Business Tools

How Retailers Can Reach the $4 Billion and Growing Online Parts and Accessories Market

  Brian Offenberger
  "You need to have content that is so unique're an authority," says Brian Offenberger of Aftermarketer Club.

Ninety percent of consumers use the Internet as a starting point when shopping, but when it comes to parts and accessories, just seven out of 100 people actually purchase online, according to Jennifer Chang from eBay Motors, who along with Brian Offenberger, president of Aftermarketer Club, led the Profitable Online Selling webinar at the 2009 SEMA Show.

Today’s online market for parts and accessories is about $4 billion and expected to grow to about $9 billion in the next five years. Popular purchasing channels include eBay Motors, manufacturer websites and online classifieds such as Craigslist. People tend to buy online for the ability to find better pricing and unique items not found at local stores since retailers are able to show buyers their entire inventory.

When developing an online store, consider that 57% of buyers look at installation guides and manuals, rich product descriptions with several photos, market value pricing, automotive reference information, user product reviews, repair advice, expert product reviews, vehicle ownership information and user-generated information such as online forums. Social networking tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySEMA, can be used to help get the message out to potential buyers, the majority of whom are DIY enthusiasts.

Use Inbound Links

Regardless of where you advertise you need to give potential buyers a specific reason to spend money with you versus your competitor. Have a compelling headline that causes them to want to read your material to begin with and make sure your offer motivates people to buy. Use keyword variations in your product descriptions and, most importantly, relevant inbound links to optimize search-engine placement.

“If you sell auto parts, have inbound links coming from other auto parts centers, manufacturers and enthusiast clubs,” Offenberger says. “When somebody links from one website into yours, they are sending traffic to you so you better have reasons for them to do that. You need to have good content so unique that no one else has it or you update regularly so you’re an authority on what it is you’re talking about. The more you update your content the better. To get others to link into your website, start with a polite e-mail describing what you do and why it would be beneficial for them.”

Seller Quality

Besides price, seller quality is a major factor that can help set you apart from the competition. A feedback system where buyers can rate you after each transaction is extremely helpful. If buyers see that you have had many transactions and a feedback rating of 99%, it gives them the comfort to buy with you rather than someone else who may have a cheaper price but a lower feedback rating. Ratings are driven by factors such as customer service quality and shipping speed.

“Even if you’re not selling online, let people know you are a trusted source by including in your advertising user reviews, how you ship your product and return policy information. Put yourself in the place of the customer by thinking of questions you may have before you decide to open your wallet and trust a particular retailer,” Offenberger says.

A common mistake made by online retailers is they will take the manufacturer’s product description and use it verbatim, Offenberger points out. If 500 different online outlets carry a product and they all tell the potential buyer the same thing, there’s nothing to differentiate you from the rest of the pack, so elaborate.