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Get into the online parts sales game with a parts e-Store

Get into the online parts sales game with a parts e-Store

As a parts manager, you may feel perfectly at ease doing the level of parts sales you’re used to. Perhaps you feel your parts department couldn’t handle more business than you’re currently doing. However, what would happen if your GM came to you, today, and said you needed to figure out a way to increase your parts sales by 10%? What would your game plan be?

A huge, untapped resource for many OEM dealers is the world of online parts sales. According to IBIS, this is close to a $3 billion industry and growing. OEM dealers are so far behind the times that most of these parts sales are going to aftermarket suppliers that enjoy a well-established foothold online.

Still looking for a reason to get into the online parts selling game? A study recently released by UPS, entitled “What’s Driving the Online Automotive Parts Shopper,” reveals some compelling data, all related to this growing market segment. To broadly summarize, people ARE buying car parts online, and doing comparison shopping between online parts stores. Close to half the online buyers are purchasing automotive replacement parts, where others are buying parts to enhance or upgrade their vehicle.

Having an online e-store with full e-commerce capabilities would give you a foot in the door, so to speak, with these shoppers. Providing a simple online parts request form as part of your dealership website isn’t cutting it. Consumers expect to see your inventory availability, pricing and shipping options before they commit to buying a part from you. If you can’t supply that information to a consumer, quickly and easily via your online store, then they’re going to go buy elsewhere – and likely not return to your site.

There are many providers who can supply you with an e-store that works within your existing dealership website, or as a standalone page. ConsumerLink from OEC is one such example.

Building an online parts store is a process

Think of the quote from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple when it comes to building an online e-store. It’s a process.

First, you need to get the word out that you have an e-Store. There are many ways you can do this; some more costly than others. But they all require time and effort. Creating flyers and mailers can be cost-effective and can help bring in the local guys who are probably already buying from your department. Social media is another option to help get the word out to people who already are familiar with your dealership.

You can advertise both in print and online. Paid search can be expensive, but can expand your reach to buyers who are outside of your market. Decide what is a realistic budget and effort for you and what your goal is.

Customer service is still important

Just because you’re processing an order through the computer, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to provide the same level of customer service you’d give to someone standing at your counter. If anything, you need to go above and beyond to make it a great experience for your online buyer. Provide order information and clearly state your shipping and return policies in order for your customers to have no worries about their order getting “lost” in cyberspace. If you still have a comfort level in speaking to a customer over the phone, feel free to reach out. This can only make the customer feel even more confident in your dealership and the service they are getting from you.

If you are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to get your e-store off the ground, and continue to build customer trust and loyalty, you can easily grow your parts business.