Katie Fiechter

Part 2: The Automotive Aftermarket

In part one of this series, we talked about the car buying experience and how our constantly evolving digital world has shifted consumers’ preferences and made them more willing to purchase “big ticket commerce” items, like automobiles, online. 

The car-buying journey doesn’t end once the customer drives off the (actual or virtual) lot. The post-purchase journey is also an important part of the overall customer experience. The automotive aftermarket is a $920 billion dollar industry and is expected to grow to $1.38 trillion by 2030, leaving plenty of room for opportunities to enhance the customer experience. 

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts and Accessories 

Dealerships and automotive manufacturers need to ensure that their customers can get OEM replacement parts, accessories, and add-ons in a frictionless way. Gorilla Group has extensive experience working with automakers and parts manufacturers to translate complex systems and operationalize commerce solutions to ensure a seamless process when it comes to OEM parts and accessories. 

- D2C - 

Gorilla Group has worked with a luxury automotive manufacturer to deliver D2C ecommerce for OEM parts, accessories, car care products, and branded and collectible items. By creating an easy-to-navigate customer experience, this luxury vehicle company was able to offer their customers price transparency and instill confidence that they are getting genuine replacement parts for the vehicles, not counterfeits or reconditioned parts. Counterfeit parts have run rampant on some marketplaces which can cause car problems, disrupt warranties, tarnish a brand’s reputation, and above all else, raise serious safety concerns if parts are not designed and operating as they are intended to be. (To further combat counterfeit parts, see our article on practical applications for NFTs for a secondary approach to ensuring product authenticity.)

As the traditional dealership model is being disrupted — people are starting to buy their cars fully online from sites like Carvana or directly from the manufacturers — automobile manufacturers want to be able to connect with their end customers and ensure a seamless experience to encourage brand loyalty and repeat business. The brand experience can be enhanced by incorporating functionality like a vehicle selector tool that enables customers to filter the catalog by model and year to show only parts and accessories that fit their specific vehicle. Giving customers the option to not only filter the catalog by make and model but set a default vehicle, will accelerate the process the next time they are looking to order a particular part. This can also be used to proactively communicate with car owners to alert them to order parts that are subject to wear and tear. Maintaining a history of all previous parts ordered and enabling one-click reorder will save customer’s time and eliminate the frustration of having to search for something that has been previously ordered, which may lead them to alternate sites.

Many vehicle owners do not live near the dealership from where they purchased their car or even went to a dealership to purchase their car in the first place. When it comes to repairs, allowing the vehicle owner to choose to have parts shipped to their home or a certified mechanic of their choice is extremely beneficial. Some DIY repairers exist, but a large majority lack the knowledge to repair their cars on their own. Having the ability to have the specific parts sent to the customer’s mechanic of choice, facilitated through one interface, eliminates a few pain points when it comes to ongoing maintenance and repairs.

- B2B2C - 

Aftermarket parts are arguably even more critical in B2B applications. Many manufacturers of heavy-duty equipment or fleet vehicles are enabling third party distributors to gain access to genuine parts at scale or manage all of their parts through a distributor network. Additionally, many distributors / dealers do not have the advanced digital capabilities or the ability to spin up an ecommerce site of their own. B2B2C is essentially white-labeling the commerce engine for the distributor or dealer that gives them the ability to deliver a branded commerce experience, provide the related catalog and pricing, and access real-time inventory data all through a connected portal. Our team has worked with one of the largest manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty trucks in the world to help enable complex B2B2C commerce. 

This particular manufacturer manages millions of SKUs. While their existing Online Parts Counter (OPC) allowed customers to purchase directly from their preferred dealership, the process was disjointed and not standardized across dealership systems, and search functionality was limited to part numbers. We created a standardized data framework that was essential for retrieving real-time pricing, inventory data, and order placement. We also created middleware to connect each distributor’s unique backend system, often a legacy ERP, to the commerce platform. Custom functionality was also incorporated for unique customers — like over the road truck operators — allowing dealers to access user accounts and place orders on their behalf. 

This manufacturer in particular was also missing out on opportunities to market to their most valued customers due to inaccessible customer data. Centralizing data collection and having access to first-party data can assist with creating more personalized experiences with valued customers. Data can also be used to identify potential system deficiencies within a vehicle before having to order a recall — e.g. taking note that customers are ordering brake pads much sooner than they typically would need to be replaced. 

Every aspect of the car buying process is heavily focused on improving overall customer satisfaction which can be done through implementing a faster, more responsive digital experience for all touchpoints along the journey, which in turn, will accelerate your own business.