The automotive parts ecommerce market is poised for aggressive growth, thanks in large measure to permanent shifts in digital B2B buyer behavior caused by COVID-19.
As soon as 2023, the automotive afterparts market, primarily driven by business-to-consumer sales—but also including sales to repair shops and related B2B professionals—could top online sales of $21 billion, up from just $10 billion in 2010, according to a range of sources including Jeffries Automotive, Hedges & Co., the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, and the Auto Care Association.
The increase in ecommerce sales and the change in digital buyer behavior have pushed many B2B and B2C automotive parts sellers to retool their approach to online selling.
A case in point is Shockwarehouse.com. The company launched its ecommerce website in 2006 and processes both B2B and B2C online sales.
CEO John D’Onofrio says the company has been seeing growth in B2B sales, especially since the pandemic hit. A big reason, he says, is that with consumers dining out less and spending less on entertainment since the pandemic hit, the money people are saving is being put back into their vehicles. Many consumers will buy shocks and struts from the auto repair and body shops Shockwarehouse.com supplies. As a result, auto repair and body shops are turning to Shockwarehouse.com for inventory, D’Onofrio says.
“About 75% of our B2B business comes through our B2B website,” D’Onofrio says. “Our site is easy to navigate and order through as we already have our customers’ tax certifications and discounts built into their account. Plus, we can quickly identify them when they log in to their account (which aids in customer service).”
New B2B customers, on the other hand, tend not to order online, he adds, but eventually many will shift to the B2B site for ordering once they become familiar with it.
Another factor fueling growth in B2B sales is that since the pandemic hit, many auto repair and body shops have become understaffed, like many other businesses, which in turn has pushed them to order more online for convenience. Orders can also be placed 24/7.
“The pandemic has made our B2B customers less on reliant on placing orders by phone and more accustomed to ordering online,” D’Onofrio says. “Plus, customers that can’t reach us by phone will go to our website. While auto parts are an essential business, we see our customers need help (which we provide through online ordering).”
While problems in the supply chain have created inventory issues, one bright spot is that “if we don’t have a part, usually no one else does either,” D’Onofrio says.
Nevertheless, if a customer cannot find what they are looking for on Shockwarehouse.com, they will search elsewhere. But Shockwarehouse will also explore other sources. “Sometimes we can source a part through another wholesaler,” D’Onofrio says.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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