Over the past two decades, retail has changed dramatically with the rise of e-commerce. Compared to other sectors, the automotive industry has been slower to grow in online sales. The adoption of e-commerce strategies in the parts department has been even slower.
Traditionally, the parts department relied on customers walking through the door and into the service lane, or in some cases local repair shops and collision centers ordering parts for their customers. In the past, consumers looking for an OEM replacement part for their vehicle had to physically go to the dealership, and parts were searched through a physical or PC parts catalog.
As online presence became essential for businesses to thrive, dealerships created their own websites to better serve vehicle buyers and attract new ones, and later even added new tools to enable customers to book appointments online. However, the ability to browse parts and order online was rarely built into these sites. Even today, in 2022, the majority of dealerships do not offer consumers an online option to browse or purchase parts, with only a quarter of new car dealerships selling parts online.
Instead, most parts departments continue to rely on old ways of selling, including a parts form that online visitors can fill out to request information about a part. This form results in few conversions and is seen by consumers as inconvenient and inconvenient – even when they receive an actual dealer response.
Although only a fraction of dealerships sell online, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is where the industry is heading, with more dealerships adopting e-commerce strategies for parts.
COVID-19 reinforces the importance of e-commerce parts
While the shift in selling online wasn’t apparent until 2020, it quickly became a central strategy for many franchised new car dealerships when COVID-19 hit and the world began to shut down. In the United States, businesses across the country have shut down and consumers have gone into lockdown. Even in states where stay-at-home orders have not been enacted and areas have not closed, dealerships have still seen a sharp drop in business.
Many dealers have found relief in their online parts business to combat this sharp drop in business. During the shutdown, many people use the time to repair their own vehicles or start new projects. This has led to an increase in the demand for auto parts.
According to a 2020 e-commerce report from RevolutionParts, dealerships selling parts online have actually seen a 27% increase in the sale of parts online, despite the economic difficulties.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping by more and more people. As restrictions have been lifted and people have started to get back to normal, one habit most people are clinging to is online shopping. In 2022, more than 230 people in the United States made purchases online. In the automotive industry, the shift to online shopping has been drastic. Prior to 2020, only 32% of consumers felt open to buying a vehicle online, but that number has since increased to 61%.
The impact of e-commerce parts not only impacts parts sold online, it also affects those sold over the counter. According to Hedges & Company, whether a consumer buys online or in-store, 74% of all parts purchases start with an online search. This means people don’t just buy a part online, but research where they can get the best price, who has the part in stock, and how quickly they can get it. If a dealership doesn’t have a way for consumers to perform this search, the likelihood of being ignored is high.
New opportunities for franchised car dealerships and manufacturers
The challenges that dealers began to face in 2020 are far from over, as we now face the fallout from the pandemic and global supply chain issues that have threatened the sourcing and production of new motor vehicles and parts. However, just as dealerships were able to navigate the challenges of the pandemic in 2020, dealerships that sell parts online are now using these same strategies to mitigate the impact of the damaged supply chain.
Building an online parts business allows individual dealerships to expand their customer base and reach parts buyers across the country and abroad. This means that total dependence on the local market has been eliminated, as new sources of online revenue have been established, including the sale of parts through the dealer’s website, an online parts store or through an online marketplace such as Amazon or eBay. Additionally, dealers can address issues of obsolescence or aging inventory by listing parts where they can be sought by buyers who need them.
Manufacturers have also realized the major opportunity that e-commerce represents and often offer sponsored solutions to allow dealers to sell their OEM parts online through official parts e-commerce programs. Dealers and manufacturers know they cannot compete in the aftermarket through traditional methods alone. If they don’t add their products to the online marketplace, consumers will lose the opportunity to buy their higher quality products and they will miss out on sales that will go directly to aftermarket suppliers and resellers.
With the average age of vehicles continuing to increase each year and the lack of availability of many new vehicle models, owners are looking to purchase parts to maintain their vehicles longer and many are even upgrading vehicles. older. Offering parts and accessories online and over the counter. offers dealerships a multi-channel strategy commonly used across industries to attract new customers and tap into that growing segment of second, third or fourth vehicle owners who would otherwise buy in the aftermarket.
The online aftermarket is also growing every year, providing new growth opportunities for dealers and franchise manufacturers. Most consumers today integrate a hybrid form of online and offline shopping habits, which means that the method of selling products strictly at the counter is obsolete and will prevent