Do Your Parts Really Exist?

Feb 11, 2014 | | 15419 |

Do Your Parts Really Exist?

By Kyle McKee, PartsVoice, and Anthony Navarra, Cobalt

Originally published in Fixed Ops Magazine January/February 2014 Edition

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, eBay, Amazon, iTunes … none of these existed 20 years ago. Today, they’re seemingly critical to the lives of every Gen Y’er and Millennial in America. Last week, when I was taking away my teenage daughter’s iPad for the weekend—so that she could experience the real world—she told me, “but if I’m not online, it will be like I don’t exist!”

Like it or not, all of our lives are becoming more and more interwoven with the world of the Web. The habits of today’s consumers are intricately tied to the digital world—with more online car shopping, more customers scheduling service appointments online, and so on, every year.

So, what about your parts department? How is the digital age affecting how your customers shop for parts? I’m afraid we need to take a lesson from my teenager: If your parts aren't online, it’s like they don’t exist!

The old axiom of retail is “You can’t sell it if it’s sitting in the back room.” Today’s version is “You can’t sell it if it’s not online.”

Dealers have long understood the need to market their new and used vehicles online. However, too many times, fixed operations have been left in the dust—and the parts department is no exception.

From the dealers we have worked with, we have learned the potential for dealership growth in fixed operations is exceptional. But, as dealers embrace the Internet to grow other departments, they’re not doing it in fixed operations.

Unfortunately, over the last few years the franchise dealerships’ share of service dollars being spent has continued to decline, while independent shops continue to grow.1 We think some of this is because most IRFs have a stronger online presence than most franchise car dealerships when it comes to fixed operations. If you are not convinced, just look at the websites of any of the big box parts and repair chains (Pep Boys, NAPA, Midas, etc.) or even some of the websites of your local IRF competitors. Generally, you can search for parts, get an estimate, make an appointment, and make contact quickly and easily online.

How many of those tasks can your potential customers do on your website?

Convincing your dealer to bring your parts Web pages up to the level of your new or used car pages may seem like a daunting task and more of a long-term goal than a quick fix. We’ve put together a list of 10 things you can do now.

Here are the top 10 ways to market your parts in a digital world:

1. Get engaged online

  • Find automotive blogs and post a comment or an article. If you post on someone else’s blog, they will likely post on yours. If you give them feedback, they will give you feedback. These sites and communities appreciate helpful information. This is an effective way to get your message out online.
  • Share your message via social media channels by posting articles and tweeting messages about your parts department offerings.

2. Early or late, just adapt

  • The days of shunning technology are over. If you are not jumping in with both feet, at least put a toe in the water. You could be missing out on great opportunities to increase your sales. Read a trade publication, stay current on trending technology, and take hints and advice from your online community (that you already established in #1.)

3. Use digital solutions to expand your sales

  • Consider selling on eBay or other online marketplaces. There are several ways to sell parts that don’t involve customers physically coming to your parts counter. Go digital to expand beyond your current market.
  • Use email marketing to remind your customer base that they can rely upon you to provide them with the parts they need.

4. Consider a paid search campaign.

  • Running a paid search campaign, such as Google AdWords, puts your parts in front of more customers. When they are searching for parts online (and they most certainly are!), you will be on the page and have an opportunity to grab those sales.
  • Change your paid search campaigns with the seasons, offer compelling messages, and go after conquest business.

5. Get on the home page

  • The home page of your dealership’s website is not just for vehicle sales anymore. Make certain that fixed operations, including the parts department, is well represented, and remember to stay “above the scroll”!
  • Your virtual front door (your parts department Web pages) should include these elements: Description of parts and accessories Educational documents Why Buy messaging What the customer can expect from your dealership Hours and directions Contact numbers and email Dealership-specific offers as well as OEM offers Tell your customers you have tires … and will price match (if applicable) Consider live chat for customer inquiries Create a parts menu to showcase popular parts with availability and pricing

6. Sell obsolete parts online

  • Give your stale parts their own page on your website. List the parts with the part number and a description. Include pictures and have a pricing strategy to move them off your shelves.
  • Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices to help ensure your page is at the top of the search results when consumers are searching for needed parts.
  • Consider using a provider that specializes in selling obsolete inventory. This will allow you to get all the available dollars out of your aged inventory and reinvest them in your new digital efforts, like new webpages or a paid search campaign.

7. Get smart about shipping

  • Selling more online likely means shipping more, so get familiar with online shipping tools. There are websites that will help you check pricing and keep it all organized, once your parts are on their way.
  • Work with your website vendor to offer “real-time” shipping integration with trusted companies, such as UPS, FedEx or USPS.
  • Consider free shipping for promotions or special offers to help move items that have been around too long.

8. Get mobile

  • Smart phones don’t just facilitate phone calls, they facilitate sales! If you really want to ramp up sales, you need a solution that can deliver your products to the clients that don’t just buy online, but buy on their phone. Look for an online selling solution that offers a shopping app available for download by customers. Make it easy for your customers to buy from you!

9. Use video

  • Create a YouTube account for the parts department or use the dealership’s YouTube channel, if one is already established.
  • Create and post videos on why OEM parts are preferred, or why it is important to change cabin air filters, wiper blades and spark plugs. Upload and showcase videos of your dealership, your people and your “Why Buy” messaging.
  • Focus on your advantages. Anyone can try and beat you on price … but that is only one attribute. Focus on your unique attributes, like convenience, factory spec parts, warranties, offering a fully trained staff, service with the sale, and overall value.

10. Be an SOB!

  • That is, be a Student of the Business—the digital business. Work with your digital vendors to find someone that is willing to help you learn. Get involved and keep up to date on the latest news, updates or tips.

In nearly all of our 10 steps is the need to focus on your strengths. What makes you the best choice? What do you have to offer?

With the average age of automobiles on U.S. roads over 11 years (according to RL Polk), now is the best time to ensure that consumers find your parts department.

Having an online presence is the key to moving more parts in today’s fast-paced, virtual society. So you have to ask yourself one question: If a part sits on your shelf and it isn't listed online, will it ever be found?

Your parts really do exist! Get them, and your department, online!

 

Learn the Latest in Parts Inventory Management

Authors: 
Kyle McKee, PartsVoice, and Anthony Navarra, Cobalt

Comments