Growing Online Parts Sales
While the new and used-car sales departments stay focused on “getting tail lights across the curb,” the possibility of increasing parts sales at auto dealerships does not go unnoticed by 21st century franchise administrators who look to generate more revenue from every channel.
Part one of this series reviewed the ways that dealer management systems (DMS) can be used to increase parts sales with the strategic application of pricing, customer relationship managers (CRM) and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Recapping essential details from that article, CRM are named suites within DMS whereas pricing and KPIs are monitored via DMS suites such as accounting, service, sales and ecommerce.
This second installment covers online sales, merchandising and customer service.
Cyberspace may not be “the final frontier,” but it certainly is “everywhere you want to be.” The obvious — the potential for selling parts to customers around the world — should be enough to get motivated but be aware that getting started requires an investment in time, labor and technology. The good news is that there are millions of providers who help businesses establish and service virtual storefronts.
The bad news is that competition is fierce because retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart sell auto parts alongside the expected online portals of AutoZone, Pep Boys and O’Reilly Auto.
As with any retail venture, demand is enhanced by offering a unique combination of product availability, price, fulfillment, product knowledge and customer service. Thus, excelling at all of the above is needed to increase parts sales at auto dealerships.
Experts recommend using web providers that specialize in auto parts ecommerce — some focus on OEM items while others deal with aftermarket parts.
After educating readers on the pros and cons of selling via eBay and Amazon, writer Jason Lancaster discusses how to “launch your own national parts ecommerce website” in a comprehensive presentation on Driving Sales where he links an article listing ecommerce providers.
Two important takeaways per the article:
- See what other eBay retailers are selling parts for and match the lowest one available.
- While eBay customers are used to paying shipping and handling fees — a profit center for many retailers — Amazon buyers would rather pay above list price than pay for shipping.
Lancaster recommends developing “an understanding of the marketplace in terms of pricing and profitability, a parts ecommerce platform, and a marketing plan and strategy.”
Promoting Online Parts Sales
Online presence is enhanced with the help of search engine optimization (SEO), Google AdWords campaigns (i.e. pay-per-click services), and strategic social media plugs.
SEO is not overly complicated, but it does have guidelines such as those established by two of today’s leading authorities: Yoast and Hubspot. Learn one or the other, or both for the best results.
Google AdWords is the 21st Century rendition of paid advertising but is considerably more effective because the target markets are customized. Case in point: conduct a Google search for “OEM auto parts” to see immediate results and note the local angle created by geo-mapping technology.
Social media is a marketing channel that can be used or abused depending on the practitioner. There are hundreds of millions of web pages containing recommendations (conduct a search for “social media marketing”), but here is a tip worth considering:
Do not make frequent attempts at hawking auto parts on social media because the operative word is “social.” Rather, wait for opportune times to market items that may resonate with viewers. For example, the seasonal accessories mentioned in the next section would be a good candidate for social media promotion. Finally, Facebook Ads is a marketing channel within a social channel that should be considered.
Parts sales at auto dealerships can be greatly improved by coordinating efforts in all channels: the service department (repair orders), online sales (virtual storefront), wholesale customers (independent repair, body and transmission shops) and over-the-counter sales. For example, walk-arounds by service technicians with customers in tow can generate additional parts sales because service orders generally require the removal and replacement (R/R) of OEM parts.
In the merchandising space, writer Ian Linton presents a handful of useful tips in his article “How to Increase the Profits of a Dealership Parts Department.” Three items are outstanding:
- Display oil and filters, servicing kits and fast-fit parts such as wiper blades, batteries and lighting components. He recommends “branded products in consumer packaging and display[ing] them in a separate area of the parts department.”
- “Stock seasonal accessories such as winter driving kits or holiday kits at prices that earn good margins.”
- Provide fleet operators, independent service technicians and small service outlets with a reliable wholesale parts service because “managing their parts requirements reduces their administrative burden.” (He also recommends “regular phone calls to wholesale customers to collect orders and advise them of upcoming deliveries” as well as “promotions and incentive campaigns to encourage them to increase sales.”)
And finally, one expert suggests appointing a “dedicated accessories manager” who can focus on marketing and merchandising across the department lines of sales, F&I, parts and service.
This article was reprinted in part from CrossCheck.com