Those selling auto parts online have probably already noticed the increasing challenge of having to keep up with today’s eCommerce market. It’s important to keep in mind that the automotive eCommerce market is undergoing considerable technological innovations and customer expectations. These changes have a significant influence on those operating in the automotive aftermarket industry who sell their products.
With the automotive aftermarket being valued at around $400 billion, it’s pretty safe to say that the industry is going strong. This is despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a big negative impact on the auto industry. But the aftermarket sector has actually profited from the pandemic, particularly online. When it comes to eCommerce, selling auto parts online is probably the most unique. The main reason for this is that the automotive aftermarket needs to be backed up by fitment data in the form of year, make, and model of the vehicle, as well as the submodel, trim, engine, and other such product information.
With the average car part being compatible with at least a dozen different vehicles, the compatibility (fitment) information needs to be accurate, clear, and complete to allow customers to find the components that will fit their own vehicles. This data will go beyond the actual brand and will cover most aftermarket products that are compatible with each North American vehicle. Auto part catalogs will help aftermarket manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers when they are selling their products online. This ultimate guide to auto parts catalogs will help those starting in the industry on how to create their websites, catalogs, warehouse products and put their brand over the competition.
What Are The Main eCommerce Platforms For Automotive Parts?
When it comes to eCommerce websites to host your auto parts catalogs, you should always keep in mind that not all of them are created equal. Some of these eCommerce platforms will cater to specific industries, while others have entire sections dedicated specifically to automotive sales. You will need to focus on the platforms that will perform best in terms of loading quickly to ensure that customer experience is kept at the highest possible levels. The last thing you would want is a platform that takes too long to load. The ideal load time of a website is between one and two seconds. Mobile pages that take three seconds to load will experience a 53% abandonment. A 2-second delay or loading times of 4 seconds and more will experience abandonment rates of up to 87%.
In addition, the platforms will also need to accommodate all of your data, such as quality images and product descriptions. And since selling auto parts online requires fitment data, these automotive eCommerce websites allow you to update listings and fitment data in bulk. Lastly, these platforms should also be well-known within the automotive aftermarket online community, as it will provide you with the necessary exposure to new customers. That said, below are some of the best-known auto parts eCommerce platforms worth building your products catalog on.
Amazon is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the largest eCommerce websites in the world. It manages to attract over 183 million visitors every month; it’s a leader when it comes to buying and selling auto parts and accessories online. By making use of the Amazon Part Finder, users can immediately identify millions of parts across its inventory. This technology has definitely helped improve customer experience by greatly streamlining the auto part discovery process. In addition, Amazon will allow companies to provide accurate and complete fitment data to ensure that people will always find what they need.
The platform’s Automotive & Powersports product category is, however, gated. This means that it’s only available to Professional sellers, meaning that you will need Amazon’s approval before you can start selling auto parts and accessories. That being said, you will need to have a Professional selling plan with an account in good standing or your own independent auto parts eCommerce website that Amazon can examine and review.
The auto parts and accessories you intend to sell on Amazon will also have to be listed using the manufacturer’s Universal Product Code (UPC). This means that you will have to make sure that all of your products will comply with all local, state, federal, and international laws and regulations. Amazon will also require that the product images follow specific guidelines, such as white backgrounds, and not contain watermarks, insert images, or other such unauthorized content.
Another auto parts eCommerce giant in the automotive aftermarket industry is eBay. It has over 96 million unique monthly visitors and a dedicated online automotive marketplace known as eBay Motors. The platform also has its own management tools designed to help its sellers upload bulk product listings, manage their inventory and scale their business. eBay Motors also has services, features, and enhancements made to provide a personalized and innovative customer experience to both buyers and sellers on eBay. Among the most advanced eBay Motors functionalities is the large selection of automotive parts and accessories that are categorized based on specific vehicles, parts, and accessories.
The main advantage of selling auto parts on eBay is that it allows relatively easy listing based on fitment data through their standard listing interface. Selling on automotive aftermarket components on eBay is pretty seamless and not very different from most other eCommerce websites. However, the main difference is in the Parts Compatibility tool, which allows sellers to provide buyers with all the necessary information to determine whether or not a specific part or accessory will fit their vehicle.
While not as big as either Amazon or eBay, Walmart still has an enormous customer base, making it the third-largest retailer in the United States. Like the other two eCommerce platforms, Walmart also has a section dedicated to automotive parts and accessories. The biggest difference between Walmart and the other two is that, in order to sell on this platform, you will need to be an already established automotive aftermarket business that has its own auto parts website and/or brick-and-mortar store. This also means that you will need to have an already-established sales history on your own eCommerce website, eBay, or Amazon.
Once Walmart approves you as an auto parts seller, it will be pretty easy and straightforward to upload your products. You will be using its file upload feature to upload files and connect your own eCommerce site to Walmart’s marketplace API. When setting up your Walmart marketplace product feed, you will need to add various product attributes in the form of part numbers, product identifiers, SKU, model numbers, and more.
Your Own eCommerce Website
Whether or not you will be using any of the other three major eCommerce platforms mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to build your own. There are numerous benefits of having your own eCommerce website in addition to selling on Amazon, eBay Motors, and/or Walmart. For starters, the existence of such a website will provide you with much-needed brand awareness that’s necessary to build trust, awareness, and credibility as a legitimate organization.
When you choose the design of your website, make sure to remember that today’s customers are attracted to high-quality images, as well as the ability to zoom in and out. If it’s possible, you should also offer them the possibility of seeing the product from multiple angles. In addition, clear, complete, and comprehensive product descriptions are also a requirement.
By using fitment filters to optimize your automotive aftermarket catalog, you will make sure that your business will stay ahead of the competition. It’s also important to keep in mind that, while the aforementioned eCommerce platforms will provide you with some degree of fitment data capabilities, you are completely responsible for it on your own site.
Managing Your Auto Part Catalogs
Some auto parts business owners have the time, energy, and necessary know-how to manage this fitment data themselves. As mentioned, platforms like Amazon, eBay Motors, or Walmart will also sell you their compatibility catalogs or charge you a monthly fee to use their own. The problem with this is that if you have auto parts and components that are not included in those catalogs, you will still have to input the compatibility information by hand.
When it comes to managing their auto parts catalogs and adding fitment data, business owners have two options. Firstly, there are the so-called catalog fitments, where auto parts will be listed and matched based on already-existing entries in a catalog. This is the example provided above with Amazon and eBay’s compatibility catalogs. Through this method, all compatibility information will be automatically assigned to the correct auto parts. In the second method, users will have to override the data provided by the marketplace with their own fitment information.
This type of manual fitment integration will also be used whenever there is no available information in the catalog. Luckily, however, this is not a common occurrence as it only tends to happen with custom-made components or with those made by micro manufacturers that haven’t had their data added yet.
The Challenges of Auto Parts Catalogs
Probably the most challenging part of managing an auto part catalog is that it’s an ongoing task. It’s not something that you can do once and never touch again. By its very nature, fitment data is quite short-lived. Whenever new vehicle configurations are introduced on the market, which is quite often, the fitment data that’s attached to that configuration will also have to change. Similarly, any new research will affect the original equipment fitment patterns or when opening up new trading channels with partners.
When catalog listings are mapped to vehicle configurations that have been redefined or removed, the parts and components in those listings will appear as “invalid.” Therefore, whenever someone is interested in buying one of your components, they will not be able to come across it. This is what’s known as having “holes” in your auto parts catalog. These are mapping errors that will often cause businesses to miss out on numerous sales opportunities.
Regardless of whether you’ll be selling automotive aftermarket parts, original equipment replacement components, Powersports, marine, and agriculture components, you will need to have properly validated and mapped compatibility data in your auto parts catalog to ensure that everything is working properly. To increase your sales and maintain your edge over the competition, you will also need to ensure that customers will always be able to come across the car parts and components they are looking for. It’s pretty easy for people to change vendors at the slightest signs of inconvenience in today’s day and age.
Auto Parts Catalog Inaccuracies
Since any fitment database is an important business asset for any organization within the automotive aftermarket industry, it would stand to reason that everyone should try and do their best to always keep that information accurate and up-to-date. It’s very well-known by all those involved that vehicles are comprised of thousands of small parts and accessories. And keeping track of all of them, their manufacturers, as well as how they fit with each other is next to impossible. This will also make it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to manage on an ongoing basis.
To understand how businesses can better streamline their auto catalog management is to understand how fitment data actually works. Simply put, fitment information is compatibility data that provides all the details of car parts and accessories in regards to which vehicle configurations it will work. Fitment information is dictated by two data standards in the aftermarket industry. These are the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) and the Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES), which are maintained by the Auto Care Association (ACA).
The Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard is responsible for providing information such as the make, model, year, brand, submodel, engine, transmission, etc., of all vehicles in North America. The Product Information Exchange Standard, on the other hand, handles product information in the form of dimensions, prices, brand ID, product descriptions, marketing material, and more. When businesses use these two industry standards together, they will be able to match parts and accessories with the right vehicle configurations. In other words, people will first reference the ACES standard, looking to see whether a particular auto part will fit a specific vehicle. If it does, they will move to the PIES standard and determine if that component will be capable of fulfilling all of their needs and requirements.
That said, new vehicles and auto parts are being introduced on the market on a monthly basis. As such, both the ACES and PIES will need to be updated regularly by the Auto Care Association. For this reason, businesses operating in the aftermarket industry will also have to update their catalogs by constantly validating their fitment information. If businesses forget to validate their product and application data, inaccuracies will begin to appear in their catalogs. These inaccuracies will lead to invalid listings, which result in holes, that will, ultimately, affect the company’s bottom line.
Keep an Accurate Auto Parts Catalog
Automotive aftermarket businesses will need to turn to ACES and PIES software to solve the problem of manually controlling the accuracy of their fitment data. Luckily, Evokat Premier is one such third-party solution, perfectly capable of helping businesses keep their data accurate and complete. As a digital inventory management system, Evokat Premier will also eliminate the need to add new information to every inventory listing by hand. If needed, Evokat will also allow its users to import their listings in bulk, as well as import and export their entire inventory and ACES XML files.
Due to the tool’s user-friendly and intuitive mapping interface, you will also be able to receive instant feedback on all vehicle configurations. This will make sure that you will always be up-to-date on the latest versions of the ACES and PIES industry standards. The fitment data mapping process will also be completely configurable, depending on your needs and requirements. You can choose to go as simple as something like a Year/Make/Model definition or add more detail in the form of engine, fuet type, body style, transmission, and more.
Also, regular and thorough health checks on product and application data will be essential in quickly and effectively identifying and resolving any existing issues.Evokat Premier perfectly performs these health checks on your behalf, highlighting any existing problems and providing you with needed solutions with clear resolution paths. All of these features and benefits, as well as others, will provide you with all you need so that you will ensure that your auto parts catalog is in pristine condition. In doing so, you will be able to focus on more core areas of your business without having to worry about the validity of your fitment information and the well-functioning of your auto parts catalog.
Illumaware also provides catalog management services for those business owners that don’t have the time to do this themselves. If you want to learn more about our offer, feel free to contact us directly or schedule a live demo at your convenience.