How to Sell Online

How to Sell Auto Parts Online: Selling and Shipping Car Parts

Nigel Poole / 8 min read
automative ecommerce design

How to Sell Auto Parts Online: Selling and Shipping Car Parts

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The online automotive parts and accessories sales industry has skyrocketed over the past five years as brick-and-mortar retailers enter the online space. According to a McKinsey market survey, this growth is predicted to continue at a rate of 3% p.a. through to 2030.

This growth coincides with a strong consumer uptick in online shopping, and although the growth may not be as high as women’s or men’s fashion, the already $516 million industry could prove a justifiable investment for an already-trading automotive parts store.

The question is, are you ready to expand your business and sell auto parts online?

The McKinsey survey alarmingly states that “80% of players [in the industry] say they are currently not well prepared – mainly due to a lack of strategic focus and skills and insufficient digitization resources.”

To stay ahead of the game and prepare your business for online sales, read through this comprehensive guide on how to sell auto parts online.

Know What You Are Selling

It may seem like the answer is simple, but there is a complex equation behind what we sell and why we sell it. Are you wanting to compete in the larger automotive arena or specialize in specific products?

Knowing the products you wish to sell will better help you structure your ecommerce website and provide your users with a seamless and well-structured website with strong user experience (UX) that will lead to conversions rather than bounces.

Below are some examples of the online automotive parts that customers are looking to buy online.

1. Externals: bumpers, grills, hubcaps, etc.

External parts like these often require big shipping boxes and are less fragile then internal parts. If you are looking to sell these products, you must consider the shipping requirements.

  • Which shipping company offers services that meet your product specifications?
  • Will you allow users to pick up the products?
  • Will you ship interstate?
  • What are the costs of interstate shipping?

2. Internals: spark plugs, transmissions, cylinders, etc.

These are often more fragile and need to be carefully packaged with lots of bubble wrap before shipping

. Similar questions surround the choice of shipping company and the shipping service you wish to provide your customers. You may also need to gather an inventory of wrapping and shipping materials.

3. Tools: jacks, wrenches, etc.

These can either be light tools, like a wrench, or heavy tools, like a jack. As above, think about the way these items can be shipped safely and securely.

4. Other categories with opportunity.

Do you specialize in other automotive parts? Perhaps there is an unsaturated area of the market to specialize in. Research could prove beneficial for your product range to stand out from the rest.

Who’s Buying Your Parts?

There are many different demographics and user groups who buy auto parts online. The obvious categories include the wholesale customer — e.g., a local garage; and the retail customer — e.g., people looking to make a one-off purchase. Knowing your target market is also a consideration when designing and building your ecommerce website.

If you have a current website and are looking to add an ecommerce component, you can use tools like Google Analytics to analyze your current user demographic. Google Analytics allows you to track your audience by age group, gender, country, interests and more.

If you do not have a website, there is market research available online regarding the user behavior of the automotive aftermarket shopper.

Knowing your audience will help you better understand how to sell auto parts online. Below are some examples of audiences:

1. Auto shops, local garages, and other vendors.

You’re a B2B wholesaler, selling parts to small vendors who sell them to customers. The advantages of B2B selling can be sales stability, lower costs, and better volumes — which could result in higher sales for your business.

2. End customers.

You’re selling to the kid that wants to put a loud exhaust on his 2002 Honda Civic. This demographic is B2C. One benefit of selling B2C is the ability to potentially offer shorter delivery times for smaller quantities.

The 4 Best Channels for Selling Auto Parts

It’s an omnichannel world out there. Consumers are no longer going to one place to purchase products. There is price comparison, convenience shopping, and even location-driven shopping.

For the automarket industry, an omnichannel approach may prove beneficial for online sales. When you are researching how to sell auto parts online, consider the following channels:

1. Your own ecommerce shop.

You have full control over your ecommerce shop. That means you won’t get hit with fees tacked on to each sale — unlike with eBay and Amazon — and you can price your products however you’d like.

Setting up your own ecommerce storefront also means that you can better communicate your brand and build more direct relationships with customers. Customer relationships lead to loyalty and repeat business, and that customer retention is much more cost effective than acquisition.

Ensuring effective on-site search is a necessity for customer experience, and will add a layer of complexity, but the benefits to your brand may well be worth it.

2. eBay.

eBay is a great place to sell auto parts, especially if you’re selling rare parts. As of the fourth quarter of 2019, there were 183 million eBay users worldwide — a 2% growth compared to the prior year quarter.

It’s also a popular place for auto parts: according to eBay, there are about 90 million active auto parts listings, and three parts or accessories are sold each second. eBay provides a number of tools to facilitate automotive sellers, including tools to help simplify adding fitment to your listings.

3. Amazon marketplace.

Amazon’s marketplace also helps small businesses open themselves up to a larger audience. A 2019 survey found that, in the U.S., Amazon was the most used online store over the prior 12 months.

There are some things to note about using Amazon to sell your auto parts. Refurbished products must come with a warranty, and images have to be reviewable outside of Amazon’s platform.

4. All three channels combined.

Thankfully, BigCommerce shop owners don’t have to choose between eBay, Amazon, and their own ecommerce when looking at how to sell auto parts online! Connect your store with our simple-integration eBay and Amazon plugins available on the BigCommerce app store.

Finding an Ecommerce Platform To Sell Auto Parts Online

User experience is rapidly evolving and influences the decisions a customer makes when on your website. Factors such as visual merchandising, chatbot implementation, payment gateways, and shipping options can impact whether your customer decides to purchase auto parts on your website.

The ecommerce platform you choose will need this functionality available and, preferably, simplify the process of integration and developing this functionality for you:

1. Filter by vehicle.

Consumers search for parts for a particular car. Create a UX that allows users to identify their car, then filter to display only relevant products.

You can also allow the user to identify their vehicle with VIN or Registration lookup, or manually select their vehicle.

Check out this example from Phil Gilbert Toyota:

PGToyota Vehicle Filter

Phil Gilbert Toyota

2. Faceted search.

European Cars > BMW > 1992 – 1999 > 5 Series > 6 Cylinder > Manual > Here’s the exact transmission you need.

3. Loyalty programs.

Make a good impression on a mechanic, and you can bet they’ll be back 15 times a year to buy more auto parts online. Get them in a loyalty program and give them discounts and referral links.

4. Chatbots.

Chatbots add personalization to your website and allow real-time communication with your customers, meaning more time on site and more efficient problem-solving.

5. Payment gateways.

A variety of payment gateways make shopping online easier for your customer. Ecommerce websites are increasingly using payment options like Apple Pay, Paypal, and other financing options that enable a seamless checkout. This removes the need for customers having to enter their details in long forms.

6. B2B capabilities.

These apps will help you employ a B2B or wholesale model to service the mechanics and local businesses.

OEM vs Third-Party

Authenticity is trending. Customers are looking for honest, transparent brands that show they care about what the customer wants. It’s important to be transparent about your products when selling auto parts online.

Often you’ll see car parts listed as OEM or not, and it’s important for you to distinguish these differences with your customer.

1. OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer.

OEM means you’re getting parts from the EXACT same manufacturer that makes the part for the car company.

2. Third-party.

Third-party is exactly what it sounds like — sourcing parts from someone who doesn’t make them for the manufacturer.

How to Sell Auto Parts Online

The ecommerce component of how to sell auto parts online is just one piece of the equation. There is some pre-planning and project scope that needs to be undertaken before you jump into building your ecommerce website.

As with any big leap, preparation is a key element to making the changes run smoothly.

1. Talk to mechanics and car enthusiasts first.

We highly recommend talking to some local mechanics or car enthusiasts first. They may have a part that no one can find. You can make it your mission to supply that low quantity part.

Speak to them about the type of user experience they are looking for. What are their pain points? Have they purchased online before, and how did they find the process? What drives a sale? Is it price, quality, convenience, or something else? This research can help you understand how to deliver the best experience.

2. Research your competitors.

Take a look at competitors in ALL channels, like eBay, Amazon, and third-party sites. See how they price their auto parts and get an understanding of whether or not you’ll be able to compete.

You can do this by simply typing the name of the car part into a search engine and seeing what comes up. Notice who ranks highly and why. Check their user experience, pricing, and overall customer journey. This can be a source of inspiration for your own online store.

3. Contact suppliers for quotes.

Once you have price points you need to hit, contact suppliers through any marketplace of your choosing, such as Alibaba, for pricing quotes. You may have suppliers you are currently working with, or wish to branch out to new suppliers. Check the minimum order quantity to determine if it is sustainable for your business. Shop around for a variety of automotive parts suppliers.

4. Send in POs.

Send POs to the auto parts manufacturers you choose and double-check that their products fit the quality you’re looking for. Quality plays a very important role in the consumer mindset. It can also save you a lot of money in the end, avoiding issues such as product recalls.

5. Start building your site.

While waiting on your parts, build your ecommerce site so you can start to sell auto parts online. This is the time when you will need to decide on a design that works for you.

BigCommerce has a range of ecommerce themes suited to selling auto parts online. Browse through our theme store here.

Next, you will need to decide if you would like to engage a BigCommerce partner to build your store or take on this role in-house. If your store will require API connections to external systems, we recommend engaging with specialized BigCommerce developers who can take the stress out of building your website and help you get up and running faster. Visit our list of partners here.

You’ll require imagery and content as well. Keyword-rich content will provide product details to your customers, while also helping to increase your search engine rankings.

6. Connect your site to Amazon, eBay, and Google Shopping.

Connect your site to Amazon and eBay seamlessly with the plugins mentioned above.

7. Ship your items.

Ship items to customers or drop off at local mechanics.

If you’re using BigCommerce, there are a variety of shipping options available to you. Connect with the likes of Shipper HQ, Fulfillment by Amazon, and ShipStation to find the best ways to get your auto parts to customers.

Checklist to Prep For Launching Your Store

The below checklist summarizes the considerations needed when understanding how to sell auto parts online. As we have mentioned in the previous sections, preparation and planning can play a crucial role in the success of your online auto parts store.

1. Look for niches.

Do you want to sell parts to EVERYONE, or to people with Hondas Civics made between 1993-2013? Research the market and find areas which your online auto parts store can stand out from the rest.

2. Find uniform manufacturers.

Some car companies use the same manufacturers for decades, which makes it easy to find old parts to sell. Find uniform manufacturers that you can trust and that share the same values as you.

3. Include insightful descriptions.

Really define the product in your description, down to every inch. Car parts could increase or decrease passenger safety. Include in your description whether the parts are OEM or third-party manufactured.

4. Source professional imagery.

Customers want to see what products look like before they buy. You can really tell the difference between professional and unprofessional imagery in an ecommerce store. Professional imagery will complement your customer’s experience when accessing your auto parts store online.

Conclusion

We hope the above article was able to educate you on how to sell auto parts online. Business growth often coincides with an omnichannel approach, and the future, as far as we can see, is ecommerce.

Customers want convenience from brands they can trust. When you are determining how to approach selling auto parts online, these considerations are key.\

If you want to grow your automotive parts business and expand to new customer groups, let this guide be your source of information.

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    Nigel Poole

    Nigel Poole

    Nigel is the Director of Sydney based digital agency - Matter. Design & Digital, BigCommerce Elite Partner and 2019 BigCommerce Agency Partner Award Winner. Nigel is an enthusiast for helping businesses innovate, drawing on 20 years of experience running an agency and working in startups.

    View all posts by Nigel Poole

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