD 700 million in 2019.
Following this trend, many suppliers, OEMs, distributors, and workshop chains are moving online – they are transitioning their websites to be mobile-friendly and will continue to increase their online participation as well as launch new platforms. Since the whole world is leaning heavily on digital, starting an auto parts business online is very promising.
There is a growing number of online solutions and tools that help bring automotive business online. For example, PartsPal, a multi-functional software tool that is designed to solve the e-commerce challenges in the automotive parts industry. It helps businesses manage parts inventory, manage vehicle fitment and manage online sales channel integrations.
Configuring an auto parts website
There are essentially four main categories of auto parts: externals (bumpers, grills, suspensions, etc.), internals (transmissions, engines, sensors, etc.), tools (jacks, wrenches, etc.), and accessories (seat covers, floor mats, etc.). The tpe of products determine how the website is designed and structured, and the quality of the website determines how seamless and comfortable customers feel when they are browsing and purchasing products.
For example, if selling car accessories such as seat covers or interior LED lights, your website should be designed to advertise the comfort of driving in a car. If you want to sell essential parts such as engine and suspension, your website should focus on advertising car performance or essential replacements.
Businesses also need to consider shipping & freight. Fast and easy shipping service is what customers expect from businesses selling online. For large-sized parts, a large box is needed while being wrapped in a bubble package is suited for fragile items. Choosing a proper shipping company with a good price that meets your product specifications is necessary.
Sales channels: Marketplaces vs website, or both?
Let’s look at pros and cons of each option. Third-party e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or Partly are suitable for inexperienced sellers. Enormous amounts of traffic rush in every day. They are already mature and have a developed infrastructure, business model and marketing. These are metrics that sellers can directly take advantage of – without causing too much effort.
However, the disadvantage is sellers give up much of the control over their brand: they need to comply with Amazon and eBay’s internal policies, pay transaction fees for each sale, and are unable to access all data. There is also much less control over the relationship with customers.
Thus, on the other hand, setting up your own e-commerce website enables a complete initiative to manage everything. More importantly, sellers are able to build up better brand awareness among customers and develop customer retention by communicating with customers directly.
This is the most profitable aspect of an online business. But the disadvantage is, except for managing trading processes, sellers need to put much more effort into web design, web development, custom software, framing branding strategy, SEO (search engine optimization), and managing customer relationships.
So a third-party marketplace or own website? There is actually another solution – sell products through all sales channels by using e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce, X-Cart, etc.
The main features of e-commerce platforms are:
- templates are offered for sellers to create their own storefronts in minutes;
- various apps are provided, catering for different industry needs;
- multiple sales channels can be integrated with a sellers’ own website. Via Shopify, Bigcommerce or X-Cart, sellers can sell products on their own websites and on third-party marketplaces simultaneously. Besides, they can access data to both sides.
For automotive merchandisers on Shopify, using the PartsPal app is a good choice. PartsPal’s app is specially designed for businesses to add part fitment and manage inventory. When sellers integrate their products with other sales channels, fitment information will be pushed to sales channels by PartsPal as well.
Who are your Customers?
The number of customers buying auto parts is growing with the expanding market. Generally speaking, customers can be divided into two groups: automotive professionals, and personal buyers.
Automotive professionals, such as mechanics offer auto repair and maintenance services, demanding a relatively stable amount of auto parts for their businesses. They usually rely heavily on same-day delivery. Shipping speed is important to them since they must service customers quickly, and cannot afford to deal with delays.
As for personal buyers, they can be further divided into two more groups: enthusiasts, and DIYers. Enthusiasts are more likely to buy car accessories that can improve their experience of owning a car. They are usually willing to take their time and wait for parts to arrive. DIYers, however, would prefer to save money rather than paying for repair technicians and mechanics. They might tend to shop for essential parts.
Anyway, whoever your customers are, improving user experience (UX) of your website is always the first thing to do. Always trying to make it easier for customers to order and buy from you.
Today, customers tend to look for quality digital experiences that would make their lives more convenient and efficient. Therefore, optimizing the purchase process to be as user friendly as possible is the key to improve sales. Only through that businesses can generate more leads and conversions for their websites instead of bouncing.
Especially with the development of online video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, people now can access free online instructions on tasks like parts replacement and vehicle repair from home. Thus, making sure customers can purchase parts that fit their vehicle is important.
Here is a suggestion to efficiently improve the UX: add proper part compatibility data and a vehicle fitment check system to the website. Fitment is such a big issue in parts trading. Customers will feel frustrated if they have no idea whether the parts they are browsing fit their vehicle. It is thus impossible to expect them to make a purchase in that situation.
PartsPal solves the problem by providing a complete fitment check system that is supported by a powerful, cloud-based database. This database covers over 30 million OEM & aftermarket parts.
Once a part is uploaded onto PartsPal’s online inventory system, PartsPal will automatically search for fitment information for this part within the database, add fitment to that part once matched, and publish it to sales channels. Besides this, PartsPal offers a YMM search filter for businesses to add to their websites. Via the YMM search filter, customers can discover parts that fit their vehicles easily.