eCommerce Insiders

Best eCommerce Websites: AutoParts Warehouse Dominates A Growth Market

In a recent study of 50,000 customers, ecommerce platform BigCommerce ranked “automotive parts” online retailers as being ‘in high gear’, with 89% revenue growth amongst BigCommerce vendors, much higher than the more established giants who averaged a still-very-reasonable 22% revenue growth in the past year.

We have a look at one of the best eCommerce websites in the automotive parts sector – AutoParts Warehouse – which was recently given a 4-star rating by the Top Consumer Reviews website.

Who can learn from the AutoParts Warehouse model?

  • Existing online retailers offering a wide product range and appealing to a DIY consumer market
  • New online retailers looking to replicate successful approaches in emerging retail growth industries
  • Existing auto parts suppliers who want to ensure they remain competitive in a strong retail market.

Branding and PR

1. Use your header wisely

AutoParts Warehouse has perfected the art of the website banner. Without looking at any other part of the home page, you can navigate directly to wherever you want, contact whoever you need to, and be reminded of the bonafides of this retailer all from the site banner. In that one narrow strip they have managed to include:

  • Logo
  • Shipping details and shipping trust signals
  • Link to their blog
  • Search bar
  • Option to search by product category
  • Account login and details of current shopping cart
  • Phone contacts.

How this is useful

  • Do a spot-audit of your website. How quickly can a new visitor get to where they want to go? How much of your home or landing page do your visitors need to wade through before they can head directly to wherever they really want to go (and hopefully that will be to a product sales page)?
  • Remember to think about site performance load times and responsive design: create a banner so that visitors can be funneled to where they want to go without having to wait for more information to load or to scroll down on mobile device screens.

Product Range

2. Use SEO techniques to scoop up the full product range

AutoParts Warehouse has cleverly gone for a slightly boring yet extremely optimized homepage approach, with a laundry list of product names to match frequently searched terms.

As a result, they can be sure of getting a high SEO ranking for any searches. We checked with Volkswagen parts and found AutoParts Warehouse listed in the top 3 search results:

No doubt this is in part due to keyword optimized product and category pages, but that, in turn, stems from a home page that lists almost every product-related keyword grouping they will need. By cleverly using a tabbed interface and placing this boring word list ‘below the fold’, Auto Parts Warehouse has magically listed all its major keywords without detracting from the visitor’s experience on the site. As auto parts online retail increases in competitiveness, maintaining SEO advantage will be crucial. As an added bonus, keyword optimization also helps make search marketing strategies more successful.

How this is helpful

  • If you offer a very specific – but wide – product range as is the case with car parts (for example, auto parts can be searched by automotive brand, car model, category of part, or part number), continually work to optimize your whole site for product keywords. Work from the home page down through category and individual product pages. If possible, use a strategy like Autoparts Warehouse by listing all major product search approaches (a similar strategy was used by Cherrybrook to dominate their niche).
  • Use layout features like tabbed sections so that laundry lists of keywords remain hidden from visitors while still carrying keyword weight of being placed on the page.

eCommerce Platform

3. Know your market

Industry analysts IBISWorld believe the online auto parts accessories market has a global annual growth of 11.1% at present. As new car purchases are slowing down, consumers are turning to do-it-yourself (DIY) maintenance by sourcing replacement parts online. IBISWorld believes this trend will continue to grow in the next five years.

Another industry analyst, Frost and Sullivan, expect revenue amongst online autoparts retailers to reach $16.56 billion by 2020 in the US alone.

eCommerce platform Bigcommerce has singled out the online autoparts retail sector as one of the fastest growing amongst their customer network. They even have an autoparts sales template that new online retailers can use to get a store up and running quickly.

How this is useful

  • Do some industry research to better understand the potential for growth in specific retail markets. There is a heap of great research you can scan without having to fork out the detailed paid industry reports (but if you are serious about being competitive in a specific sector, you may want to read the detailed research from these analysts further down the track). IBISWorld, Juniper Research, Gartner, Experian Hitwise, eMarketer, and others offer research summaries of specific online retail niches to help you decide which sector to focus on in your online business.
  • Ask your eCommerce platform for help. Sites like Bigcommerce often blog about what works in specific retail sectors or share data on which sectors are the most profitable for online sales.

Customer Experience

4. Reinforce the lifestyle around your customer’s buying decision

AutoParts Warehouse at its core is targeting do-it-yourselfers. The whole idea is to make it easy for shoppers to buy the parts they need and get them shipped quickly. This lets shoppers install the items in their car themselves. AutoParts offers access to a library of resources via a key link prominently displayed on the home page.

How this is useful

  • If you are working with a DIY audience, make sure you have easy links to online guides and resources. You don’t necessarily need to produce all of these yourself: consider linking to youtube videos, free online courses, and expert bloggers in your industry sector.
  • Know your audience and think through how they will use the product in their life, and create content accordingly. For example, BaubleBar do this by showing photos of how women wear their jewelry in every day life. AutoParts Warehouse does it by providing the DIY manuals and the self-repair guides needed to actually install the auto parts that their customers are buying.

5. Offer a personal touch

AutoParts Warehouse offers – and prominently displays – personal contact via telephone services and online chat. This is ideal for a DIY market segment who may want to clarify specific information about a product before they buy it. Remember, this is an audience that will want to get the part quickly and install it themselves.

How this is useful

  • While offering chat or phone service support may be more specific to the AutoParts Warehouse audience than some other customer segments, there are still a lot of newer online shoppers who need a bit more of a trust sign than a few approval banners on your website. Some shoppers still remain hesitant about buying online until they speak to a living, breathing human. Consider offering some sort of real time, human connection on your website: an online chat client or a phone access line to confirm sales opportunities could be the trigger for new shoppers to sign up and start buying.

6. Make delivery as easy and as convenient as possible

AutoParts Warehouse offers multiple delivery options, including international shipping and local pickups. In a DIY industry like auto repair, shoppers want a sense that they can get to work immediately, but this can be true for a wide variety of retail niches: cooking, home crafts, office and school supplies. All of these niches have customers who will be excited to start using their purchases as soon as they receive them.

In a similar fashion, AutoParts Warehouse also appreciates that while they offer parts of self-repair, in many cases, their shoppers may take those parts to a local installer to fit. This provides AutoParts Warehouse with a wider network of partners: they can ship parts direct to these installation repairers and even create mutually beneficial relationships where they can suggest local repairers for shoppers looking for hands-on assistance.

How this is useful

  • Consider partnering with a range of delivery suppliers and local outlets to ensure easy delivery or pick up of your products. Use your online data to identify any trends in where your customers are based and consider trying to partner with a local outlet (not in direction competition with you) that could possibly act as a pickup point for shoppers who want to buy online from you and get faster access to some of your inventory.

Will You Be Ranked One of the Best eCommerce Websites of Tomorrow?

AutoParts Warehouse has positioned itself to be one of the strongest online retailers in a growing online niche market. With some research into where trends are heading, a deep consideration of how your shoppers incorporate your products into their life, and a continued focus on key online website components like search optimization, you can replicate the AutoParts Warehouse model for your chosen industry sector or market.

Mark Boyd is a freelance writer based in Barcelona, focusing on the ways we use technology to connect and interact. He writes regularly for Programmable Web

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