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Tips to becoming a pro at selling online that you can do now

Tips to becoming a pro at selling online that you can do now

If you’re a dealer and you aren’t selling parts online, you’re light years behind. In fact, according to Auto Care Association (ACA), selling parts online (also known as “e-tailing”) of aftermarket replacement parts will DOUBLE in size by 2018 to $13.2 billion, and $28.8 billion by 2028. But get this: ACA’s 2014 study defines “replacement parts” as collision and mechanical parts EXCLUDING aftermarket accessories and performance parts… which means these numbers will realistically be even bigger.

Advice from a parts e-tailing pro

Having observed an “old school” customer selling online, Joe Diliberto, Parts Manager at Dick Wickstrom Chevrolet in Roselle, Illinois and a 40 year veteran of the parts business – decided to give it a try himself. Slowly recovering from possibly losing their franchise in 2010, Joe analyzed his business and targeted his selling strategy to mechanical parts buyers, collision parts buyers, DIY market, small independent repairers and younger, more tech-savvy buyers.

Jumping early on eBay to help liquidate “fire sale” parts purchased for 10 cents on the dollar, Joe continued to expand his sites and offers the following “lessons learned”:

  1. Customer Service is “King,” regardless if you are online or in person. You simply need to understand what’s important to consumers online. For instance, speed of delivery and speed of exchange are especially important to eBay buyers. In the event of a parts exchange, Joe refunds the customer first and then sends the shipping label. Rather unorthodox in most people’s books, he’s found this pays off with loyal repeat business. Per Joe, “People remember who helped them out.”
  2. Dealership exposure can be just as important as parts sales. Joe’s online parts presence has increased exposure of his dealership despite being sandwiched between two thriving Chicago suburbs. In fact, a couple purchased tires from him online and noticed his dealership was close by. After picking up the tires and realizing the dealership even existed, the couple returned two weeks later to purchase a car.
  3. Price. Develop a pricing strategy based on what online buyers expect. Scary at first and still a work-in-progress, Joe prices parts slightly under the large wholesalers on eBay Motors. But it pays off – this strategy has expanded his geographic reach and earned him business from all areas of the country!
  4. Balance shipping costs with in-house FedEx shipping. Take advantage of General Motors’ FedEx shipping rates. Since Joe manages multiple eBay sites, he quickly found shipping costs were becoming astronomical. The simple fix? Joe brought shipping inside with his own FedEx machine and regained lost profit.

While Joe may argue as to whether he’s an e-tailing “pro,” he’s the first to say his evolving parts marketing strategy is paying off. Sales have grown 36% over the last 3 years and beat 2012 sales by 50% in 2015. Not too shabby!

So what’s your plan to get online?

Regardless of your dealership size or technological skills, you can be just as successful as Joe. Here are some additional expert tips to consider:

  • Drive sales and creating repeat business
    • Remember that buyers shop online for a deal. Sure, they also look at customer service and time to ship, but do not kid yourselves, price is still the main driving factor for any purchasing decision.
    • Online pricing is more aggressive than what a walk-up customer would receive. The key is to get the customer to buy from you the first time. After that, it is up to you to turn them into a loyal repeat customer. Service, communication, and responsiveness to questions/issues are key aspects there.
    • Look for vendors that allow you to create tiered pricing and provide your customers with promotions and incentives to buy from you.
  • Move all of your inventory, including idle parts
    • Selling online is a great way to sell all of your OE parts, including those collecting dust on your shelves. Odds are that someone in the country (one of the hundreds of millions of eBay shoppers) has a need for that part you’ve been unable to sell for the past 12 months.
    • Look for vendors that allow you to price and create listings for idle parts. Rather than sell the part below cost, you may have an opportunity to still come out ahead, creating a win-win for both you and your buyer.
  • Be where your customers are
    • Many dealerships typically focus on their wholesale businesses –and understandably so – it is usually the most profitable part of a dealership’s parts business. But if you’re challenged to grow your business by 10% in the next year, how would you go about doing that? Identify and focus on new growth opportunities, including the online retail market. Also, look for a vendor that will help you get there.
    • The online retail business is growing tremendously. Buyers are seeking information and making purchasing decisions without ever visiting your brick-and-mortar store. Your customers are on Google and other search engines, eBay, and even your dealership website looking for service and new vehicle specials. Take advantage of these websites – they are holding a large portion of your potential customers!

Ready to get in on the online game? Your next move starts right here.