If you’re a retailer or a manufacturer in the automotive aftermarket, sooner or later you have to use a new auto parts website builder. It’s a big project so here are some things to know, look for, and ask if you are trying to launch your first eCommerce website, or launch a new auto parts website. You can ask the developer, or if you’re already working with one of the many digital marketing companies in the aftermarket they can do that for you. Here at AutomotiveAftermarket.org we list many auto parts eCommerce website builders to choose from. There are also many lists available on other websites if you’re looking for the auto parts eCommerce platform for auto parts.
We’re defining “eCommerce” as a website that sells direct to consumers, has a shopping cart, and takes credit cards. It doesn’t matter if it’s a retail site or a manufacturer selling direct to consumer (DTC).
What to ask an auto parts website builder
If you’re talking to website builders, there are many questions to ask about functionality, editing, product data, and so on. Below are a few things to consider for your new site.
What eCommerce platform to use: Open source, proprietary or SaaS?
There are basically two solutions used by an auto parts website builder. Open source software is generally “free” (but requires a lot of work to customize and make functional, so “free” is not really true) or proprietary. Proprietary platforms are exclusive to a specific auto parts website builder; they create manage their own platforms. Some proprietary platforms are marketed as a third option: Software as a Service (Saas). These SaaS platforms are proprietary and are enabled with a monthly service or licensing fee.
There’s no “best” way to go. Open source platforms give you the option to choose from many developers, even from around the world. There are thousands of developers that work with the most popular open source platforms such as WordPress or Magento.
On the other hand, proprietary eCommerce platforms usually force you to work with specific website builders because it’s a platform that builder created. Exceptions to this are eCommerce platforms that are marketed as SaaS. Usually these platforms work with approved developers familiar with the platform. Miva is an example of this approach.
Be patient but insist on a schedule
Building a new website with complete functionality takes time. Plan on a three month build at least. Some sites may take longer to develop. Have a conversation with your eCommerce site builder and have a realistic expectation of a go-live date. Expect delays, it’s common. But, also agree upon a schedule. You may want a penalty clause built into your schedule if your new aftermarket site is not ready on time.
Questions to ask an auto parts website builder: User experience
First off, you should know what the user experience (UX) will be for any new auto parts eCommerce website.
- What does site navigation look like and is it customizable?
- What product sections are available and are they customizable?
- How functional is keyword search on the site and how accurate are the results?
- What is the average page load speed for other websites the builder has created? Can any page load stats be quantified using an online page speed test?
- What is a typical eCommerce conversion rate for websites the builder has created?
- What does the category tree look like and is it customizable?
- How many clicks will it take to get from the home page to a product page?
- Once a customer decides to place an order, how many clicks will it take to check out and complete an order? Compare the checkout process to well-known eCommerce sites like Amazon.
- How will a customer be assured of purchasing the correct part to fit the customer’s vehicle?
- If you are a manufacturer, will your new website be able to show locations of your dealers, and how is that maintained?
Questions to ask: Does your auto parts website builder offer technical support
You should have a complete understanding of the level of technical support provided by any website builder.
- What technical support is included with a website and are there additional charges?
- How do you reach the technical support team?
- How reliable is the hosting platform and what can you expect for website uptime?
- How long will it take to respond to any technical support issues?
Questions to ask: How does your eCommerce website builder manage product data
You should have a thorough understanding of how your website will be populated with product information.
- How is product data added to the website?
- Does the website builder work with any automotive data suppliers?
- How is year/make/model fitment for automotive products maintained and what is the source for that data?
- Is the website platform compatible with ACES data?
- Does the website platform allow importing of PIES data?
- What auto parts brands will the website be able to show?
- Will the new website be limited to specific brands?
- What are the options to show brands and products if not included from the website builder’s standard list?
Questions to ask: Security, fraud and payments
Security is extremely important for any website.
- How secure is the website from hacking?
- How is the customer’s credit card information stored and managed?
- Is the new website fully PCI-compliant?
- What payment gateways do you support for credit cards?
- How are fraud orders detected and managed and is that included or an additional service fee?
Questions to ask: Inventory and shipping
If you’re a manufacturer you probably have your own inventory, unless you intentionally want to steer orders to your distributors. If you’re a retailer you need to know how you will ship orders.
- Does the eCommerce website builder work directly with drop shipper warehouse distributors (WDs) or will you need to set that up on your own?
- How many drop ship warehouses does the site developer work with?
- Are there options to receive feeds from drop shippers on available inventory?
- How many warehouses can your new auto parts website connect to?
Questions to ask: Customization and pricing
- How are auto parts prices managed on the new website?
- Are MAP or unilateral prices managed through the eCommerce platform?
- What options are available for customization and how much does it cost?
- What will make your new eCommerce website different from the website builder’s other customers? Or is the new site going to be “cookie-cutter?”
- What control will you have over your new website’s appearance, including colors, logos, category page layout or product page layout? How much control will you have without having to rely on the developer’s IT staff to make changes to the website?
These are only a few questions to ask, read this list over carefully and you will probably come up with additional questions on your own.