While many types of businesses have made the move into online sales, the auto parts industry has an especially unique set of challenges. Most of the time an auto part sale begins with a customer calling in or coming into the store and telling you what part they need for the kind of vehicle they have. As you look up the part you can ask them what options or features they may have and direct them to exactly what they need. Most of the time.
With online sales, which may include your web site or a larger online entity that you may have set up shop with, the process has to run in reverse. A sale will arrive in your inbox but without any way to know if it is the correct part for their vehicle. So begins the verification process. It is now necessary to call or e-mail the customer to verify they knew what they were doing when they ordered. But is this cost effective? Wouldn’t it be better to save that effort and just take the cash and ship the part?
From my experience, one out of every seven customers is buying the wrong part from your online store. Not only will this not sit well with the customer because as we all know, they are always right, but it is going to cost you and your staff time and time is money. It’s not possible to bring the number of incorrect part orders down to zero but it is possible to improve if you are seeing a high number of orders sent back, cancelled, or even waking up to the dreaded red dot in your feedback. And its usually from a customer who never even contacted you to give you a chance to make it right.
Your first line of defense is the quality of information you give them. Your listings and part descriptions need to speak to the non-automotive person. Many of the codes and abbreviations in parts data is a foreign language to your shoppers. A glossary of terms that elaborates on the information is always helpful. Use bold or colored text to bring attention to important items. And, if possible, a picture is worth a thousand words.
You can also add an online verification request form to your web site. This may encourage internet shoppers who shop online because they don’t want to interact with anyone to send you some of their vehicle info in partial anonymity before they buy. You could even offer incentives for people contact you before they buy. This may not work if you sell through a larger entity who wants the sale to stay on their site but it is a great way increase contact, and traffic, through your web site.
Whatever methods you choose the best thing to do when you see that order for a part with several options and production dates is throw it reverse and drive that sale backwards. You will have to cancel some orders and give some refunds but your customers will thank you for it. And in the long run, the money you save on lost productivity and shipping fees that cost you more than what you actually charged will put you ahead of the game. Not to mention the positive comments you’ll get from the buyer that just might encourage someone else to buy from you.
Jerry Brown’s Auto Parts Center