The online market—especially the automotive online market—is different than the one in your brick and mortar dealership. Although there are certainly some similarities, you’ll lose sales if you treat an online customer exactly the same as someone who walks through your front door.
Online shoppers have different wants and needs that the customers you’re used to dealing with at your dealership. There’s a reason they’re shopping online rather than in-store, after all.
Once you’re tuned into these key differences, you can cater to their desires, foster brand loyalty, and increase revenue. So let’s get started!
1. They expect good customer service.
Customer service shouldn’t be anything “special”… after all, it’s just common courtesy to treat a fellow human being with respect.
A lot of dealerships will ignore phone calls or wait days before answering emails from online shoppers. Would you ignore a customer at the parts counter for hours before answering their question?
Be kind to your online customers, just like you are to the ones at the counter. Just because you can’t see them face-to-face doesn’t mean an online shopper is worth less.
You don’t have to reply to emails the very minute they enter your inbox. Online customers know that email is slower than a face-to-face conversation. But you should make an honest attempt to answer all inquiries within 1 business day.
At the same time… the faster you reply to questions, the more likely it is that YOU’LL get the sale. If you make an online shopper wait too long, they’ll probably take their question to one of your online parts competitors.
2. They don’t like paying for shipping.
Shipping costs are one of those necessary evils when it comes to selling online. Online shoppers know that not everyone can offer free shipping like Amazon does, but that doesn’t mean they like it.
Online part & accessory shoppers know that when it comes to auto parts, free shipping is rare. Parts are often heavy, oversized, odd-shaped… it raises the cost.
You DON’T have to offer free shipping on your parts website. But it’s a powerful coupon you can offer customers to increase sales.
Try one of these promotions:
- Free shipping on any order over $150
- 50% off shipping during a holiday sale
3. They like a good sale.
Who doesn’t like getting things at a discount?
Jump on any excuse you can find to discount your parts and accessories. Holidays, seasons, and random flash-sales are all free game.
What type of coupon is best? That depends.
Free or discounted shipping is always a great go-to option. Another choice is to offer a straight discount, like 10% off or $10 off an order of $50 or more.
You can also make the discount specific to whatever your sale is. For example, if you’re running a “winter sales” promotion, try making all winter parts and accessories 15% off (while the rest of your inventory stays at normal price).
Here are ways to promote:
1. Online shoppers are willing to wait for a better price.
Online parts shoppers are savvy enough to know how to find the best price. They’re willing to wait for it, too!
According to UPS’s “What’s Driving the Automotive Parts Online Shopper” study, 83% of customers compare prices before making a purchase. Price matters. They’re also savvy enough to compare different online prices with only a few clicks of their mouse, so you need to be competitive with your pricing.
These parts customers are shopping online for price and convenience, not necessarily speed. Rather than drive to their local dealership to buy right away, these customers are willing to wait a week or more for their purchase to arrive. (And they’re willing to wait even longer if it means free shipping!)
2. They expect a quality online experience.
Online shoppers have been on the internet for long enough to have standards.
Specifically, they want a clean, easy-to-navigate website. They want an easy and accurate way to find the parts that fit their vehicle. They want a responsive website that’s easy to use on mobile phones and tablets.
And if they get frustrated by the design of your parts eCommerce store, they’ll buy from somewhere else.
Website design is usually out of your hands as a Parts Manager, so make sure your parts eCommerce provider can offer all the following:
- A professional, visually appealing website that is easy to navigate and understand
- Multiple ways to search and VIN-decoding capability
- A straightforward checkout process, with real-time calculated tax and shipping cost
- Responsive/mobile-friendly website design
3. They’re more willing to research before purchasing.
We’ve already mentioned how important comparison shopping is to online buyers. These customers are willing to wait for the sake of a lower price, but they don’t want to wait a week for the wrong part to arrive. They want to get it right the first time.
Online automotive shoppers are typically the type that knows what they want. That is, they’re somewhat familiar with the car market and they know which piece they’re looking for.
Only 27% of online automotive shoppers claimed to have returned an item bought online, compared to 62% of general online shoppers. (Source: UPS’s “What’s Driving the Automotive Parts Online Shopper”)
The stats make it clear: These shoppers do their research. They know how complicated fitment can be, and they want to get it right.
This makes buyer confidence a top priority. Help them find the right part and ease their fears about getting something wrong.
Improve buyer confidence by…
a.) Encouraging online reviews and testimonials
Online reviews and testimonials can be especially helpful (or damaging!) to your store’s success.
On a marketplace like eBay Motors, it’s easy for customers to share their experience buying from you. Good reviews are invaluable, and bad reviews won’t be ignored. These customers will read through other people’s experiences to get an idea of whether or not they want to buy from you.
You can also get testimonials to your store’s Facebook page or directly on your parts website (At least, for RevolutionParts customers! We have a built-in testimonial feature for your webstore).
b.) Creating a solid return policy
Online customers are also more likely to research your return policy before making a purchase.
Make sure any return policy or warranty information is easy to find so you can save them some trouble and get on their good side right away. Customers don’t appreciate when you try to hide important information.
While you’re at it, create good shipping and cancellation policies, too! Be upfront about your policies and use them to protect yourself (and your customer!).
Here are some resources:
- How to Set Up your Return Policy and Reduce Returns
- The 3-Point Guide to Creating the Perfect Shipping Policy
- 6 Mistakes with Handling Returns that are Eating into your Profit Margins
c.) Making contact information easily accessible
When a customer isn’t sure about which part they need, they might ask for help. And if you want them to buy their parts from you, it’s in your best interests to offer that help.
Including contact information will help your dealership twofold. It not only encourages customers to buy, but also reduces returns. A parts professional like you can take the guesswork out of shopping for parts & accessories and ensure your customer buys the right part the first time.
Many dealerships hesitate to share a phone number or email address with their online shoppers. They’re either afraid of being overwhelmed with calls and emails, or they’re worried that local customers will find the parts website and be upset about the lower online prices. (Read this article to learn why this isn’t something to be concerned about!)
At the end of the day, a customer is a customer. You still need to offer the best service possible, and make the shopping experience as easy and painless as possible. But a few key differences in the online part shopping world can make a big difference in building up loyalty online.