Article

Your Part In Online Sales

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Drew Lieberman - Also by this author

USING THE INTERNET TO MAXIMIZE
THE POTENTIAL OF YOUR PARTS AND SERVICES DEPARTMENT

Most automotive dealerships have found the Internet to be an effective way for prospective customers to compare, select and customize their new cars and trucks, but the savviest dealers have gone beyond the showroom to pull additional profits off the shelves of their parts departments through direct online sales of parts and accessories to customers. The back room is turning out to be the entry to improved financial performance and expanded customer relationships, as vehicle owners visit dealerships virtually to buy parts and accessories.

eBay Motors, a unit of eBay, the world’s online marketplace, established a Parts & Accessories channel in 2000 that today is the Internet’s largest center of commerce for automotive components. Some view eBay as a Mecca for enthusiasts and collectors selling individual items, but in fact, eBay and eBay Motors has evolved into a primary sales channel for all types of companies, from individual entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 corporations. Today, parts and accessories are being sold on eBay Motors by manufacturers, dealers, distributors, retailers, liquidators and small businesses, as well as by individuals. Dealerships, in particular, have gained extraordinary results from eBay Motors.

They are listing closeouts, overstocks, returns, scratch-and-dents and large wholesale lots to quickly sell components that otherwise would have languished for months in the parts and service department. They are, in truth, turning excess and aged inventory into dollars. At the same time, they’re attracting new customers who return to their listings repeatedly for parts and accessories and thereby become prime prospects for new car sales as well. Meanwhile, the dealership has lowered its cost of sales for parts, increased its revenue and turned over its inventory much more rapidly than it otherwise could have expected.

Every month, more than three million parts and accessories are listed on eBay Motors, and one of them sells every two seconds. eBay Motors also attracts 10 million different people each month.

The reasons for the rapid emergence of eBay Motors as an unparalleled source of sales for parts and accessories are a combination of its easy method of selling products, its low cost of doing business, and its loyal community of buyers and fellow sellers.

Ease of Doing Business

Because eBay Motors operates through a well-established and partially automated business format, a company selling parts and accessories can get its online business up and running quickly. You can register as a new member by visiting www.ebaymotors.com and clicking the “New to eBay” button in the upper right. Then click on the “Sell” tab at the top of the screen to start setting up your seller account. Clicking on the “Sell Your Item” and then the “Register” button brings up a simple information form that allows you to create your own user ID and password and become a member of the eBay community.

To sell your parts and accessories through eBay Motors, you can use the site as an auction venue, allowing prospective buyers to bid on each item and sell it to the highest bidder, or you have the option of simply offering each part at a fixed price and accepting orders. You can even set up your own online store in what amounts to an eBay Motors mall where you sell items for a set price through your own branded Webpage storefront. eBay makes the establishment and operation of an online outlet for parts and accessories a simple process often with spectacular results.

Dealers generally use the auction format after they’ve exhausted their return credits but still have closeout and excess items. These parts can be auctioned to the highest bidder to move them off the shelves and generate revenue. Fixed prices frequently are set for clearance or closeout of accessories. Buyers expect to find these items at a significantly discounted cost compared to retail prices.

Listing Your Products Online

To offer your parts and accessories to online shoppers, you’ll create a listing for each item that will appear in specific categories on the eBay Motors site when visitors search for the components that they are seeking. A “Sell Your Item” form walks you through the information that should be entered for each listing, allowing you to select a category and subcategory for each part, provide a title and description, set either a fixed price or a starting price and reserve (minimum) price for auctioned items. eBay charges a nominal insertion fee, based on the opening value of the item and an additional small final value fee when the item is sold.

When you are offering hundreds or thousands of items, creating listings for each one could become tedious. eBay Motors, however, provides several types of seller tools to make the creation of listings easy, consistent and time efficient.

If you’re selling a relatively small volume of items, (anywhere from one to 1,000 per month) you can work effectively with the free Turbo Lister program. It allows you to select from a variety of pre-designed layouts and templates for your listings or use the program’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get format for designing your own HTML-based layout. Turbo Lister saves the listing information you enter so you can re-use it to create hundreds of new listings, all from one page. You can make changes to multiple listings all at one time and schedule the start date and time for your listing. Turbo Lister eliminates the need to re-enter similar data in every listing. You create a basic template, then duplicate it and make a few changes to create a new listing. Learn more at http://ebay.com/turbo_lister.

If you’re listing 500 to 1,500 items a month, you may want to consider using the Selling Manager tool. This program, with a fee of $4.99 a month, adds the ability to print invoices and shipping labels directly from your sales records, use e-mail and feedback templates, re-list multiple sold and unsold items all at once and view the status of your post-sales activities. See http://ebay.com/selling_manager for more details.

You are more likely, however, to be using eBay Motors to run a high-volume business in parts and accessories, an extension of your bricks-and-mortar parts department. For listings totaling more than 1,500 per month, the Selling Manager Pro tool is the best option. For $15.99 a month, it allows you to track your inventory and alerts you when stock is running low. You’ll receive statistics that tell you the success ratio of each product and the average selling price for auctioned items. A number of feedback and post-sales e-mails are automated in this program, and it provides monthly sales reports on all your eBay Motors activities, including fees. Find out more at http://ebay.com/selling_manager_pro.

Numerous other tools and techniques are available from eBay Motors to enhance your listings, from bold type and photo galleries to cross-promotion displays of other items you are selling, banner ads targeted to keywords and co-op advertising for your eBay store.

A number of third-party companies, called preferred solutions providers (PSPs), offer other software that manages your listings, inventory, photos or e-mail; and some even carry out the complete listing execution, customer service and fulfillment processes for you. You’ll find a list of these PSPs at http://pages.ebay.com/psp/index.html.

Making the Most of Your Listings

Whatever method you use to create them, it’s important that you view your listings as a combination of your brand identity, showcase window, advertisement and promotional offer. In other words, the design and content of your listing are crucial, so eBay Motors offers some tips for helping to ensure you attract buyers and maximize your sales.

Most buyers begin locating the items they want by entering terms into the eBay Motors search engine. The search engine displays the title of your listing, so consider the following points when creating the title for an item:

  • What words would you enter if you were searching for the item? Include as many of these key words as possible in the 45 characters allowed for the title, along with the broad category within Parts & Accessories where a customer might begin a search, such as “Car & Truck.”
  • Include the make, model and year(s) for the part or accessory in the title, since this information is entered routinely in consumer searches.
  • Be clear and accurate. Avoid hard-to-interpret abbreviations. Misspellings can cause search engines to skip over your listing, since a misspelled word doesn’t match the correct word that the prospective buyer may enter.
  • Do your own search for items like yours to see which combination of key words works best and have yielded the highest prices for completed items.

Select a listing format that will attract your potential customers. Choices include:

  • An auction with a $1 starting point and no reserve price to bring customers into your online store and encourage them to browse through other items.
  • An auction that includes the “Buy It Now” feature, allowing a visitor to bypass the auction and buy the item for a stated price.
  • A fixed price, enabling buyers to purchase the item immediately with no option for bidding.
  • Offering items at set prices from your eBay Motors store inventory, which is listed within your store online.
  • Wholesaling your parts and accessories in large lots to resellers.

Photos are vitally significant to your listing. To attract the highest volume of buyers and the highest prices:

  • Place the item’s photo at the top of the listing, where it will be seen immediately.
  • Keep the photo file size under 50 kb so it will download quickly for impatient shoppers.
  • Provide more than one photo. A variety of angles is important.

The gallery feature allows you to ensure that, when your item comes up in a search result, a photo of the item will appear next to the title. Clicking on the thumbnail photo brings up a catalogue-style page of larger photos.

Provide as much detail as possible in your listing’s description to gain the consumer’s trust. In addition to make/model/year, include the brand, the item’s condition, MSRP and other details in short paragraphs or bullet points, pointing out specific dollar savings or exceptional product features.

Finally, state your policies clearly for:

  • Shipping terms and conditions, including all available shipping methods and the shipping price.
  • Payment options, including the PayPal online payment service, credit cards, checks, money orders or other payment methods you accept.
  • Warranty information to help overcome buyer resistance to purchasing an unseen product online.
  • Return policy, one of the major concerns of online shoppers.
  • Sales tax information where applicable.

Cutting the Ribbon on Your Online Store

eBay Motors can serve as a second store for your parts department, but it's one that potentially is visited by millions of shoppers from all over the world. Creating your own eBay Store online opens the door to a number of benefits:

  • You carry an exclusive brand identity on eBay with your own logo, store color, store description and unique URL that you can promote to bring visitors directly to your online door.
  • You can list your items for unlimited periods, rather than the timeframes that are available in the auction/fixed price venue.
  • Marketing tools are available to cross-sell more merchandise in your online store.
  • You can create your own customized categories for the listings in your store.

eBay Motors offers three subscription levels for online stores:

  • Basic subscription, at $9.95 a month, ensures your store will appear in every Category Directory in which you have items listed.
  • Featured subscription, at $49.95 a month, rotates your store’s link through a special featured section on the eBay Stores home page, gives it priority placement in “Related Stores” on search and listings pages, lists your store within the top-level Category Directory pages where you have items listed, enables cross selling of products on item pages, and provides monthly sales and marketplace performance reports.
  • Anchor subscription, the top-of-the-line store option at $499.95 a month, includes all the services in the feature subscription but also allows you to showcase your logo in the Category Director pages, gives your store premium placement in “Related Stores” throughout eBay Motors and ensures your logo will receive one million impressions throughout eBay.com.

Whatever format you select — auctions, fixed prices or a complete online store — expanding your parts and accessories business to the Internet is a fast and extraordinarily profitable way to maximize the potential that until now has lingered in the back of your shop. Through sites like eBay Motors, parts and accessories can become the front door for new-car prospects, ongoing customer contact and substantially higher profits.

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