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How to Increase Click-n-Mortar Sales at Your Auto Parts Store

Posted by Joe Gargiulo | Fri, Jan 29, 2016 @ 04:00 PM

Charles Darwin didn’t anticipate this, but marketers have been assimilating his theory of natural selection into their strategies since the middle of the 20th century. Thus, the "survival of the fittest" among species may be applied to the marketing of auto parts where competitors large and small are jockeying for position and developing new methods of increasing sales. Brick-and-mortar stores in particular are feeling the pinch as they witness consolidation among some of the largest players in the field. Nevertheless, a window of opportunity exists, providing potential optimism for any parts dealer willing to make the effort in finding a viable niché.

Favorable Demand for the Auto-after Market

increase auto parts sales with check guaranteeIn 2014, sales for the entire auto-after industry totaled $246B, or about 32% of the $782B in new-car sales. Experts predict an upward trend in auto-aftermarket sales through 2017. That ratio in conjunction with a greater number of older cars on the road is favorable for auto parts stores.

“In the U.S., there are more vehicles aged 15 years and older on the roads today than there were five years ago, which runs parallel with the fact that consumers are more willing to spend more on premium, high-quality products that will keep their cars healthy and running in the long term,” stated The NPD Group on February 11, 2015.

Furthermore, specific segments of the auto-after industry experienced significant growth in 2014 per that same writing: batteries, passenger car motor oil (full synthetic and high mileage), beam blades, air conditioning charging kits, multi-system additives and more. Consequently, the astute auto parts dealer will be well-stocked on all of those items in addition to racketing up other marketing efforts.

Transcending the Competition

The competition among after-market dealers is advantageous for buyers, but daunting to brick-and-mortar stores. Some small retailers focus on do-it-yourself (DIY) consumers while others seek local repair shops. Both segments compete against original equipment manufacturers (OEM) selling replacement parts to new- and used-car dealers as well as DIYers and service stations. Added competition stems from online sources: the web portals of established chains (Pep Boys, NAPA and O’Reilly Auto Parts), e-specialists (TireRack, Rock Auto and eBay), traditional catalog sellers (JC Whitney), OEMs (AC Delco and Motorcraft) and even Amazon.com.

increase auto parts sales with check guaranteeBeating or meeting the larger competition on price, inventory and delivery is challenging for smaller dealers, so they must be creative with their marketing efforts if they want to increase sales.

Creating an auto-after sales strategy begins with a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), including a review of the local and virtual markets.

Strength is created by anything that helps a parts retailer to transcend the competition or stimulate demand for its products. Perhaps a store has a large warehouse and the financial resources to stock a wide range of items needed by the local market.

Are all major manufacturers (American, German and Japanese) represented in that market, or do the demographics yield a more limited selection of cars on the road? For example, a Midwestern market having a huge representation of American makes would be better served by a parts dealer that is well-stocked on domestic items versus one selling import products with less demand.

On the other hand, suppose the competition is using that approach and foregoing imported items? If so, the prudent marketer of retail parts will address that smaller segment by stocking some import parts or at least creating a streamlined auto-after supply chain to quickly acquire them for the occasional buyer. Locate import wholesalers, determine the most economical way of delivering parts the next day, and have the “shortcut” sales process ready to quote for the next buyer. There is a good chance the competition will have equal access to OEM parts, so be sure to investigate the best possible shipping channels to remain successful.

Nevertheless, even weaknesses or threats can be morphed into viable business opportunities with enough planning. Suppose an auto-after dealer doesn’t have a roomy warehouse or the finances to carry a large inventory? One solution lies in partnering with local auto repair shops and applying the fast turnaround times mentioned above. Stock the parts those shops need, offer them at wholesale prices, and delivery them as soon as possible.

Selling Online

increase auto parts sales with check guaranteeLiterally anyone can sell online these days via sites such as Craigslist, eBay or Amazon, including independent auto-after dealers. Consider augmenting the brick-and-mortar and wholesale components of your parts house with a virtual storefront. Research the existing online dealers to determine an overlooked niché, especially one that overlaps with the inventory targeted at the local DIY and repair-shop markets mentioned above.

Find the Best Deal on Shipping

Establishing a plan to provide fast, affordable shipping is as critical as offering competitively priced items and a large inventory whether one is selling business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B). There are many sites explaining the competitive analysis behind choosing FedEx, UPS or USPS as a function of a package’s size and weight. FedEx and UPS are open to price negotiations, but sellers must prove a volume worthy of their trouble. Finally, stock a variety of packing materials to accommodate the items to be shipped.

Whatever the approach, the ability to succeed is fully dependent on owning a passion for the industry as well as offering viable solutions to customers.

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Topics: Auto Aftermarket, Increase Sales

Written by Joe Gargiulo

Mkt and Communications Mgr Joe Gargiulo has 25 years in copy writing, public relations and marketing. He enjoys connecting story leads to all aspects of the human experience.