What’s Job 1 in Aftermarket Ecommerce? We wanted to find out and so spoke to Andrew Rowson, co-founder of ecommotors and CEO of E-Motive Online about the challenges and outlook for automotive aftermarket ecommerce and here’s what he had to say:
What are the main barriers to success for aftermarket parts, tools and accessories providers when it comes to selling online?
I wish I had more time to tell you in detail! It’s not that the barriers are high necessarily, it’s just that potentially there are many of them. It depends on what type of business you are firstly. You might be original equipment, or an OEM, or a distributor to resellers, or a reseller, like a motor factor, dealership or garage. It’s different for all, and all are unique.
Added to that, you might have experience selling direct to consumers, or you might not. Automotive is not usually known for embracing emerging consumer sales channels as early as other sectors. The history and culture of your business is hugely important.
That said, there are 3 main drivers I would say. The first is being able to control your brand online. This is so true for OE or OEMs, especially if other firms are selling your products.
Secondly, having data that is B2C ready. If you can’t present your products in ways that consumers can search for and buy them, without a salesperson sitting next to them while they browse, you’re gone.
Thirdly, managing channel conflict. When you understand your customers in each channel, and design your offerings accordingly, you’ll see incremental revenues from marketplaces and webstores, it’s not a cannibalising effect on your traditional routes to market.
So what’s the key barrier then?
Do you remember a good few years ago when a motor company ran the ad campaign about Quality being Job 1? In multichannel ecommerce it’s quality too, but here I’m talking about data quality.
Data quality is central, and in fact it unsticks all the major challenges to success. Optimising your data for each channel is about knowing what’s needed for that channel and automating where possible so you extend your product excellence beyond your top few best sellers to the entire range of products you put online.
Data quality is the difference between success and failure. It’s the difference between getting your products selling quickly online versus being dogged by delay or only getting a fraction of your products up.
Does this have anything to do with why you started ecommotors?
Actually, it probably accounts for why we started both E-Motive and ecommotors. I was an early seller on eBay and in fact built the first £1m eBay UK business in the aftermarket sector. The lessons we learned there led us to set up E-Motive, and as you can imagine our services focus on providing the knowledge and tools to accelerate companies’ success online. Data optimisation is a key part of that.
When it comes to selling successfully on multiple marketplaces, you’ve got to have automation. In early 2020 we saw that there was no single provider of both the technology and the services to all players in aftermarket ecommerce, brands and resellers. That’s when we got talking to Volo Commerce, who also have pedigree in automotive. They have a particularly comprehensive system capable of handling the enormous SKU requirements of automotive, and they also have rich data analytics, which goes back to the data quality thing. Out of that union was born ecommotors and its 360-degree aftermarket offering.
So is the future rosy or bleak for aftermarket ecommerce?
Can I answer with ‘it depends’ again? The last 12 months has thrown business and ecommerce strategy into sharp relief. If you were operating traditionally your distribution outlets were closed for weeks on end. If you had already ‘digitalised’ your business and had a sales presence online you did incredibly well.
Those that didn’t had to get on board in a hurry, and they’re still doing so. The benefit of being multichannel – and at least one of those channels needs to be online – is that you’re better able to adjust your balance if one channel goes dark. Of course, that quality of data needs to be consistently high and appropriate for who you’re selling to, and where.
So to answer your question, I think the future’s rosy for those companies that take the long view. More consumers are buying more stuff online in more categories than ever before, and I don’t think that’s going to go away. To profit from this across all your channels is about focusing on data quality and planning for success. We’re written an ebook on how companies can do this with any services or technology partner.