Famous Rhodes, YEN Member Insights, July 2010

Famous Rhodes, SEMA YEN Member of the Month, July 2010

Famous Rhodes on…Bringing the Aftermarket Online

Famous Rhodes, 35 Years old
Director, eBay Motors; YEN Member

At 35, Famous Rhodes has built his career on bringing the Internet to the automotive market, having held executive roles at two automotive lead-generation companies prior to joining eBay Motors.

How has the Internet changed the way the aftermarket does business?

The Internet is providing information and transparency to the aftermarket industry. This story has played out in the automotive vehicles business seven years ago as content, pricing and comparison data surfaced on the Internet. More than 85% of all consumers now start their vehicle purchase online leveraging the wealth of content available to inform their decision. The Internet is already playing an influential role in the aftermarket industry as more content and pricing information is beginning to populate the Internet. We’re seeing tremendous growth in the aftermarket, as it is poised to double online sales in the next four years. Not only that, the Internet will influence more than 80% of all transactions offline and online as it will be the starting point for consumers.

Let’s talk about your personal experience. How did you end up working at eBay Motors?

Pure luck and great relationships. A former colleague, David Boyer, contacted me from a prior deal we worked on while I was at Car.com and he at CCCS. He was impressed with the manner I handled a business development deal with his company and thought I would be a perfect fit. I flew out to NADA to meet Rob Chesney, the former vice president of eBay Motors, and the rest is history. You never know where a referral will come from, so always create situations in life that are win-win for everyone. It could be an employee, colleague, client or friend that can refer you to a job opportunity of a lifetime.

eBay Motors is the largest automotive website in the United States. What is a normal day like there?

No day is the same at eBay Motors, which keeps me on my toes non-stop. The people and our sellers keep me motivated to do more and push the envelope for our customers. Every day we spend time with our buyers and sellers to better understand their needs. A day can consist of spending time with a seller better understanding the supply in the marketplace to reviewing usability studies on the behaviors of our customers on the site. eBay being a global marketplace means that anything from currency exchange rates to regional weather challenges could impact supply on the overall marketplace. Something a trivial as a snow blizzard in a region of the United States could delay inventory uploads, shipping time and impact the buyer experience for our millions of customers in the United States. You never know what will happen in the marketplace that will require action from the business unit.

Let’s say you are a successful player in the aftermarket, but you’re not marketing online yet. Where do you start?

I get this question all the time, and first I would ask you the question, “What do you want out of the Internet?” Every supply chain is different, so each role and need of a manufacturer, wholesaler, jobber or retailer is different. However, there are some basics in which everyone would agree. Product information is critical to have online today, as the Internet is influencing more and more of the purchase decision. This information needs to be rich in product-specific content, images, product reviews, videos and fitment. A manufacturer should make this information available to their supply chain to help them compete online. Resellers need to focus on share of voice on search engines, marketplaces and automotive-related sites. Just having your product in these channels is a great first step, but be aware that you need a site where a consumer can become informed, transact and see value. If you don’t have a site, leverage a marketplace to help kick-start your business.

Where do you see the next big opportunities online for the aftermarket?

Content, content, content is the next big opportunity. The aftermarket industry shadows the content available in more mature online verticals, such as consumer electronics and automotive vehicles. The content is available, but we as an industry need to find compelling ways to expose this information to consumers on the Internet. Installation content, product videos and user-generated product reviews are the most requested pieces of content requested from consumers. The industry is full of entrepreneurs meeting these needs from the consumers in compelling ways, and I am certain these same entrepreneurs will find the next series of innovation to enable eCommerce.