Brick-and-mortar auto parts retailers are facing an existential threat: the burgeoning online parts industry. Online-only retailers are making inroads into what was once a distinctly technology averse market. Even Amazon is getting in on the action.

How can traditional automotive parts retailers stay competitive with the online-only model? With PRECISION. PRECISION Desktop Shipping brings the convenience and user-friendliness of the online model to the non-technical automotive user.

Parcel Shipping in the Aftermarket Parts Industry

Historically, the aftermarket parts industry has been primarily a brick-and-mortar industry. Parts stores and retail chains typically sold products in person or over-the-counter in a retail location. Some automotive parts retailers also had elements of wholesale distribution, selling parts in bulk to fleets, small garages, and automotive shops through inside sales business relationships.

In the past, automotive customers were reticent to order online. Many of these customers were not tech-savvy, particularly among older generations. Parcel shipping was rare, except when initiating a store-to-store transfer.

Now, this landscape is changing, as is the face of the automotive parts customer.  Millennials account for 28.7% of light maintenance repair purchases, according to IMR Research. This is a generation whose expectations have been shaped by their experiences ordering online: they expect ordering to be easy with fast, cheap and convenient shipping.

Younger generations typically research the parts they need online before they purchase; they might even do it right in the store from their mobile phone. They also prefer to skip or minimize contact with perceived “gatekeepers” in favor of online or mobile ordering. When available, they skip the customer service desk in favor of ordering the parts they need from a self-service kiosk.

The preferences of older generations are also being shaped by the ubiquitous nature of online shopping. More than 40% of baby boomers regularly shop online. As a result, they expect to be able to easily order even custom, hard-to-find parts and get them delivered either to their home or nearest retail store. Boomers also have high expectations for customer service—they dislike lines and expect to be helped quickly, even when stores are busy. Self-service kiosks help retailers deliver on these expectations.

As a result of these preferences, parcel shipping is becoming a more integral part of the aftermarket parts retail business. Customer-driven, in-store shipping kiosks allow customers to order custom parts and have the parcels shipped overnight, direct from the warehouse to their nearest store, home or garage. This combines the benefits of online self-service with the ease-of-use of in-store ordering, appealing both to older, technology averse customers and younger Millennial and Gen X automotive customers.

Three Ways PRECISION Streamlines Post-Warrantee Parts Shipping

With PRECISION Desktop Shipping, you can:

Facilitate In-Store Ordering

Brick-and-mortar retailers must find ways to compete against the ease, convenience, and selection of online retail. Unfortunately, given space limitations in stores, it can be difficult for many retailers to compete on selection—especially when it comes to custom or hard to find parts. That’s why the ability to order parts and have them delivered quickly, direct to the customer or store is crucial for retailers that don’t want to lose business to online parts retailers.

PRECISION Desktop Shipping makes it easy for customer service personnel in stores to order individual parts and ship them to the customers’ preferred delivery address. Retail store personnel can place orders, compare shipping rates and delivery service to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction, while also controlling non-production parcel shipping costs.

Attract Younger Customers

Despite what many media reports tell us about Millennial preferences for a car-free lifestyle, automotive customers are in fact getting younger. 80% of Millennials own cars; of those who don’t, 75% aspire to own one in the future. They are also more likely to prefer to “DIY” or “Do It Yourself,” both when it comes to working on their cars and ordering parts. And they show a strong preference for customization and personalization of their cars. To serve them, retailers must be able to access a wider range of hard to find or personalizable items that can’t be carried in the limited space of a retail store.

Younger generations are also leery of working with salespeople or customer service personnel, instead preferring the convenience of self-service or online ordering. PRECISION Desktop Shipping supports automotive parts retailers that want to attract these customers by implement self-service in their retail stores. Retailers can implement PRECISION Desktop Shipping as part of a stand-alone kiosk or make it available at an ordering station located at the front desk.

Lower Cost and Improve Delivery Speed

Auto parts retailers do enjoy some advantages over their online-only competitors. Among them are the ability to order dealer-only and custom parts and the convenience of being able to get help from knowledgeable staff.

In-store self-service allows auto parts retailers to leverage these advantages while meeting customer demands for convenience and selection. Self-service kiosks and walk-up customer interfaces require little to no training, so they appeal to technology averse older customers as well as younger customers who seek to minimize contact with store personnel.

However, introducing parcel shipping into this environment must be managed carefully to ensure that shipping costs do not adversely impact narrow margins. It’s also crucial to manage delivery service to ensure customer satisfaction.

PRECISION Desktop Shipping allows automotive aftermarket parts retailers to lower costs by establishing and implementing company-wide service-class policies and preferred carrier relationships. And best of all, it’s easy for customers to use, even without help: PRECISION Desktop Shipping’s intuitive, role-based web user experience was designed with the infrequent user in mind.

PRECISION Desktop Shipping allows automotive parts retailers to drive customer satisfaction and gain competitive advantage in a marketplace that is under threat from the online model. By allowing customers to quickly and easily order the parts they want and have them delivered to their door, retail stores can give online retailers a run for their money.