The aftermarket auto parts retail space is as dynamic today as it’s ever been. While some analysts predict steady, if slow growth for the industry, others anticipate that aftermarket demand will exceed 1 billion units by 2025.
To meet the demands of consumers, however, auto parts dealers need to be ready for service and retail in the 21st century. Offering a website and having a Facebook page isn’t enough. Overall U.S. e-commerce sales grew 14.9 percent in 2019, and with stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic, online shopping has skyrocketed, with many consumers making their first online purchases ever in the early months of 2020.
Of course, there are still challenges. COVID-19 and geo-political happenings mean that supply chains have new hurdles to overcome. At the same time, the market is being disrupted by digital offerings, readily available diagnostic devices for automobiles, and online marketplaces.
Now is the time to refine and optimize your sales processes and channels, especially e-commerce. Online retail is a key ingredient to growing your sales, and increasing the efficiency of your digital shopping experience is not an option.
To do this, aftermarket automotive parts retailers have four areas to concentrate with on-site optimization, integrations, omnichannel strategies, and analytics.
E-commerce Site Optimization
Spending time on improving the look and feel and usability of your e-commerce site is time well spent. But there is much more that auto parts retailers can do to optimize their online stores.
E-commerce has reached a tipping point. With more than 230 million smartphones in the U.S. and $600 million or more in mobile sales up for grab in 2020, you can’t afford to ignore the mobile version of your shopping experience. This may be even more important for auto parts retailers than even their desktop store. Imagine working on your car and realize you need a part – do you really want to stop what you’re doing, scrub your hands clean, and access an e-commerce site on your computer? Or is it easier to pull out your mobile phone and keep on with your project?
What’s important to understand with mobile e-commerce is the lack of patience that shoppers have for this form factor. If it’s hard to find from the phone, if your user experience is sub-optimal, or the site is hard to navigate, your customers will go elsewhere. Speed is important, too. Shoppers are likely to leave your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds for a page to load.
Your site should also be optimized for shopping functionality. Think back to the example above. How much easier – and faster – would a parts search be using voice? Minimal hand cleaning required.
Even better, what about an image search? Amazon uses this feature on its mobile application. Using the mobile device’s camera, the online retail giant searches its databases for the matching product. No typing or button clicking required. While identifying the right model of a water pump might be difficult from a photo, ordering from a motor oil bottle or an air filter box could be simplified using a picture.
Personalization is what will set you apart from your competitors. Simply greeting your customer by name on your site has been proven to increase sales.
For the home mechanic, personalization can mean saving car makes and models for their family, quickly narrowing down parts that apply to their project. Allowing these customers to save automobile types will speed up their shopping experience and make it easier for them to find what they are looking for.
Given the direction online privacy is going, you’ll want to make sure that your site is compliant with online privacy regulations. For instance, if you have any customers in California you’ll want to be sure you’re adhering to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). As the strictest privacy laws in the U.S. currently, meeting the CCPA requirements will ensure that you’re on the right side of data protection for all of your U.S. customers.
Integrations & Omnichannel
Letting applications communicate with one another, automatically, reduces errors in order taking and delivery and helps build scale into your e-commerce operations.
Integrations can include connecting your e-commerce system to various business applications – like your ERP, your warehouse automation, or your CRM. Integrations can also connect to your trading partners, like a 3PL used to stock and fulfill online orders, or an online marketplace.
And integrating into an online marketplace couldn’t be more important for aftermarket auto part retailers. If you’re looking to reach more customers and increase your sales, setting up shop on Amazon and eBay is the most efficient way to do so. Seventy percent of car parts sold in the U.S. are sold on these two platforms
Integrations also become the cornerstone for one of the most important strategies for auto parts retailers – omnichannel. Omnichannel retail means that customers receive a consistent shopping experience whether they are online or in your stores. The auto parts space is ripe for omnichannel consumer experiences.
Let’s revisit our earlier example. Your customer discovers in the course of working on their family car that it’s going to need new spark plugs. Omnichannel – with the help of integrations from the brick and mortar store’s inventory systems through to the e-commerce site – means they’re able to jump online with a phone, select their car make and model from they’re saved vehicles, purchase the spark plugs, then drive to the store and pick them up. A streamlined customer experience leaves the customer happy and more likely to return during their next project.
Taking that a step further, you can also offer that same customer expedited local delivery within a few hours to their door by leveraging the distributed network of last-mile delivery services such as Postmates by simply integrating with their developer API. Your application sends the pickup and dropoff location of the parts to Postmates for cases when you do have inventory available at a nearby local store, then a Postmates delivery person is dispatched to your store location to grab the parts, and hand-deliver them to your customer allowing them to finish their repair job without skipping a beat.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. That adage might seem tired, but e-commerce analytics breathes new life into the old saying. Visibility into consumer habits, shopping, and purchases on your online store gives you the insights you need to continue to improve the customer experience while optimizing your e-commerce to increase purchase values and upsells.
Most e-commerce platforms come with at least some analytics inherently available. But if your platform doesn’t give you the breadth and depth of insights that you need, there are many high-quality analytics solutions that easily integrate into most major e-commerce packages. As just one example, Klipfolio provides powerful analytics and has pre-built integrations with WooCommerce and Shopify.
When looking at your online retail metrics, there are three values that are pivotal to start with. These three will be the jumping-off point for gaining insights and optimizing your e-commerce performance.
Conversion rate: Conversions are what you want – this number tells you how many people who come to your site purchase something. Conversion rate is equal to how many customers purchase something divided by the number of unique visitors your site gets.
Average Order Value (AOV): Different retailers have different goals for their order value numbers. For instance, someone whose market is based on selling a single, moderately priced item, like an e-book, or a few very inexpensive items but with thousands of transactions, may see a low average order value. An electronics retailer will likely strive for a high average order value. AOV can be an important metric in helping you determine if efforts to upsell customers is working. To figure your AOV, divide your total revenue by the number of purchases.
Revenue per visitor (RPV): As you can probably already guess, revenue per visitor is the amount of total revenue divided by the number of visitors to your site – whether they purchase anything or not. Drops in RPV can point to a number of problems, such as a reduction in the number of higher prices parts being purchased, or an upswing in “looky lous” – visitors who come to the site and don’t purchase anything.
Each of these metrics is a bellwether to what your site is doing right as part of your commerce ecosystem, or what’s going wrong. By no means are they a comprehensive list of data you should be looking at. Instead, these insights will point you in the right direction to continue your investigation and optimization efforts.
The world of automotive parts retail is changing, and it’s important that aftermarket retailers change with it. Having visibility into your customer’s habits and offering them the cleanest and easiest means of shopping online will put your e-commerce business in the driver’s seat.