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Investing In IT For Automotive Aftermarket eTailing Success

Etailing is the automotive aftermarket’s fastest-growing retail sales channel and the industry is witnessing explosive growth in this sector. Investing in the IT necessary to support a robust online product line offering is essential for etailing in the automotive aftermarket, which currently accounts for $6 billion yearly in parts sales. The volume of those transactions is expected to double in a mere three years. By some estimates, etailing will comprise 10 percent of the total aftermarket by 2020.

Opening up your inventory via technology to the public has many advantages. Etailing reduces inventory costs because obsolescent or slow-moving parts that used to sit on shelves can be bought by consumers across the country, giving aftermarket parts distributors access to customers they’ve never had. It can also be a way to quickly move inventory by targeting the price of online competitors.

Where once customers were brand conscious and visited their favorite parts retailer at a bricks-and-mortar location, they are now more apt to expect immediate access to a broad array of products, no matter where they’re purchased. Retailers and warehouses wishing to enter etailing must make investments in IT infrastructure and technology to compete with the industry’s already-established pure-play etailers. These etailers succeed through highly SEO-enabled websites that focus more on the customer experience than attention to brand loyalty.

The migration of internet users from desktop and laptop computers to handheld devices necessitates building an etailing website that is fully accessible via a mobile phone. A modern etailing site also requires robust defenses against cyber attack, including measures against data theft, both from inside and outside the organization. Only through thoughtful and prudent investment in IT can these goals be achieved. Partnering with a third-party vendor often is the most efficient and cost-effective way to problem-solve and go to market.

Retailers and program groups looking to delve into etailing can partner with a third party logistics provider to guide them through not only the direct investment of IT infrastructure but also choosing tools that work with their existing systems. A successful etailing business requires comprehensive electronic catalog integration and a checkout that calculates necessary taxes and shipping costs. While etailing is currently utilized because of lower prices and the ability to compare prices online, the value in the future for buyers will be in customized fulfillment and faster shipping.

With the growth of telematics, retailers should think ahead to the connected car, which will offer customers proximity-based offers on products that go straight to the vehicle. In addition, the use of predictive analytics will shift the distribution of parts from diagnosis of vehicle issues to prediction of future repairs. Rapid expansion in the number of automotive parts that self-report failure to repair shops and parts stores simultaneously will occur, allowing for sufficient replenishment lead time and better sales forecasting. Even absent self-reporting parts, aftermarket distributors can gauge customer needs and buying habits, which can strengthen customer loyalty through the use of predictive analytics. Automotive aftermarket parts distributors and stores must tie their technology to their partner professional repair shops in order to capitalize on these advances in telematics.

With so many things, such a price, being equal among automotive aftermarket parts retailers and distributors these days, service will set the most successful businesses apart from the rest. So, too, will opening your inventory to an audience your business has never before served. A robust and user-friendly website, comprehensive catalog and a seamless buying experience are an integral part of serving these new customers. Finally, tapping into the ability of automobiles to tell your business when it needs repair parts is an incredibly powerful and transformational technology.

Just as your customers come to your business because of your company’s expertise, you should seek out third party vendor partners who are experts in their field to help fuel your future growth.

From figuring it out to getting it done. UPS is here to help. See how at ups.com/aftermarket.

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