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Online Sales Stuck in Neutral? Here’s How to Get Them Back In Gear

By Amanda Urban and Jordan Schware, Hollander, LLC

You’ve established an online sales presence, but it feels like sales are creeping along in the slow lane. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Drawn by the allure of a vast worldwide marketplace, some recyclers eagerly embraced e-commerce only to be disappointed when parts didn’t fly out the door as quickly as expected.

Here are a few sometimes-overlooked tips to help move your online sales into the fast lane.

Kick Your Doubts to the Curb
Before even considering pulling the plug on your e- commerce efforts, take a deep breath and remember why you began selling online in the first place. For starters, it’s where the customers are now and where even more will be in the future. Continuing a decade- long trend, U.S. e-commerce sales in 2015 rose 14.6% over 2014, while total retail sales grew just 1.5%, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Plus e-commerce provides access to a younger, increasingly affluent, and internet-savvy customer base. It enables you to sell during the evening, with
46% of online shopping occurring between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., plus weekends and holidays. And, of course, an online sales presence enables you to go toe- to-toe with the big guys.

Image is Everything
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: photos are critical to selling online. Your listings should feature plenty of images, including, at mini- mum, the part being sold, at least one close-up of any damage areas and the OE identification number (if stamped).

Equally important, your photos need to be high quality, showing the part clearly against a clean, uncluttered background. Fortunately, technology makes this easy. Even the most basic smartphone can snap crisp, high-resolution photos, and plenty of apps make uploading them to your sales platform a breeze. Take this simple test to evaluate your images. Look at your online listings and ask yourself, “Would I buy this part based on these photos?” If the honest answer isn’t an emphatic “Yes,” reshoot.

Broaden Your Sales Channels
With 14 million unique visitors a month and three parts or accessories sold every second, eBay is the pre- eminent parts marketplace. Of course, not everyone shops eBay. So augment your eBay efforts by listing your inventory in multiple places, such as APU PartsNetwork™ and which is included with a subscription to EDEN®, Hollander’s parts-locating network. Further broaden your efforts by marketing and promoting your yard locally on your own website, social media and specialized forums. When casting a wide net, make sure that your yard management system features real-time integration to ensure inventory accuracy and consistency across all your listing platforms. Nothing could be worse than the same part shown in stock on one platform yet out of stock on another.

Keep Improving
The little things can spell the difference between earning a sale and losing one or snaring a customer who buys just once and one who comes back time and again. Evaluate each component of your online sales process – everything from listings to shipping – and strive to continually improve upon it. The Japanese call this process of continuous refinement kaizen.

You can incorporate kaizen in virtually limitless ways. Start with your response times. While two hours should be the outer limit for responding to online inquiries, strive for one hour and then less. If that means hiring a staffer to tackle this task, consider making the investment; it may be worth the cost.

Offer clearly spelled-out, hassle-free warranties and returns, and make a point of emphasizing that in your listings. Be sure your parts are clean and shipped in professional looking packaging. Ensure that customers always receive their parts in the timeframe specified, and even earlier if possible. Offer free shipping to help close the deal.

Show Your Appreciation
Repeat customers are a huge sales driver, which makes them the Holy Grail all online sellers are chasing. In fact, 48% of all U.S. e-commerce transactions in the fourth quarter of 2015 came from repeat visitors, according to marketing firm Monetate.

One way to attract repeat customers is by offering a small gift or token of appreciation for the purchase, and one that can pay handsome dividends. This simple gesture can make you memorable, get customers familiar with your brand and separate you from other sellers.

It can be something low-cost and tangible, such as a mini LED flashlight or a 10% off coupon. Or it can be even more basic, such as a handwritten note that says “Thank you for buying from us. We appreciate your business!” Either way, it represents an incentive to purchase from you again.

There’s no doubt: e-commerce is an outstanding way to sell more parts. Like any other worthwhile endeavor, successfully mastering it – and enjoying the sales that come with it – takes hard work, patience and attention to detail.