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Start preparing for eBay’s ditching of active content

By | Announcements, eBay, ecommerce | No Comments

To create a better mobile experience, make pages load faster, and reduce security risks, eBay has decided to phase out ‘Active Content’ in all item description pages by June, 2017. Active content includes JavaScript, plugins, Flash, and form actions. After June, 2017, if active content is still in your item descriptions, they will not show properly and will cause a poor buyer experience – or worse –  prevent buyers from making a purchase. eBay will also be ditching active content in eBay Store Pages later on in 2017. eBay wants all its sellers to be prepared for this coming change.

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Grow Your eCommerce and Digital Capability At a Fraction Of The Cost

By | Adwords, Blog, BPO, eBay, ecommerce, Outsourcing, SEO, Web Store | No Comments

                       Outsource 1

As more  companies plan to grow their capability in the eCommerce space to satisfy the insatiable demands of their customers for online research and purchase, many small to medium businesses are struggling with the skill-sets and costs required to hire new, or train existing staff, to manage this strategy extension.

In particular, auto parts and fitment stuff can be very tricky but we can help with any complex data sets Read More

Enform Ebay auto parts sales index shows 25% growth on 2014

By | Announcements, Automotive, eBay, ecommerce | No Comments

ebay_australia_policiesEnforms focus on e-commerce and digital marketing has meant a lot of experience with e-tailing and B2C solutions particularly for the auto parts aftermarket. Ebay is one of the largest retail sales channels for auto parts worldwide and the Australian site is one of the largest market places for auto parts in Australia with an estimated TTV (total transactional value) in excess of $600 mil for 2015 calendar year.

This makes it a useful measure for the health and future prospects of this growing area of online selling. So thanks to some handy online tools, Enform has built its Ebay auto parts sales index to track sales growth to provide advice and insights for its customers.

The key criteria used to build and maintain this index are:

  • Filtering for sales under “Car & Truck Parts” category only so we exclude marine, motor cycle, camping and other non-auto parts products
  • Total and individual sales by a selection of 50+ individual Ebay.com.au sellers
  • Total and individual sales by a selection of 20+ key product types or keywords used in listing titles
  • Total and individual sales by a selection of 65+ product brands or brand names used in listing titles

The data has been collated each month for over a year providing an index that can be used to track total growth and changes across a variety of metrics. Enform will aim to provide snapshots of this data from time to time but this resource is also available to customers that would like specific data, product segments or competitor information researched or reported on.
This month, we’d like to summarise some of the key metrics of the last few months to help provide some guidance to online auto parts sellers. Some examples include;

Total October 2015 growth on 2014 exceeds 25%
Regardless of the metric used, sales of Car & Truck Parts category grew between 25-27% in October 2015 when compared with 2014. This shows a consistent pattern for the calender year in general.

  • Stand out growing product types include filters at 74%, towbars at 43%, tyres at 93%
  • Poor performers include coilovers that dropped 32% while performance category filters slumped by 13% year on year

October is a relatively poor month overall with 18.5% lower sales than August
Based on TTV across all metrics, October is a relatively poor sales month with many believing school holidays and Christmas lead up dampening demand. Using our selection of “Sellers”, this equates to 18.5% lower TTV when compared with the August peak which seems to be the top month recently regardless of metric used.

  • 30% of all Sellers went backward in October 2015 compared with October 2014
  • However 52% of all Sellers sales grew by more than 30% compared with 2014

Brands and brand names grow faster than product types but slower than sellers.
Seems confusing but what we’re saying here is that while established brand names are growing faster than simple product names, these brands are not growing as fast as the market place overall as measured by the growth in Sellers TTV. Possible interpretations here inlcude;

  • Brand names are not as relevant when compared with overall demand via the market place and for established sellers
  • Brands are emerging and growing faster than can be measured at the moment
  • Home-brands are growing with Sellers offering their own solutions including kits and bundles

As you can see, there are a lot of potential opportunities to analyse and help understand but there seems little doubt that this channel is the engine room of growth for this important segment of auto parts and accessories sales in Australia and wordlwide.

Feel free to contact myself or the Enform team about how we can help your business perform better in auto parts e-commerce.

 

EBAY PREPS SELLERS FOR NEW MULTI-VARIATION (?)LISTING REQUIREMENTS

By | eBay, ecommerce | No Comments

EBay Identifies new requirements

ebay

In its recent notification to sellers, Ebay advised there are new requirements for Product Identifiers in Multi-variation listings.  When you follow the link this would appear to be a broader requirement http://sellercentre.ebay.com.au/news/product-identifiers  detailing this change as a requirement for ALL new listings of branded items in New and Manufacturer refurbished listings.

What are product identifiers

If you sell on eBay, you’re probably already familiar about the new product identifiers you are required to add to your listings. By the end of January 2016 these are the product identifiers you must include in your listings:

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eBay Changes Listing Rules For Product Identifiers from 1st July

By | Announcements, Automotive, Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Research, SEO | No Comments

ebay_logo

eBay Australia is changing the listing rules for product identifiers in key categories including auto parts. 

As PARts Australia say – “Ignore it and you may pay a penalty in poor ranking. Embrace it and you may leap ahead of your competition.”

Increasing the accuracy of listing information is an important part of eBay ongoing work to improve the marketplace experience for all users.

That’s why, starting 30 June this year, all new listings of branded items in New and Manufacturer refurbished condition will be required to include product identifiers including the item’s brand, manufacturer part number (MPN), and global trade item numbers (GTINs) such as Universal Product Codes (UPCs) and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) in select categories.

eBay uses these product identifiers to help buyers quickly find the items they’re looking for. When you’re selling, including these product identifiers not only has the potential to increase your items’ visibility in eBay search results and navigation, it can improve your placement in search engines like Google and Bing, too.

Read more about the eBay new policy and how important it is for eBay sellers and in particular, those selling branded auto parts.

MotoParts Dives into eBay with an E-commerce Solution

By | Automotive, Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Research, tools | No Comments

MotoParts on eBayRecognized as one of Australia’s top distributors of automotive parts and car accessories, MotoParts boasts of a colourful history in the B2B segment of the market, offering wholesale auto parts throughout NSW and Australia.

In an effort to leverage their current business model, the company decided to dive into a new sales channel, opening a new section of potential growth for the business. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces on the Internet, it made sense for the company to jumpstart their online presence on eBay, this according to MotoParts online director Scott Shillinglaw.

The Need for an E-commerce Solution

To launch a new online sales channel on eBay, MotoParts needed a comprehensive e-commerce solution capable of handling hundreds to thousands of product listings—a solution that could keep up with MotoParts surging online business.

According to Shillinglaw, MotoParts required a robust e-commerce solution that could help manage product feeds, with the additional feature of transforming product data and making it ready for eBay listing. Moreover, the solution had to mesh with the company’s ERP system, in particular, product, pricing, and inventory data, together with eBay and MotoParts’s e-commerce website.

The challenge with automotive parts suppliers is that the complexity and sheer volume of product parts information makes it difficult to find a working e-commerce solution—one that could withstand the impending massive increase in automobile models and corresponding parts within the next few years.

Shillinglaw said that MotoParts needed their e-commerce data to be in a coherent format, allowing their e-commerce managers to list products on eBay by part and vehicle compatibility, all in such a way that entices customers to make a purchase. If the product isn’t presented in a compelling manner, it won’t lead to sales, he adds.

A PARts Driven Solution

MotoParts turned to an e-commerce solution recommended by PARts, an online solution Enform is certified to provide.

With the new e-commerce solution, MotoParts was able to automate and integrate all their product data into one easy-to-access database, through a tool specifically designed for automotive parts content.

MotoParts can now manage and access their product data in one centralised solution, with orders placed on eBay extracted and standardized into a singular format—integrated with the company’s own ERP system. And you can read more about how MotoParts went online profitably with PARts.

MotoParts eBay Listing

Benefits

After just a few months of using the PARts-recommended e-commerce solution to open a new sales channel on eBay, MotoParts saw a surge in total revenue by at least 5 percent. The complete MotoParts e-commerce solution was also fully functional in just a few months. The company also saw a drastic reduction in resource time and IT expenditures.

But more importantly, the addition of a solid e-commerce solution into the company’s business foundation means they can now open as many online sales channels as they want, with very little work required.

You can read more about PARts and auto data opportunities here

eBay Australia Rolls Out New Product Image Policy

By | Announcements, Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Research, Training, Web Design | No Comments

ebay-logo_raeume1

eBay Australia vendors should take note that beginning August 4, 2014, all new item listings, including those that are relisted without an image or has an image smaller than 500 pixels will be automatically blocked.

As most of eBay’s Australian Solution Partners already know, the online marketplace announced last year its plans to roll out a new image policy that would affect all product listings on eBay.com.au.

Since February 2014, the site had slowly put the new policy into effect across all listings. For those not completely aware of the change, or need a reminder on what to expect from the policy, here’s a quick refresher for you.

  • All item listings must feature at least one image.
  • Stock images can only be used on listings for brand new items/products, otherwise original photos should be taken of the item in its current state
  • All images must have a minimum image size of 500 pixels on the longest side. eBay recommends a size of 1600 for best results
  • Pictures must have no borders, text, or artwork – sometimes referred to as “graffiti”
  • Watermarks are allowed, but only for ownership and attribution purposes

ebay_image_size_requirements_2013_05_06

Graffiti, including text, borders, etc. won’t be blocked, for now, but eBay still recommends, and strongly at that, to feature graffiti-free images, as outlined in the company’s Picture Requirements.

Exemptions

However, there are exemptions to eBay’s new rule. The following categories are not included in the site’s image size requirements. These are:

  • Services
  • Books
  • Sub-categories within Collectibles & Memorabilia under Music and Movies

Why the change?

According to eBay, buyers have told them that the quality of product photos found on the site leaves a lot to be desired. And with the advent of mobile, and the fact that over half of all eBay.com.au visits come from mobile devices, image quality has taken high prominence in the mobile shopping experience.

Elements of a great listing photo

We at Enform recommend that our clients take note of the following tips for product images:

  • Don’t rely on direct flash lighting as this creates harsh and unpleasant shadows. Use off-camera lights, several of them, for an eye-pleasing look to your photos.
  • Use continuous lighting to minimise the effect of flaring and unpleasant reflections
  • For your lighting, lights with daylight or 5500k colour temperature work best for clear photos
  • Purchase or build your own softboxes for softer, more even lighting.
  • Clean white backdrops work best for product imagery and no graffiti
  • Square images work best on eBay, and are the safest option for mobile viewing
  • Use a photo editor, even a basic one, to enhance colour, contrast, and brightness, as well as to crop the image.
  • The item should take up as much space as possible on the image
  • Be sure to take multiple images of products from different angles, as well as close ups to reveal details and flaws, if any.

ebay advice

eBay’s recommendations aren’t hard to figure out, and should only benefit you and your listings’ chances of being sold on the site.

5 Key Global Online Marketplace Brands

By | Announcements, Comment, ecommerce, Uncategorized, Web Store | No Comments

global online market

The process of global expansion has changed significantly over the last 5 years, so much so that eBusiness decision makers are no longer expanding internationally through the traditional method of building several direct-to-consumer websites. These days, many leaders are creating official accounts that act as online storefronts on various marketplaces to further their reach.

The sheer number of these online marketplaces might make it difficult for you to choose where to create a storefront, which is why we at Enform have narrowed down your choices to 5 leading marketplaces that offer compelling reasons for business owners and brand managers to extend their reach through their sites.

Why Marketplaces?

In several countries, marketplaces offer plentiful options for brand stores across different categories and represent a huge chunk of all online sales in their respective territories—it’s an opportunity just waiting to be exploited.

Although global online marketplaces are home to thousands of small to medium enterprises selling their wares on these platforms, these marketplaces have increased their options specifically for official brand owners.

Marketplaces are highly appealing today because they:

  • Offer instant access to a large audience. These buyers are major hubs for international shoppers. This eliminates the need to build an international customer base from the ground up, as marketplaces already aggregate online shoppers in their territories for you.
  • Streamline entry into their international markets. Entry into new international markets has never been easier with global marketplaces. One of the key obstacles that impede the entry of brands into new markets is the cost of building new direct-to-consumer websites solely for a specific region.

Marketplaces solve this problem by offering a smooth, low-cost entry into a foreign market. Furthermore, the top marketplaces have existing relationships with third-party providers that provide customer service or after sales support—something brands no longer have to spend on.

Marketplace Challenges

Of course, marketplaces aren’t without their share of challenges. eBusiness leaders should take note of the following:

  • Marketplaces might demand that you offer your products at discount prices. Marketplaces often revolve around the concept of offering bargains to shoppers. True enough, eBay’s Fashion Galleries are home to several outlet shops, Rakuten likes to wow shoppers with deals right on their home page, while Tmall has several brands offering extended sale periods on certain special holidays. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but for brands looking to sell their products near their retail price, this can be a problem.
  • Marketplaces can put a dent on creativity. Some marketplaces like to maintain a level of uniformity across all the brands on their sites, so the rigidity of these templates can mean having less wiggle room to stand out with your storefronts.
  • Marketplaces offer limited to no access to customer behavioural data. The top marketplaces share some data with sellers, albeit not as much as you would get if you ran your own e-commerce site. For instance, Tmall shares data on page views for product listings, store traffic, conversions, transaction prices, and more. However, Tmall and other marketplaces fail to offer information on the product paths of customers, which means having no idea on your customers’ browsing behaviour.

The Top 5 Global Marketplaces

Amazon

amazon

Established in 1994, Amazon stands out as the only company featured in this report that handles operates international marketplaces alongside conventional online retail businesses. With the combination of online retail and marketplace offerings, Amazon is easily the dominant online retail player in the United States as well as in a number of international territories.

Outside American and Canada, Amazon drives 85 percent of its revenues from Germany (35% of international revenues), Japan (26%), and the United Kingdom (24%).

Some of the key takeaways from working with Amazon include:

  • Amazon brand store reach extends across several countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, and India. With its global reach and uniform technologies, Amazon presents an attractive and easy option for brands to build official stores across multiple markets.
  • Amazon actively reviews brand stores and makes recommendations on improvements. The online retail giant offers brand stores the option to incorporate several features and tools into their systems, which include online video and access to deep product information.
  • Another area where Amazon separates itself from other marketplaces is in the kind of customer information it provides to sellers. Instead of receiving data on customer shopping behaviour, brand stores are provided with an Amazon service where the company automatically evaluates for a brand for performance in key areas. The results of this review are placed in a dashboard that compares the seller against rival stores in the same category.

eBay

ebay_logo

No marketplace discussion is complete without a mention of eBay. Starting out as an online auction site in 1995, eBay has since expanded into one of the largest online marketplaces in the world. At present, the site runs localised customer-to-customer (C2C) marketplaces across 22 countries in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, with more than half of all its total revenues derived from outside the United States.

Key takeaways to bear in mind entering global markets with eBay include:

  • eBay’s brand stores are primarily targeted towards key markets and categories, for now at least.  Although the company’s international marketplaces have a wide reach, its enhanced offerings for brand stores are significantly concentrated. It wasn’t until 2011 that eBay created a commission-based brand store serviced named Fashion Gallery in Australia and the United Kingdom; eBay’s localised marketplaces in these regions boast of more than 100 brand stores, with offerings ranging from accessories, apparel, and footwear. Fashion Outlet is a brand store offering in the United States that works the same way.
  • eBay provides brands with the option to use its fulfillment options, or to turn to the company’s logistics systems. In addition, brands can also benefit from eBay’s resources when answering inquiries related to Fashion Gallery.
  • Brand stores wanting to make an impression on customers will be happy to know that eBay’s brand store offerings are highly customisable, with Fashion Galleries having their own hub of pages to distinguish them from the rest of the marketplace.
  • Individual brand stores can be customised according to the desires of managers and owners, who may want to build marketing-heavy pages, or a store that focuses on conventional eCommerce layouts.

Mercadolibre

Mercadolibre

Founded in 1999, MercadoLibre is the leading online marketplace in Latin America, operating marketplaces across 12 countries in the region. As of 2013, more than 40 percent in the company’s revenues came from Brazil, while 25 percent came from Argentina. Key markets for the company include Mexico and Venezuela.

Key takeaways for brands expanding on MercadoLibre include:

  • While MercadoLibre has operated successful marketplaces in Latin America, the addition of brand stores is a fairly new development. The first brand store emerged in Argentina in June 2013, Brazil the following year, and Mexico earlier this year. The most popular sellers focus on fashion—apparel, footwear, and accessories. Overall, however, MercadoLibre sees a significant percentage of sales coming from computer hardware and electronics.
  • MercadoLibre provides localised features for the Latin America segment. For brand owners, the company labels brand offerings to distinguish them apart from regular marketplace vendors. In addition, shoppers can search for products specifically within the brand site. Other localised features include instalment payment schemes, and local payment options.

MercadoLibre also offers an online wallet called MercadoPago, plus the option for customers to pay via local payment centers such as boletos bancáriosin Brazil or Oxxo convenience stores in Mexico.

Rakuten

Rakuten

Established in 1997, Rakuten has grown to become Japan’s dominant eCommerce company, boasting of more than 85 million registered users, and a market share pegged at 30% in the country.

Over the last decade, Rakuten has bolstered its expansion plans by acquiring several international eCommerce and fulfillment companies from all over the world, allowing the company to offer international shipping from its domestic marketplace, as well as launch multiple marketplaces outside of Japan. The company runs marketplaces in the US, UK, Thailand, Taiwan, Spain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany, France, and Austria.

Brands interested in expanding through Rakuten should take note of the following:

  • Rakuten is unique due to how it operates different types of marketplaces, depending on the region their based in. The company brands its marketplaces differently around the world; for instance, in countries like Thailand, France, and the UK, Rakuten operates a co-branded site with the Rakuten name alongside a partner marketplace acquired by the company. On the other hand, marketplaces in the US and Brazil only bear the Rakuten name.
  • Offerings for brand stores are available on Rakuten’s flagship site in Japan, as well as other select marketplaces. Still, brand stores are most established in Japan, with Rakuten providing several enhanced brand services such as fulfilment options and customer service solutions—the latter being a major challenge for brands as Japanese customers have some of the world’s highest customer service expectations.
  • Localisation is perhaps the most compelling reason for brands to sign up with Rakuten. Brand stores by Reebok and Toys R Us on its flagship store are heavily tailored for the Japanese consumer in terms of site design. Rakuten describes its brand stores as completely blank canvasses, with only a small header on the top marking the store as being under the Rakuten Marketplace.
  •  Payment options are also localised, with shoppers given the option to pay at convenience stores as well as through a myriad of offline and online options unique to Japan. Other markets see a similar style of localised payment option, such as cash-on-delivery for metropolitan districts in Indonesia, and instalment schemes in Brazil.

Tmall

Tmall

Anyone looking to penetrate the Chinese market should take a hard look at Tmall. Operated by Alibaba, Tmall was first launched in 2008 as a separate site from its C2C counterpart Taobao. Today, Tmall caters to shoppers in China, Taiwan, as well as SAR regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Tmall stands out for providing a marketplace experience that guarantees genuine products to customers, and liberal customisation options for brands wanting to control their store’s shopping experience.

The site is the dominant player in China’s B2C eCommerce segment, with estimates of its market share in the country hovering around 50 percent—far beyond any other marketplace in the region.

Brands looking to tap into the Chinese market through Tmall should take note:

  • Tmall is a favourite among many global brands selling online in China and surrounding territories. With more than 100,000 brands, around 2,000 of which are international companies, Tmall boasts of an estimated 500 million registered shoppers.
  • The variety of brands on Tmall is impressive, ranging from consumer electronic brands like Samsung and Apple, apparel brands such as Nike and Levi’s, as well as a variety of brands in surprising categories like food. In fact, ice cream company Haagen-Dazs sells around 2 million RMB or US$ 325,000 of products on the site every month.

Final Thoughts

thoughts on market

Opportunities for brands to sell their products through online marketplaces are growing quickly, all while the marketplaces themselves are trying to meet the specific demands of their growing clientele. For eBusiness leaders of global brands, here are some key takeaways we at Enform have outlined for you.

  • Analyse how marketplaces can match your needs. Some marketplaces allow you to tap into multiple markets, while others enable to really delve deeper in one specific region. Examine your partnership options and see which ones are in line with your global expansion goals and more importantly, your budget.
  • Don’t shy away from giving marketplaces your feedback. Let marketplaces know what features and tools are important to your brand. With marketplace solutions evolving as we speak, now’s the best time to let them know what things should be integrated into their offerings for brand vendors.

eBay Adds TecDoc Product Fitment Data Service

By | Automotive, ecommerce | No Comments

eBay PARts TecDoc

eBay auto parts and accessory sellers can now link to product and fitment data for over 500 global and Australian supplier brands for direct display and listing on eBay Australia.

TecDoc Australia and eBay Australia have concluded negotiations that allow eBay sellers to access TecDoc Parts Data securely simplifying online selling for auto parts and accessories. This deal means that any eBay parts and accessories seller who concludes a contract with TecDoc for a data package can have that data package made available within the eBay environment.

“Its the logical next step to add supplier product and fitment data to the vehicle KTYPE information already powering the eBay vehicle look-up. This makes it that much easier for eBay sellers to get on with selling leaving the data management to suppliers. Our arrangement with Enform PARts means local suppliers can also enjoy the benefits.“  says Andrew Mattock from TecDoc Asia Pacific.

TecDoc data packages include product, fitment and image data for over 1.0 million part links to Australian and import vehicles.  This data includes vehicle fitment links and is maintained by the supplier allowing the data subscriber or seller to list all the available product and fitment details. You can read more about TecDoc here.

This is facilitated by Enform PARts of Sydney who also aggregate and distribute product and fitment data for many leading local suppliers using the TecDoc back bone. This allows TecDoc global data to be blended and distributed with local supplier data. Enform PARts will deploy all of the relevant linked data into the active section of eBay Australia allowing the eBay seller to focus on merchandising using their price and stock information.

PARts is a permission based system so suppliers and sellers have full control of who sees their data and in what environment. PARts includes a full management and admin system in the cloud allowing suppliers and sellers to interact and manage their data. The key point being, it’s the suppliers and sellers data. You can read more about PARts here.

The service mirrors similar agreements between TecDoc and eBay UK, Germany and other online channels. You can read more about eBay and parts compatibility here.

The Importance of New Sales Channels for Auto Parts

By | Blog | No Comments
Tmall.com is part of Alibaba with annual group sales larger than Amazon and eBay combined

Tmall.com is part of Alibaba with annual group sales larger than Amazon and eBay combined

 

Giving the customer what they want is one of the most important goals of marketers and that includes being in the places they want to shop.

A simple enough statement but not always considered by many in the automotive aftermarket parts industry.

The last few years have seen an explosion in online retail sales of auto parts. Major players like Amazon and eBay are enjoying significant growth in many sectors of online retail sales and that clearly includes auto parts and related products. IBISWorld reports a 13.3% annualised growth in Australian online automotive parts & accessories sales between 2008 to 2013 while US numbers are even stronger.

Clearly we are seeing a migration toward online fulfilment of retail consumer demand while trade and reseller purchases are moving toward closed user group solutions offered by the industry wholesalers and their B2B portals. Many of the same wholesalers are also offering retail solutions to compliment existing bricks and mortar services with many more building virtual stores and online outlets that often exceed the service delivery offer available through their retail store fronts, try free shipping direct to the customers door!

Future projections are equally bullish with continuing double digit growth expected across all categories with reports specifically mentioning traditional “hard parts” categories including..

“The parts and accessories of bodies and bumpers segment gained market share slightly over the past five years due to the essential nature of these products. This product segment includes motor vehicle chassis-frames, floor boards, sides, front or rear panels, luggage compartments, doors and door parts, bonnets and wings…”

So it’s not just “S & G” lines (as the hard parts purists sometimes call accessories) but all manner of parts categories including crash repair and body parts. This is an important misconception that poses one of the biggest threats to traditional parts sales thinking and is just one area of significant risk to parts suppliers and sellers.

At Enform, we try to advise our clients on changing trends while helping both sides of the aftermarket industry adapt to the changing nature of customer expectations and their channel preferences because after all, it’s about giving the customer what they want and also where they want it.

eBay is one of the leading players in this space and though there are other channels, our experience in this area allows us to observe the industry response from a number of levels and the following points help to illustrate some of the relative risks and opportunities for the industry overall.

eBay Motors offers fitment lookup for auto parts and accessories

eBay Motors offers fitment lookup for auto parts and accessories

 

The risks and opportunities for parts suppliers and manufacturers;

–          Younger, hungrier and more nimble brands have everything to gain by embracing the new online channels to establish sales quickly while building a brand in a growing channel

–          Older, more established brands perceive channel conflict or simply fear change. This inertia prevents engagement and proactive involvement in the emerging channels and the emerging outlets

–          At a time of shrinking hard-parts sales pro-rata, the new online channels are growing  to the benefit of participating new and emerging brands at the expense of non-participating brands. Simply put, many of the established brands market share is shrinking through inaction as newer brands fill the demand void

–          The new channels understand the importance and opportunity offered by data standards and these are being supported by new brands as an effective way to market without the need for conventional paper-based cataloguing and marketing.

–          The rapid growth of these channels means a new brand can quickly and efficiently offer solutions to customers and ride the growth wave at a lower cost to market, neutralising many of the advantages of established brands

–          OEM brands have standards and systems that they use to great effect to distribute genuine parts.

As for parts sellers;

–          Online channels are a great democratiser for sellers too, it costs a lot less and doesn’t take as long to “build” and fit out an online retail store

–          Agile and data savvy sellers combine with online channels and emerging brands to offer solutions at varying price points, quickly.

–          Existing bricks and mortar sellers see online sales as a natural conflict rather than as an opportunity that also taps in to the changing market.

–          Traditional sellers tend to perceive “listing” or system fees as an impost or extra cost rather than as a more efficient replacement for other physical costs they already bear.

–          Traditional supplier and brands reluctance to participate or support sellers in online activity creates a tension that often leads to inertia, just too hard.

–          Meanwhile, emerging brands look for and cultivate relationships with online sellers knowing that they can demonstrate and deliver a win-win

–          Online sellers are generally more open to technology and solutions like cloud computing, SaaS applications and shared data knowing that the real USP (unique selling proposition) is a combination of range, price and service delivered where the customers are.

–          Genuine parts through dealers are effectively sold using data and system standards.

Incumbents naturally resist change. That applies to every level of the distribution chain and across all industries but some are more resistant than others.

The area of data standards is particularly tough as suppliers and sellers struggle to defend and justify their own carefully cultivated data silo’s. Having worked in the aftermarket for a few decades, I’ve seen the changes to fitment cataloguing and product data creation and management.

Once the digital age picked up speed with the take up of the web in the 90’s, we saw the beginning of the age of data-divergence as more and more suppliers and sellers built their own data solutions imagining that this would somehow provide a significant and durable commercial edge. In many cases it did and some of these are still working well however for many others, it  proved to be a distraction and a costly diversion from the core business of making and selling parts.

After all, how many different versions of a Commodore VT 6 cylinder sedan data record do we really need?

The 00’s saw a maturing of the discreet data silo model as more and more sellers realised that having “another industry standard” that their suppliers would need to contribute to was actually working against them both in terms of cost and support. Meanwhile, the European parts suppliers created the TecDoc industry standard (as one example) and the AAIA in the US launched the ACES/PIES system to help their industry.

The last few years have seen an acceleration of the trend towards standardisation with more and more suppliers and sellers adopting some sort of standard, a time of data-convergence. This is good news for both the industry and consumer and helps the aftermarket compete better while supporting the aims of programs like the AAAA Choice of Repairer campaign.

Which leads us back to the real point and reason for the automotive parts aftermarket, selling more aftermarket products to auto parts consumers. Online channels are not a silver bullet to rescue flagging sales. It’s a different way to market and requires different skills and resources and doesn’t suit all types of products. However, according to the National Australia Bank, the value of annualised online retail sales for the 12 months to end February 2013 was $13.1 billion or 5.9% of all retail spending with a year-on-year growth of 19%*

If your online distribution strategy is not delivering that sort of growth rate your falling behind. Embrace the opportunity and make sure you’re visible where your customers shop.

*NAB Online Retail Sales Monthly Index – Feb 2013. Value excluding cafes, restaurants and takeaway food for a like-to-like comparison.