It’s the question every distributor is trying to answer. What to do about e-commerce?
Every day more customers turn to online shopping, and every week another parts distributor dips its toe into the online sales world.
During an educational session Friday at the Association of Diesel Specialists (ADS) Convention & Tradeshow in Las Vegas, Autoshop Solutions Founder Danny Sanchez presented what he believes are the most important things to understand when building a useful e-commerce website in the commercial truck marketplace.
Sanchez says one of the first things to consider when building an e-commerce website is engagement. An e-commerce platform is easy to build, but it’s helpless if customers never find it. Sanchez says an e-commerce website doesn’t promote your company or brands, it promotes individual parts. And to sell those parts, Sanchez says distributors must aggressively market each product individually, or develop enough industry recognition that customers will come to their website directly. He mentions Rock Auto as an example of the latter. The online parts store has made a significant marketing effort to promote its sales platform in recent years. Sanchez says the strategy makes sense, because now when auto customers need a part they don’t type an SKU into Google, they go to RockAuto.com.
Conversely, the idea of individually marketing the SKUs in a distributor’s catalog works best through Google and Bing search engine optimization. Sanchez says this tactic works best by focusing on a specific product category or niche, and carving out that section of the market online.
“You want to find something that everyone else isn’t already selling,” Sanchez says.
Sanchez says another thing to remember about e-commerce is scale. Every brick-and-mortar store has competition, but it’s nothing like the online world. Once you start selling online, “you’re competing on a national scale,” he says.
Web design matters, too, Sanchez adds. A website that is not mobile friendly can be disastrous. Sanchez says Google docks businesses within its algorithm if they are not mobile friendly. On that note, there’s also the customer service aspect. Sanchez says a customer on the side of the road is going to look for parts and service on their phone. A company hoping to earn that potential customer is doing itself a disservice by not building its e-commerce platform to cater to that customer’s phone.
And if all of that sounds difficult, Sanchez has some bad news. It is. But to succeed online, he says that’s what it takes.
The best way to drive customers to your business is “create great content and do it the right way. There are no shortcuts that last,” he says. “There is no short-term solution.”