In fact, while DIY parts shoppers only represent about 2 percent of e-commerce revenue, it might be the only place to grow in the current conditions. Salomon said there are benefits from focusing on these driveway mechanics:
- They are customers dealerships don't often focus on.
- There's no need to accommodate them in the service lane.
- They have lower delivery time expectations.
Ducker Carlisle also conducted a focus group of parts managers from five major automakers. Those managers noted three areas that managers need to tackle to be successful with e-commerce:
1. Helping customers know what to buy.
2. Avoiding the "race to the bottom" with price.
3. Handling the distribution of parts.
"It's not as simple as it seems," Salomon said.
For example, when customers buy the wrong part, they blame the dealership and the automaker. And it's costly because the parts department has to handle returns.
Salomon said the focus group emphasized calling or emailing the customer to make sure they are purchasing the correct part.
To make a profit, Salomon said, parts departments might be tempted to charge a higher price.
Don't, the focus group said. Instead, figure out how to get the customer to focus less on the price and more on other features, such as availability and delivery times.
"It's really important to give the customer confidence that if they're going to place an order the part is available or you know when it's going to be available," Salomon said.
And finally, distributing parts is costly because of packaging and the need for someone to fill those boxes. Instead, try to get the customer to pick up the part at the dealership or see if the manufacturer offers direct fulfillment.
"E-commerce is not going to save your business," Salomon said. "But we believe it's a smart strategic play to focus on as you continue to push to hit your sales targets. The benefits are a new revenue stream, a new customer segment and you will have an improved reputation.
"Customers are expecting a digital presence. Push yourself, look at the competition and see where you can improve."