FPS shares insight on its e-commerce journey and provides useful hints and tips for establishing an online presence.
Research released by the SMMT revealed that, in 2016, a higher percentage of automotive parts, services and accessories were purchased online in the UK than groceries and cosmetics. Sales of vital parts such as tyres, brakes and batteries are set to rise by 75% from £920 million in 2016, to over £1.65 billion by 2022.
The Office for National Statistics also announced that the total value of e-commerce sales by businesses in the UK’s non-financial sector rose to an impressive £511 billion in 2016. Figures like these demonstrate the importance of establishing an online presence and the huge potential for motor factors to increase sales by expanding their operations online.
UK-based automotive parts distributor FPS is one company that has embraced the digital age, introducing its first e-commerce platform – the F:Drive – in 2002. Digital Business & Client Services Director, Dominique Peacock shared that in those early days, the industry and the customers were not quick to adopt online trading. In order to support this shift, FPS introduced a dedicated Customer Service Team to help customers use the F:Drive and various integrated system links, as well as build trust that the system will deliver as expected. As customers have become more tech savvy, FPS has also invested in improvements to e-commerce user interfaces, drawing new users in organically. As a result, 80% of the company’s sales are now processed electronically, with the F:Drive alone processing an average of 13,000 orders a day.
How can factors adapt to the digital age?
As motor factors vary in size and scale, it is important to choose an online solution that can be sustained in order to reap the benefits. Here are some top tips from FPS’ Digital Manager, Helen Guilliatt, for online success:
- Be digitally savvy – The Digital Garage by Google offers free training on digital skills, from how websites work to building an online strategy.
- Think local – If you depend on local sales, make sure your Google My Business page is up to date. It’s free, and will make sure that you can be found online. Adding your location on Apple Maps will ensure you can be found on any device.
- Create your website – There are several options, like Google’s G Suite, to help you create simple websites for free, with little technical knowledge.
- Embrace social media – A Facebook business page is a great alternative to a full company website. Joining more social media channels will further increase your reach but you do need resource in place to manage your presence.
- Know your marketplaces – Marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay offer an alternative avenue for ecommerce. However, competition is fierce, so websites like Tamebay can be invaluable for free advice.
- Develop trust online – Add some well- shot photographs of your premises, inside and out.
- Create an online store – For an e-commerce site to work properly it needs investment and resource, from maintaining the infrastructure to generating traffic to the site. You can outsource this to a trusted developer, but do your research. Check out their other website projects and get references from other customers.
Helen added: “It’s important to remember that reviews highly influence customer purchasing decisions, and, unfortunately, customers are more likely to share bad experiences than good. It is therefore vital to respond to enquiries and reviews quickly.”
Dominique emphasised the importance of combining an online offering with high levels of customer service: “Customer expectations are high. They expect to find businesses online and the internet makes your service levels more transparent. You can’t do one without the other. You have to keep listening to the users; they provide a lot of knowledge and direction.
“Our experienced and talented Digital Team uses all feedback received, working collaboratively with other departments and software partners to shape our e-commerce solutions, making it easier for our customers to do business with us.”
It’s never been more important for businesses to be online in order to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. Customer purchasing journeys are constantly evolving, so motor factors need to keep up with both technology changes and resource requirements to continually evolve, to ensure they can future-proof their business.
By applying this forward-thinking approach and providing excellent customer service, you’re sure to secure yourself a successful online future.