The coronavirus crisis is pushing more and more automotive parts and vehicle sales online, which, according to the annual 2020 Automotive eCommerce Report, is now a whopping $14.6 billion-a-year business.
Brands such as Tesla have long been pioneers of online-only sales, while Volvo’s Polestar models are not available in showrooms and can only be ordered online.
Automotive marketplaces such as Carvana are boasting that their sales are up anywhere from 20 to 30% this year alone.
Moreover, these changes aren’t limited to the North American continent. In China, 58.9% of consumers obtain information through manufacturer websites, while 48.1% depend on automotive eCommerce solutions as their go-to channel.
With statistics like these, eCommerce is well-positioned to dominate promotion and selling channels in the automotive industry.
As the world continues to adjust to the post-pandemic environment, the automotive eCommerce market represents significant sales opportunities for mid to enterprise manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and online sellers.
What Does the Future Hold for Automotive eCommerce?
The automotive B2C and B2B eCommerce space has seen significant changes recently. Google, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Amazon are hubs for automotive queries, comparisons, and advice.
More than ever, millennials and younger auto enthusiasts are willing to share content about vehicles with others and depend on social media and destination sites to do so.
What’s more, this demographic, if not already, will soon account for the majority of the automotive market.
What About B2B eCommerce for Automotive Parts Suppliers?
The automotive industry has been slow to adopt customer experience trends seen elsewhere. Just like any consumer product, buyers want to purchase automotive parts quickly and easily.
Unfortunately, making sense of compatibility between parts, supplies, lubricants, or electronics remains a frustrating process for many customers.
With the help of an automotive B2B eCommerce platform, auto parts suppliers can adopt modern sales and marketplace elements that grow their sales and business.
Grow sales and reach
The automotive market is one of the largest and most competitive ones out there. A move online is an excellent opportunity to grow market share and capture web and mobile traffic.
While online still represents a small percentage of sales, auto parts consumers might look to minimize physical interactions due to the pandemic.
Digital commerce tools help auto parts sellers make the most of their digital footprint – some even support multiple brands, sites, and personalized experiences with different languages and currencies.
Additionally, the right eCommerce software won’t limit you to your local audience. You’ll be able to sell across time zones and countries, all while offering an optimal experience to the audience you are targeting.
Boost the customer experience
In-person auto parts buyers can examine their products and communicate with a sales representative.
Online customers do not have that luxury, so they require the right product information, from fitment data to detailed documentation and installation instructions.
They also need to check the status of their orders and easily manage their payment and shipping preferences.
Your eCommerce solution must be customizable and personalized to the customer. Consider self-service features that allow customers to view personalized catalogs with prices, as well as view and modify orders.
Look for integrations with tools such as your CRM, negotiation automation, and personalized ordering. When you make these processes easier without forcing the customer to contact you, they will come back and purchase more.
Make the most of your data
Auto parts sellers rely on many different data standardization systems to streamline operations, supply chain connections, and business processes.
While the industry recommends using ACES and PIES (aftermarket catalog exchange standard and product information exchange standard, respectively) data standardization methods, they’re not always used correctly.
Furthermore, different automotive manufacturers, suppliers, and brands can have their own naming conventions, further complicating things.
Your eCommerce solution must have strong integration capabilities, not only with PIM systems for streamlined data management but also with your ERP, CRM, WHM, and others.
There are many advantages to centralizing eCommerce data, and one of the biggest ones is back-office efficiency.
Employees have more visibility and transparency into the supply chains and can pinpoint inventory issues, design flaws, logistics inefficiencies, or uncover new opportunities.
Improve team productivity
A typical automotive eCommerce business isn’t just managers and sales representatives. Mid-to-large auto parts suppliers must also deal with accounting, finance, order fulfillment, distribution, and fulfillment.
What’s more, typical automotive catalogs can include thousands to millions of SKUs spread across multiple systems and warehouses, so making sure everything runs smoothly can be a challenge.
Fortunately, B2B eCommerce solutions allow back-office workers to work more effectively by cutting down manual order checks and data entry tasks.
By delegating them to workflow engines and powerful self-service portals, time-consuming tasks become a thing of the past. Instead, employees can focus on engaging with customers and growing the business.
What Automotive B2B eCommerce Features You Should Look For?
While most automotive executives have been slow in enacting digital change, they realize that they must reinvent their organizations with digital technologies in order to survive.
Consequently, B2B eCommerce channels have become a key investment for automotive businesses, as they optimize distribution efficiency, increase inventory transparency, and make it easy to expand to new markets.
However, choosing the right eCommerce platform made for automotive needs isn’t a quick or easy process. The important thing is not to lose track of your requirements. Here some features and capabilities you might want to consider:
Customer experience features
Just as customers visiting your physical location, online visitors expect to find what they came for.
The difference is, their online attention span is shorter, and they expect intuitive digital experiences, whether on mobile, desktop, or tablet.
Pay attention to platforms with responsive storefronts and easy searching, navigation, and quick load speeds.
Multi-site and localization features
Your eCommerce site visitors can originate from anywhere in the world. If your business can fulfill orders on a national or even global level while maintaining superb customer experiences, it will be easy to expand to new markets.
Look for flexible solutions to operate with B2C, B2B, B2B2C, D2C, or even hybrid or marketplace selling models.
Pricing and personalization features
In B2B eCommerce, businesses all have their own pricing, invoicing, and payment requirements. Personalized pricing and checkouts minimize friction that leads to churn.
Moreover, some customers may require individual access permissions and approval processes. Digital commerce solutions that accommodate diverse customer types helps businesses attract and retain more of them.
Performance and customization
Automotive sellers tend to carry large product catalogs with complex configurations.
Not only your eCommerce platform must be robust enough to sustain high traffic loads; it must also operate smoothly and reliably as you grow and scale your SKU count.
Manufacturers, distributors, or suppliers depend on a tech stack that powers a unique set of processes.
They might need to integrate with OEMs, parts databases, or third-party systems. Make sure your eCommerce system integrates with CRMs, ERPs, PIMs, and so on.
Example Automotive eCommerce Website
As a paint and auto body supplier, PBE Jobbers frequently deals with distributors, wholesalers, and B2C retailers. For PBE, the customer experience has always been a priority since its founding in 1976.
With customers across the central and eastern United States, they needed a digital commerce solution to help deliver that promise.
OroCommerce’s B2B eCommerce platform comes built-in with a flexible, enterprise-grade CRM, and PBE leveraged it for better customer experiences.
Integration with their ERP system helps drive accurate inventory information to the customer, while the platform’s flexibility allows them to sell B2B and B2B2C in parallel through a responsive storefront.
Digital Commerce for Automotive Is Here to Stay
As the average age of cars in the United States creeps upward, demand for automobile parts will only increase in the coming years.
The competition will increase, and automotive businesses will need to take their online marketing efforts, customer experience, and back-office efficiency seriously.
While major players dominate the automotive industry, small companies can differentiate themselves on the customer experience, carrying specialized parts, or value-added services such as fast shipping.
In all these cases, digital commerce helps automotive businesses amplify their unique value proposition.
With enough research and perseverance, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll find the right eCommerce solution that gets your automotive business ready for the future.