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Technology Newsmaker Q&A Jason Lancaster

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 09:00
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Spork Marketing, an online marketing consultancy that specializes in auto parts and accessories, released a new guide to provide detailed marketing advice for start-up online auto parts retailers.

Spork President Jason Lancaster spoke to Aftermarket Business World about the genesis of the guide, and some new online marketing opportunities for parts e-tailers.

Why did you create this guide?

Our services are not really designed for start-ups, but we've had a lot of new companies contacting us about how to get started with selling parts online. We took all of our knowledge and information, and packaged it in the guide. When they get to a certain size, they can contact us and we can help take them the rest of the way.

What are the biggest online marketing challenges in the auto parts space?

Minimum allowed prices are a blessing and a curse. They help lock in profitability, which is why we're seeing so many people enter the space. They know if they can get someone to buy the part, they can make enough money to cover expenses.

The only way for retailers to differentiate, aside from offering their own parts, is in the quality of the website, their service, or freebies or extras they are willing to give away. The number of retailers offering free shipping has increased, and the threshold for it has come down. You have to go the extra mile, and that's hard. We help companies identify what makes them unique in the marketplace, and then play to that strength.

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Where are companies going wrong?

The biggest mistake is not knowing your customer. So many times I talk to people and ask them whom they are selling parts to, and their answer is, "Everybody." I appreciate the ambition, but it's not a rational response. The temptation is to take all the data, put it on your website, and hope that somebody comes along and buys those parts. But when you take that approach, you're competing against eBay and Amazon. A better approach is to identify a niche and focus on that. Just be successful and profitable, and don't worry about being Amazon.

Where are the biggest opportunities for online parts marketing?

The biggest opportunities are the ones that are overlooked. E-mail, for example. It's a little challenging organizationally, but once it's set up correctly it's very powerful. It's a great place to go get money every time you send an e-mail.

The other area of growth is Instagram. We can't track much revenue back to it, but there is a lot of engagement there. For people under a certain age, Instagram is their social media channel. People like to see pictures of cool cars, but also behind the scenes stuff, pictures of events. People are paying attention and responding, but I don't know that it's making anybody any money. Facebook is still a much bigger and a better investment.

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