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The Advantage to Online Parts Sales You Didn’t Know You Had

Article Highlights:

  • Online parts sales are increasing along with the ecommerce trend.
  • Find out how to adapt your online presence to capture digital shoppers.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak turned our industry on its head earlier this year, there were signs more consumers preferred conducting business online. It’s not hard to understand why: the convenience, autonomy, and flexibility of a self-directed shopping experience from the comfort of one’s own home are hard to beat.

One area that reflected this growing trend was the parts department. Consider at the end of 2019, automotive digital marketing agency Hedges & Co. forecasted U.S. online sales of new auto parts and accessories would jump 14.6 percent, from $12.3 billion to $14.1 billion.

Then COVID-19 happened. Seemingly overnight, terms like “social distancing” and “shutdown” became part of everyone’s daily vocabulary. E-commerce was no longer just one shopping option among many – it was the option, the new default. Instead of thinking of online shopping as a convenient way to purchase nonessential goods on your wish list, e-commerce became the norm for acquiring everything from groceries to automotive parts and accessories.

COVID-19’s effect on e-commerce has proven to be very real, and it’s starting to show up in the numbers. That Hedges & Co. forecast, for example, has since been revised up to an increase of 29.9 percent, from $12.3 billion to $16.0 billion – more than double the projected increase at the end of last year.

This marks a dramatic shift in how consumers are buying parts and accessories, and much of the change will likely be permanent even after we return to some kind of pre-COVID normalcy.

Why? Simple: Once people get used to a new, more convenient way of doing things, it’s next to impossible to get them to go back. COVID provided the forceful nudge many late adopters (older demographics, for example) needed to get on board the digital train, but now that train has left the station.

Your Parts Department and Digital Presence

So, what does this shift towards online mean for your parts and accessories sales going forward?

First, let’s go ahead and cede the point that Amazon will lead the way in online sales of new and remanufactured auto parts. The company’s footprint in the digital space is so huge that not even manufacturers can go toe-to-toe with them.

However, you have one advantage Amazon doesn’t. When consumers conduct research before purchasing parts for their vehicles, they don’t go to Amazon as an authoritative source – they go to you. In fact, the same Hedges & Co. analysis says consumers do their online research in four main places: search engines, retailer websites, manufacturer websites, and automotive forums. A full 73 percent of consumers will use a retailer website to conduct research before making a parts or accessories purchase online.

Ultimately, this is all pointing us back to your digital presence. Does your dealership have a good reputation online? Reviews of your business matter when consumers are deciding if you’re a reputable source or not. Do you have the marketing and advertising in place – paid search, display, SEO, and so on – to bring in targeted leads?

Of course, just getting consumers to your website isn’t enough. Can you convert these digital shoppers? Referencing the Hedges & Co. study, consider:

  • Sales of automotive parts and accessories on mobile devices will jump to $10.4 billion in 2020, up 40.2 percent from $7.4 billion in 2019.
  • As much as 65 percent of total online shopping for automotive parts and accessories is conducted on mobile devices.
  • Parts and accessories purchases on mobile devices are expected to make up about 70 percent of the total online parts and accessories pie by 2023.

Clearly, making sure you have a website and virtual parts catalog that can accommodate mobile-dominant and cross-device shoppers is an absolute must in maximizing conversions.

It’s also worth revisiting the parts section of your site and checking accuracy and functionality. Do the pages all load correctly? Do the links work? Is your inventory up to date? Is pricing accurate? Are product descriptions concise, relevant, and useful?

These may sound like obvious considerations, but they’re common mistakes that cost dealers revenue every single month. Put in the time to audit these web pages and make sure your parts site is ready to receive and convert visitors.

As I said before, for better or worse the digital train has left the station. Your digital presence will play a big role in the future of your parts and accessories sales – either by boosting you as a credible source for searching consumers, or costing you thousands in potential revenue every year.

For assistance in developing a better digital presence, and for other ideas on increasing your parts sales, contact Reynolds Consulting Services at 888.204.6092 or send us an email at consulting@reyrey.com. Each consultant has dealership experience and keeps up on the latest industry trends and solutions to bring you the latest and most unique strategies.

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Director, Reynolds Consulting Services

Carl Bennett is the director of North American Consulting Operations and Sales for Reynolds Consulting Services. In his consultant role, Bennett teaches automotive retailers in the U.S. and Canada how to achieve higher levels of success and better results in vehicle sales and F&I. Prior to joining Reynolds and Reynolds more than 15 years ago, Bennett worked in dealerships for 15 years as a general manager, finance director, and sales manager.

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