If you have an automotive store on BigCommerce, you know that the process of continuous improvement is a must to thrive in a fiercely competitive market. In addition to the challenges that most online stores experience (marketing, inventory, shipping, etc.), stores selling automotive parts have some unique issues. Not only do their customers have technical questions, they often don’t know what parts or tools they need to be the Weekend Warrior of their dreams. If they manage to find your website, they might be confused by the multitude of parts and fitments required to do the job they need to do.
Ready for some good news? According to an article in Forbes, Passing The Test Of Time: Cars Owners Keep For A Decade Or Longer, people are keeping their cars longer than ever. While the average marriage in the U.S. lasts just 8.8 years (wow), 12.9% of all new car buyers hold onto their purchases for a decade or longer. As vehicles on the road continue to age, there will be an ever-growing demand for parts and services — which is where your online automotive parts store comes in.
So how do you make the most of your online store and increase the chances of ecommerce success? Have you every heard the phrase “simple but not easy”? The answers aren’t always complicated. Here are three key areas to focus on to improve the effectiveness of your store …
Form and Function
Make your site pretty functional … I mean pretty and functional. If you have a great looking site that’s hard to navigate or get to checkout or a fully functioning site that looks terrible and scares customers away (or worse yet, a bad site that also looks terrible!) you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s vital to have both beauty and brains to make your site viable in the competitive ecommerce world.
1. Form: The Eye Buys
In order to make your site look legit and trustworthy, it’s vital to invest in eye-catching, quality images whenever possible. If your product photos are grainy, stretched, shot in bad light, or not uniformly sized, you have a big problem. Stores like Opt 7 set a high bar in site photo quality. We especially like the image on their Home page that turns lights on and off as you hover over different areas. How cool is that?
To slide or not to slide: that is the question. Many clients and BigCommerce Forum participants wonder if they should have carousel sliders on their site. The answer? It depends on whom you ask. Most conversion optimization experts are on the side of “no sliders!” but should you choose to use them, make sure you time them to ensure that the concise messaging you include on each slide gives the viewer enough time to read your very important content. In other words, if you’re going to do it, do it right.
Pro Tip: Make sure your images are the same size/aspect ratio to maintain continuity and alignment throughout your site. This is especially important in your carousel to prevent image “jumps” as the sliders scroll.
2. Function: Choose the Right Theme
If you have thousands (or tens of thousands) of products, you need to start with a template that is optimized for large product catalogs. One theme that several of our BigCommerce clients in the automotive space have found successful is Parts Warehouse. Its left navigation with dropdowns makes it easy to organize products in multiple categories, and its simple home page design directs customers to where they want to go.
Pro Tip: Not using Parts Warehouse? Keep in mind that template designers aren’t always experts in conversion optimization. You may need to add, tweak, or remove elements to help show your products in their best light. Using available page real estate (especially above the fold) to convey the right messaging is also key to creating the right image and identity for your products and your brand. If you need help customizing your store’s features or functionality, contact us for help.
3. Fine-Tune Your Navigation
Make sure your nav is product-focused and that your categories and products are well organized. Never have a multi-line nav bar! This is an issue I see a lot, especially in big stores. Keep it simple and streamlined. Products have got to remain front and center to get the customer where they need to go, quickly and easily. Try consolidating your products into broad categories and offer a dropdown or mega menu experience to drive customers to subcategories.
Pro Tip: Items like Shipping, Returns, and Privacy Policies are better located in the footer than the main navigation bar.
Many new store owners get frustrated at the lack of functionality in their storefront. As I always say, shopping platforms cannot be all things to all people. Apps are an easy way to expand your site’s functionality both front end and back end. There are hundreds of tools in BigCommerce’s app marketplace in many price points. Here are a few to check out:
4. Frontend Tools
- Shogun (Page Builder)
Build beautiful custom landing pages and blog pages with a powerful drag and drop page builder that uses your theme’s styling. Landing pages are a great way to promote specific parts or product lines in your store, independent of your website. Having used Shogun on client projects, we can attest to its ease of use and overall awesomeness.
- PartFinder (YMM/Targeted Search)
“I already have a search bar — what’s targeted search?” Many auto parts stores have products that have an exact match or fitment to another product or part (like a headlight for a particular Year/Make/Model of car). If you’re spending too much time fielding phone calls or chatting with customers online about what part they need, offering customers the ability to find precisely what they need on their own just got easier. PartFinder’s handy widget tool enables a customer to enter specific search criteria that points them to the part(s) they need.
Real-world example: Want to see a store using the PartFinder widget and the Parts Warehouse theme? Check out Tuner Experts.
5. Backend Tools
- Skubana (Inventory Management)
Do you have overselling or underselling issues? Skubana offers real-time inventory updates, along with integrating and managing inventory from multiple warehouses and shipping from BigCommerce and a variety of other shipping channels. It supports single products, bundles and kits for managing your listings. Different storage options for your inventory include third party logistics warehouses and dropshippers.
- Signifyd (Fraud protection)
Signifyd solves the challenges that growing e-commerce businesses persistently face: billions of dollars lost in chargebacks, customer dissatisfaction from mistaken declines, and operational costs due to tedious, manual transaction investigation. Signifyd’s guaranteed fraud protection is supported by a full-service cloud platform that automates fraud prevention allowing businesses to increase sales and open new markets while reducing risk. When a customer places an order with your BigCommerce store, Signifyd automatically reviews the order and tells you whether to ship it or not.
Expand Your Reach with Social Proof
6. Build Trust & Connection, and Establish Authority
Have you ever stopped to think about the real value of social media marketing? Beyond likes, follows, and retweets, social engagement extends your reach past your static website. This enables you to establish your business as an authority in your industry, and presents your site as providing great products and advice to customers and potential customers in your niche.
Besides the channels you normally think of when you hear “social” (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.), customer reviews and testimonials are great ways of communicating trust and value from others who have done business with you.
- Yotpo (Product Reviews)
Yotpo helps BigCommerce businesses generate tons of reviews, photos, and other user-generated content and use them to drive qualified traffic, increase conversion rate & boost sales. It collects, manages, analyzes, and distributes your customer content in a single platform, with AI-powered solutions designed to scale with you.
Elfsight Testimonials Slider (Testimonials)
A new app in the BigCommerce app marketplace, the Testimonials Slider plugin is a simple tool to display customers’ testimonials on your website in a vivid and attractive way. You can use any type of feedback to make a trustworthy testimonial with author’s name, photo, company logo, and even a URL to the client’s website. Increase credibility of your product showing user experience of your clients and strengthen your reputation with real and sincere testimonials.
Bonus: Tips Grab Bag
Want more? Check out “7 Critical SEO Errors of E-Commerce Websites” from Neil Patel’s blog for some extra cool tips on making your online auto parts store awesome. While not strictly automotive related, the timeless best practices noticed in this article are great references for any online store. Good luck, and happy selling!