Consumers expect their auto parts buying experience to be enhanced with convenient, online tools. Roughly half of 1,000 vehicle owners surveyed by eBay had purchased auto parts online, and nearly one in five have purchased a vehicle online in the last five years. Overall, interest in online auto parts and vehicle purchasing is projected to grow, as nearly one in five consumers say they are “likely” to purchase their next vehicle online as well. In fact, only 34% of consumers say they “don’t think” they would ever consider purchasing a vehicle online, according to the results of the latest eBay Motors survey, entitled “Future of Automotive Shopping.” “Growth in vehicle and auto parts sales online is much higher than for regular e-commerce,” says Sree Menon, general manager of eBay Motors. “Automotive aftermarket retailers have to understand that they can’t ignore having a digital strategy in place. Many retailers in the automotive space are focused on foot traffic. They use their online presence to drive more foot traffic to the store. We’re in an era where online and offline really have to come together.” Parts retailers have to adopt an organizational strategy to address these changes in consumer behaviour, so that their online shopping experience can include all of the elements necessary to secure a sale. “There has to be enough content there so that consumers can research and buy, or research and buy later,” says Menon. “You have to be relevant at all levels.” Mobile technology is also playing a larger role in online vehicle purchases. According to the study, 67% of consumers have researched vehicles via mobile devices, and 70% have searched for dealership information on their mobile devices. One in five consumers is likely to purchase a vehicle via a mobile device, or leverage wearables to research or purchase a vehicle. Of the consumers who bought vehicles online, 31% used their smartphone as part of that process, and 15% used a tablet computer. “The use of mobile has become all-encompassing,” says Menon. “More people are likely to purchase a vehicle using their mobile device, which is very interesting. So, many people are willing to make a major purchase using their phones.” That’s especially true of millennials, who are more open to using technology at all phases of the purchase process. Twenty-one percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are even interested in trying augmented-reality technology to shop for vehicles, and 52% are interested in virtually test-driving vehicles. “There’s a generational element to this, but consumers in general see online purchasing as more pervasive,” says Menon. “People have expectations that buying a vehicle or an auto part is going to be very much like buying shoes online. They expect free shipping, returns, warranty, and all of those other elements.” Online auto parts sales are also becoming more common. Nearly half of consumers (47%) have purchased auto parts online. Of those that have not made such purchases, roughly a quarter said they are likely to purchase parts and accessories online in the future. Respondents aged 30-39 (54%) are the highest percentage of people who have purchased automotive parts online. The profile of the online auto parts purchaser is also shifting. The number of women purchasing auto parts has increased, with women accounting for 41% of online parts purchasers. Among the female purchasers, more than half (56%) install the parts themselves. Women are also more likely than men to use mobile devices to purchase vehicles online (36%, compared to 28% of men). According to Menon, the increase in the number of women purchasing and installing parts has been enabled by access to more information about DIY repairs (see our DIY Trend Report in the April issue of Jobber News). “In the past, many women felt like they needed to be more informed before they went to a dealer or a repair shop,” explains Menon. “Now they are doing more research online and are more comfortable making those purchases. There has also been a proliferation of DIY content online. You can pull up a video that shows you how to install the part, which makes it much simpler.” Online shoppers in general are highly likely to perform installation themselves, with 64% of those purchasers installing parts. Another 22% take those parts to an auto shop or dealership, while 14% have tried both approaches.
Obstacles Remain For E-Commerce There are still some challenges to purchasing vehicles and parts online that both dealerships and distributors will have to address. On the vehicle purchasing side, there are still a number of transactional elements that aren’t currently addressed via e-commerce. Payment for vehicles on eBay Motors is still largely handled offline, as are things like title transfers, insurance, warranty, and other elements. “Those are all of the things you go to the dealer for,” Menon says. “If we can create a way to make those steps easier through technology, it could open up a really big market.” Menon expects video to play a larger role in online vehicle purchases. “Buyers will literally be able to see the vehicle they are getting online in a way that is very different than looking at a photo,” adds Menon. For online parts sales, there will be closer integration of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar capabilities, along with service integration. “That capability could be useful for consumers who want to purchase parts but don’t have the time or capabilities to fix their own car,” says Menon. “For example, there could be a service available to take a tire to the installer for consumers that don’t have the ability to haul it there themselves. The e-commerce provider could issue reminders about oil changes, and enable you to purchase the service online. All of that information can be presented in a very personalized manner, and that’s another growth area that we see emerging.” nJN
International e-commerce to grow to $50 billion by 2020
International sales from North American online retailers will jump from $11 billion in 2014 to almost $50 billion by 2020, making up 16% of the overall U.S. online retail market, according to a report by OC&C Strategy Consultants. The OC&C study estimated the value of the online retail export market by analyzing 2011 to 2013 search volumes from across the world for retailers based in six of the biggest e-commerce markets. These markets, including the U.K., U.S., Germany, the Nordics, the Netherlands and France, make up half of current global e-commerce volumes. The research determined that the retail sector is becoming increasingly global and interconnected as trade between countries grows exponentially. The latest research also uncovered that international consumers have a growing appetite for foreign goods, and consistently use search tools to learn more about international brands. More specifically, OC&C’s analysis found that international customers are turning to the U.S. for entertainment, electronics, fashion, and general merchandise. Brazil has demonstrated the most growth in international searches for U.S. retailers at 42%, followed by Australia (39%), Mexico (38%), and Italy (37%). While international sales for North American online retailers will only reach 7% of total volumes this year, OC&C’s analysis suggests that these numbers could more than double within the decade and could reach 16% by 2020. This presents a tremendous opportunity for retailers of all scopes and sizes, who are looking to drive revenues by broadening their reach and expanding their presence outside of Canada and the U.S. Leading online retailers such as eBay and Amazon have had significant e-commerce market share across the largest international markets over the last several years, and reported that more than 50% of their sales are already coming from overseas. “The global increase in the number of people with Internet access, and their growing willingness to buy online, are both providing terrific conditions for e-commerce,” says Google vice-president, U.S. sales, John McAteer. “The data on worldwide search activity demonstrates the international revenue opportunity for retailers that have a global online presence.”