Jim Brannen is the vice president of e-commerce at BuyAutoParts.com, a replacement parts distributor based in San Diego, Calif. Brannen spoke to Aftermarket Business World about the company’s success in the e-commerce space, where the firm has been active since 2001.
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Your company has successfully used Google AdWords to help drive its online business. Can you tell me how that ties into your e-commerce strategy?
The number-one key is to understand what your customer needs and what they are thinking as best you can, and then try to react to that and serve the needs they have. You can align your advertising, titles and descriptions to what you believe your customer is thinking. They are trying to solve a problem, so you want to get in front of them and align your message and advertising with their need. That’s where we really succeed.
We’re also a partner with ROI Revolution, and they’ve been helpful in implementing a lot of our advertising and marketing strategies, and working with Google AdWords.
How has your inventory management technology infrastructure changed over time?
Initially we sold or advertised almost strictly inventory that we had on hand in our warehouse. That limited our addressable market. Over time we put in tools to know what parts we have in the warehouse, what parts we have in external but owned warehouse stock, and what parts we have available at drop-ship partners or vendor warehouses. It’s been an evolution.
What are the biggest challenges you face now in terms of e-commerce?
The thing on everybody’s mind right now is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is Amazon. They are a player now. We still feel we have a competitive advantage in the auto parts e-commerce market relative to Amazon. The other challenge is that well-known, branded retailers are aggressively investing in or seeking opportunities in e-commerce to expand their business. There are more players coming online, and the real change now is the big players entering this space.