The Focus & Future of the Automotive Aftermarket

The Focus & Future of the Automotive Aftermarket

We’re all used to self-service on the web, whether it’s managing our own finances or booking a flight or a holiday. Why can’t it be the same for car parts?

According to the SEMA 2022 Future Trends report, electric vehicles, connected cars, and eCommerce, among other trends, may lead to the redistribution of 30 to 40 percent of aftermarket profits along the value chain and change the industry landscape in the next 10 to 20 years.

With an increase in demand for aftermarket parts, many retailers are taking a hard look at their ability to meet the demand and provide the experience their customers are craving – convenience, extensive product selection, consistent availability, and fast delivery. To meet this demand, many retailers have a web store in place, but it’s commonplace that those sites were built years ago and may not have been set up to handle the increased inventory options and transaction volume that the current eCommerce environment demands. If you are not offering a seamless experience from browse to search to purchase, you risk being left behind. Now is the time for you and your team to face the facts: What are we doing to provide a better eCommerce experience?

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the key factors that are contributing to aftermarket parts success and how you and your team can be strategic in maintaining a competitive position in a rapidly-changing environment.

Key Factors Contributing to Aftermarket Parts Success

Dramatic changes are in motion within the automotive aftermarket. These include changing customer expectations, accelerated adoption of new technologies, and shifts in competitive power.

Automotive aftermarket eCommerce retailers are seeing growth on just about every front. Why? There are not enough new vehicles to meet consumer demand, according to SEMA. Not surprisingly, this means more and more people are keeping their vehicles and spending more of their money maintaining them.

But that’s not all bad news, as this provides retailers the opportunity to increase their bottom line and take advantage of this aftermarket acceleration. Let’s explore some of the key factors contributing to this rise in reliance on aftermarket parts and services.

  • Low auto inventory levels: New-vehicle inventory at the end of July was higher than it was a year ago, when the global computer chip shortage began hurting production, but supply remains low compared with pre-pandemic times, according to Cox Automotive’s analysis of Auto Available Inventory data. In addition, domestic production of new motor vehicles in the United States was down 16.5% from 2019 according to SEMA. Vehicle sales over the same period were down 9.6%, which has led to historically low inventory.  People have reported waiting on an average of six or more months to receive their new vehicle. Low inventory levels likely mean demand for new vehicles will remain strong over the next year, as auto manufacturers work to repair supply chains and produce more vehicles.
  • The rise in technological advancements: Aftermarket parts such as catalytic converters and electronic chips are in high demand as owners invest in their older vehicles trying to make them more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly. In addition, people are always on the lookout for new features to add to their older vehicles.
  • Government regulations: Stricter car emission regulations have put pressure on manufacturers to produce more environmentally friendly and high-efficiency parts.  This demand is expected to excel at a fast pace in the future and is a trend to stay on top of.
  • More disposable income: More people are self-made millionaires, demanding more luxuries, including wanting to design or remodel their vehicles, which is increasing the demand for aftermarket products.

Overall, aftermarket retailers should feel optimistic about the future. The strong demand for aftermarket products will continue to grow in 2022 and beyond. However, challenges loom on the horizon. Ongoing supply issues will likely constrain available supply and increase prices.

What’s next for your business and retailers alike?

Many retailers are taking a hard look at their ability to provide a better online buying experience for their customers and asking themselves some tough questions such as:

  1. Are we prepared to handle increased online sales? 
  2. Can our current technology help us stay on top of the supply chain issues?
  3. Is our existing store technology a problem?

This hasn’t stopped consumers from making a purchase. Shoppers simply switched brands or went to another retailer to get what they needed. What does this mean for you? Don’t let technology get in the way of your business and profits.

Side Note: According to the SEMA report, nearly ⅔’s of people reported they wanted to purchase something from an online auto aftermarket retailer, but it was out of stock.

Let’s take a look at how you can get ahead of issues like this with eCommerce:

  • Extend your geographical reach: Whether you sell parts B2C, B2B, or both, eCommerce extends your geographical reach and provides your customers with 24×7 access to place orders. Fully integrating third-party codes where customers can view their complete purchase history and status of current orders from anywhere, anytime is just the beginning of building your customer base beyond your brick and mortar.
  • Improve customer experience: Elevate the buying experience by allowing customers to manage parts and pricing while having immediate access to inventory. 

Get professional help updating your eCommerce site: InteractOne offers full-service website custom design and deployment, using Magento. Take a look at how we helped turn a static automotive aftermarket site into a responsive, custom-designed one and how we can do the same for you.

Bringing it all Together

With the accelerating growth of eCommerce – which creates opportunities to modify business models and adopt new ways of interacting with customers – automotive suppliers and distributors face increased pressure to transform now. How come? Retail giants are quick to fill gaps and expand their footprint into new industries like automotive. But the one thing the big retailers can’t match is the automotive experience and expertise of companies that are already established and successful in the industry – this is where you and your team can gain a strategic advantage with FitmentPro.

FitmentPro is our solution to gaining this automotive advantage. Not only will this software tool help keep your automotive catalog up to date with the aftermarket trends, but it will also empower your customers to find the perfect part in record time and so much more. Click here to learn more and book a demo with a member of our Dev team today. You’ll be blown away when you see how this feature can help your site perform at top speed while serving the product catalog search results for your customers.

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    The Future Is Electric – What the Electric Car Revolution Means for Automotive Aftermarket Websites

    The Future Is Electric – What the Electric Car Revolution Means for Automotive Aftermarket Websites

    Edgy analysts have been heralding the death of the internal combustion engine for decades, yet gasoline cars keep chugging along with ever more efficiency. Nevertheless, all good rides must come to an end, and it seems like the conventional internal combustion car is finally being overtaken on the highway by the almighty electric vehicle (EV).

    Millions of electric cars are already on the road, and sales are predicted to surpass 220 million by 2030. The good news for automotive ecommerce stores is that EVs still burn through a lot of consumable components, and they accept many of the same aftermarket upgrades that your store probably already sells to so-called petrol heads. All you have to do is shake up your inventory and marketing strategies a bit to cater to EV drivers.

    Maintenance Parts: Say Goodbye to Engine Oil and Ignition Coils

    Oil changes are undoubtedly the most common car maintenance procedure. As such, engine oil and oil filters are among the best sellers for a lot of aftermarket shops. Unfortunately, electric cars require neither of those consumables.

    In fact, electric cars run without a lot of the maintenance items that you’re probably used to selling. Air intake filters, spark plugs and ignition components, transmission and differential fluids, manifold gaskets, catalytic converters…powering a vehicle with electricity makes all of those components obsolete.

    While EVs may drive differently than internal combustion engines they still need to stop. EVs do require brake maintenance components like pads, rotors, and brake fluid, though maintenance will be less frequent than their gasoline counterparts due to regenerative braking technology. Tires, cabin air filters, and car cleaning accessories will all still be fair game also.

    As for the powertrain – electric motors and batteries require very little maintenance unless they’re damaged or worn out from extremely high mileage. When either of those things happen, the cost and complexity of the repairs generally necessitate a specialized technician.

    In other words, driveway mechanics purchasing maintenance parts to install at home will be a much smaller demographic.

    Powertrain Upgrades: Out with Hardware, In with Software

    Unfortunately, pretty much all of the traditional aftermarket engine upgrades are off the table as well. Cold-air intakes, performance exhaust systems, turbo system components…any upgrade that bolts onto the engine will be incompatible with electric powertrains.

    Some new potential mods are entering the market though in the form of software packages. Tesla already offers different software tunes to suit different performance targets, including their famous “Ludicrous” mode that temporarily amps up the Model S’s power output for straight-line sprints and drag races. Aftermarket tuners are already getting in the game too, such as Genovation with their custom electric power train swaps and tuning products. Less extensive software modifications are also possible, such as artificial engine notes that play through the car’s audio system as the driver accelerates.

    No matter how complex electric cars and their computer systems become, there will always be an aftermarket engineer somewhere finding ways to squeeze more power and sportiness out of them. Whether they do so using a wrench or keyboard, you’ll still have a performance product to add to your digital shelves.

    Electric Cars Can Still Dance with Handling Upgrades

    Automotive technology may continuously evolve, but physics stays the same. If you want to modify a car to go around a turn faster, you lower the center of gravity, stiffen the chassis and suspension, then wrap the wheels in sticky tires. Electric motors don’t prohibit any of those upgrades.

    Performance driving enthusiasts and weekend racers will still be in the market for mods that improve driving dynamics and handling. In fact, the market for chassis and suspension upgrades may even grow as enthusiasts have less options to inject performance and personality into their engines and transmissions.

    Good Looks Never Go Away

    When it comes to aftermarket suspension upgrades, handling improvements are only half the story. There are just as many enthusiasts who purchase performance lowering springs and shocks simply for the low-profile stance of the upgraded suspension. 

    Aftermarket wheel sets go hand in hand with lowered suspension setups. From there, the sky’s the limit when it comes to aftermarket aesthetic modifications. Sporty bumpers and ground effects, custom hoods and headlights, along with the increasingly-popular trend of custom vinyl graphics and full exterior vinyl wraps are what enthusiasts will use to make their electric cars scream rather than a set of unmuffled exhaust pipes.

    Hot-Rodding Is Forever

    People have been modifying their rides since the invention of the wheel. Speed addicts in the 19th century were figuring out ways to cram more heat into their steam engines, wealthy ancient Egyptians and Europeans rode around in tricked-out chariots – it’s absurd to think that driving enthusiasts will suddenly lose the itch to tinker with their cars once they’re powered by electrons instead of gasoline.

    Conclusion

    The challenge is simply keeping yourself and your automotive store up to date with the aftermarket trends that will lead the way into the future of electric hot-rodding. For assistance with keeping your auto webstore tuned to the changing marketplace, please feel free to reach out to us.

    May 2021 Automotive Orange Report

    May 2021 Automotive Orange Report

    May 2021 Automotive ORANGE REPORT

    The May 2021 Automotive Orange Report features our best & most recent blogs and guides on Magento, Big Commerce, eCommerce, and Digital Marketing.

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    UPDATED: Three Susceptible Demos to Target with Your Auto Aftermarket Campaign

    This blog was a hit with our Automotive audience but it has some excellent research lessons that extend to other industries too. Check it out. 

    Chassis Codes 101: An Integral Spec for Automotive Aftermarket Web Stores

    One very important (and potentially lucrative) spec is missing from most automotive product listings: the chassis codes of compatible vehicles.

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    How to Diagnose and Solve Bounce Rate Issues on Your Automotive Aftermarket Site

    How to Diagnose and Solve Bounce Rate Issues on Your Automotive Aftermarket Site

    Traditionally, bounce rates in the automotive aftermarket world may have referred to hydraulic suspension kits on low-rider cars, or the spring rate curves on a set of coil-overs. Nowadays, automotive web stores have a different bounce rate to consider: the rate at which users “bounce” off of your page immediately. 

    Put simply, high bounce rates are bad: every bounced user is a potential customer that is lost back into cyberspace, likely to search engine page results (SERPs) that link to your biggest competitors. You also get hit with SEO penalties that lower your page ranking.

    Use this guide to identify the issues causing your automotive web store to have a high bounce rate, fix the problems, and keep your traffic from flowing straight down the road of Google to your competitors’ sites. If you need more of a primer on bounce rates in general, check out our Bounce Rates 101 blog

     

    Solving the Most Common Bounce Rate Issues in Automotive Ecommerce

    Naturally, aftermarket automotive sites are subject to all of the usual bounce rate rules as discussed in our aforementioned 101 blog. However, there are also some common issues that tend to plague automotive shops specifically.

    Incorrect Part Numbers

    The Problem

    Many shoppers find parts numbers on OEM and aftermarket manufacturer websites, then copy-paste those numbers into Google. (It’s way more convenient than trying to search by the name of the part and navigating a myriad of filter options.) If your product listing doesn’t match the part number anchoring your page, all of those users are going to click their “back” buttons immediately with a bad taste in their mouths.

    The Solution

    You’ll have to open up the hood of your website and get the correct part numbers posted. Double-check the parts numbers with the ones listed directly on the manufacturers’ sites. If you pull your product information automatically from a database, you should probably look into using a different database before inaccurate product info drags your site down in the SERPs even further.

    Inaccurate Product Images

    The Problem

    An even more common issue is using inaccurate or generic product images. If a user is shopping for a cold-air intake and they see a picture of a catalytic converter pop up, they’re most likely going to bounce regardless of whether or not the rest of the product listing features accurate, quality information.

    The Solution

    It’s not feasible to post a specific image of every single aftermarket component you sell – that would practically be a full-time job just keeping up with a single make and model. Tiny, inexpensive components such as connectors, fasteners, and gaskets are bound to be given generic images.

    However, that’s not the case with your big-ticket items. When a user is shopping for a $1,000 exhaust system or a $2,000 set of wheels, they definitely want to see multiple unique, high-quality images of the product before they make a purchase. They certainly don’t want to see a generic press image of their vehicle, much less an image of a completely different component.

    Update the pictures with high-resolution images straight from the manufacturer’s website, or if you have the product on hand, snap a few unique photos of it yourself. That’ll go a long way to keeping users on the product page, as well as improving the overall quality and authority of your website. Carparts.com has a great example of this. 

    Sold Out or Discontinued Parts

    The Problem

    Online shoppers are generally an impatient bunch. If they’re searching Google for a specific aftermarket car part, it’s probably because they’re ready to make a purchase. If the product in your listing is sold out or discontinued, those shoppers are likely going to bounce in frustration.

    The Solution

    There are a few things you can do if you can’t get a product stocked. One option is to update the listing to prominently feature related products from other brands that fit the same make and model – that will potentially keep the user shopping on your page and encourage them to look into other products.

    If it’s a highly searched product that has a lot of traffic bouncing off your site, you can try addressing those users directly with a short written post at the top of the product page. Explain the reason for the out-of-stock status – put it in the manufacturer’s court by saying you’re actively working with them to get the product restocked.

    For discontinued products, apologize to shoppers and explain when and why the product was discontinued – the idea is that you want them to realize the product will be unavailable to buy from your competitors before they click their “back” buttons. Then, put together a curated list of related products with images that link directly to the product pages. Napa Online has a great example of this. 

    Putting a Damper on Bounce Rates

    Chasing down the source of bounce rate issues can feel like a game of Whack-A-Mole – you resolve one page, get the traffic flowing, then out of nowhere another page is repelling search users like a trampoline.

    If you want a more comprehensive and permanent solution, or you simply need help exorcising a particularly stubborn bounce rate demon, let the experts at InteractOne take a look under the hood of your website. We’ll resolve any issues and optimize your content along the way so your site has the horsepower advantage in the race against your competitors.

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    Chassis Codes 101: Integral Spec for Automotive Aftermarket

    Chassis Codes 101: Integral Spec for Automotive Aftermarket

    The organizational structure of your product catalog is the backbone of your eCommerce store. After all, it’s pretty difficult to sell products if your customers can’t search for and/or find them. What that means for your store is that you need to categorize your product listings in every relevant way possible to ensure that your shoppers don’t come up empty-handed when they’re browsing for a component.

    Every competent aftermarket automotive shop has that functionality built in with products categorized by vehicle year, make, and model. However, one very important (and potentially lucrative) spec is missing from most automotive product listings: the chassis codes of compatible vehicles. In this guide we’ll break down the need for Chassis Codes and how to incorporate them into your automotive aftermarket website.

    What Are Chassis Codes?

    Essentially, a chassis code is like a meta description of a vehicle. It designates what chassis a car is built upon, which is often shared across numerous models and makes. For example, the LX chassis platform owned by Chrysler was used by the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, and Dodge Charger produced from 2005 to 2010 – two brands and three models built for five years, but only a single chassis code.

    If you want a more in-depth crash course on chassis codes, Speedhunters has a great write-up including a lot of the most common models that car enthusiasts will be shopping for by chassis. And Active Auto shows a great example of Chassis Codes. 

    Why Do Customers Shop By Chassis Code?

    The main reason customers search for aftermarket parts by chassis code is simply that it’s easier. Instead of repeatedly typing in the year, make, model, and trim of their vehicles – keywords which often aren’t even featured on product listings – shoppers simply type a two- to four-digit chassis number.

    Another reason shoppers turn to chassis codes is that product listings often don’t include every model of compatible vehicle. In many cases that would be impossible – some components would have to feature sprawling lists of dozens of models to include every compatible year and trim level.

    On the other hand, a single chassis code keyword can give shoppers all of that same compatibility information without having to scroll through endless lists.

    How to Incorporate Chassis Codes into Your Web Store

    Here’s where things can get a bit tricky. Most likely, all of the meta data for the products featured on your store is scraped from supplier databases. That means you’ll have to wade into the back end of your website to automatically update your listings and include chassis codes Magento or BigCommerce product attributes are useful when mapping chassis codes and vehicle qualifiers to products because you can set specific attributes to display on the product pages, be searchable in the site search and filterable from category pages. However, that’s just the first step – you still need to create content to help rank for those searched chassis terms and show customers you’re relevant and reputable in the industry. 

    Luckily, there’s an easy way to take advantage of this marketing solution with some hands-on content:

    1.  Identify a number of vehicles and compatible chassis codes that you want to target with your marketing.

    2. Create a separate page or blog post dedicated to each chassis code.

    3. Make the pages SEO-friendly and include a relevant H1 title. For example, “A List of Upgrades Compatible with the Chrysler LX Platform”.

    4. Write some brief, keyword-rich content that is relevant to the chassis code. Mention vehicle years, makes, models, and trim levels that fall under the chassis code to make your content even more searchable.

    5. Include a list of compatible components that you sell arranged by category. You don’t have to include every part you offer, but be sure to highlight your best sellers and highest margin products.

    A. Mapping chassis codes to products can make this a breeze, and automate lists as you update product data.

    6. Share those pages via social media, email them to target segments of customers you know have those vehicles and try distributing those links to suppliers or enthusiasts to link back to your site now that you’ve created a valuable reference resource.

    7.  Repeat the process for every chassis code you want to target.

    Conclusion

    When you’re finished, you’ll have a repository of relevant, SEO-friendly pages for shoppers to land on for years to come whenever they type their vehicle chassis codes into Google. That should help you scoop up a ton of new customers even without making back-end changes to your product categories and databases.

    Of course, if you do want to go all-out and optimize your product listings to increase sales volume and user experience – or if you merely need help creating quality chassis code content and marketing it properly – Interact One has your back.

    UPDATED: Three Susceptible Demos to Target with Your Auto Aftermarket Campaign

    UPDATED: Three Susceptible Demos to Target with Your Auto Aftermarket Campaign

    Whether you run an international OEM parts store or a boutique automotive lifestyle brand, chances are you could use a few more customers. We’ve identified and researched some potentially lucrative demographics that, while not necessarily automotive-focused, are quite susceptible to purchasing car parts and accessories if properly motivated and marketed to effectively.

    While there are a number of ways to determine which unique demographics to target (stay tuned for an in-depth guide on that subject in the coming weeks), we’re focusing on three niches that are underdeveloped and, with the right marketing focus, could provide your ecommerce brand with an influx of new and loyal customers.

    DIY Enthusiasts

    DIY activities of all shapes and sizes are on the rise for a number of reasons. For one, building and maintaining things by hand saves money and reduces waste – both of which are economically in fashion these days. DIY car maintenance is no exception

    Add in the economic uncertainty due to the  Coronavirus event, and now you have a ton of new consumers who are invested in gear and workspaces for home DIY projects. If those consumers aren’t already doing maintenance on their cars at home, they’re definitely susceptible to the idea. Maybe it’s your automotive store’s next digital campaign that gets them turning the wrenches.

    Why Market Your Automotive Store to DIY Enthusiasts?  

    It’s right there in the title: “do it yourself.” DIY Enthusiasts are folks who generally enjoy working with their hands, figuring things out, and being self-sufficient. Compared to the average driver, they’ll be much more likely to read or watch a how-to guide, then buy maintenance items for their cars and install them at home.

    How to Market to DIYers

    Focus on a specific benefit of DIYing with each separate campaign you run.

    • For the environmentally-minded DIY demographic, highlight stats and sentiments about reducing their carbon footprint by maintaining their vehicle and keeping it out of the junkyard. Some routes to consider: stats on increased engine life and efficiency due to quality synthetic oil and filters; the most current stats on the total tonnage of automotive waste in landfills; guides to highlight upgrades that make cars more fuel efficient, or “hypermiling”.
    • For the budget-minded buyer, focus on “lifetime” stats that highlight the amount of money saved over years of home maintenance as opposed to paying for dealership maintenance. Compare the average price of a new car with the much lower cost of average yearly maintenance, highlighting the amount of money customers are saving in the long run by purchasing your aftermarket parts.
    • For buyers who pride themselves on self-sufficiency and handiwork, capture the spirit of craftsmanship. Show images of proud enthusiasts working on their own cars at home with car parts and tools featured prominently. Juxtapose car maintenance with home maintenance, lawn care, and common household tasks so that the customer sees automotive work as another everyday chore to take pride in rather than an intimidating job that requires a mechanic. Check out how this Pinterest page will walk users through a complicated project.

    Man Cave Dweller

    The Man Cave movement is alive and well. A passive search of Instagram alone for #mancave and you’ll literally find millions of tagged results. Not to mention the myriad of blogs dedicated to brainstorming “man cave” ideas and showcasing unique setups.

    Why Market Your Automotive Store to the Man Cave Crowd?

    Most people build their man caves in the garage. Even if not, the whole spirit of the hobby has its roots in old school facets of masculinity, which individuals in this market tend to value: handiwork, home repair, and car maintenance go hand in hand with the man cave persona. 

    There’s also bound to be a lot of crossover in the demographic that enjoys building customized home garage setups for entertainment purposes and the demographic that enjoys customizing and upgrading their cars.

    The other niche you find lurking in man caves is the tech enthusiast. These folks are more likely to have a custom-built gaming PC lying around than a custom-built engine block. Nevertheless, being tech-minded, DIY capable, and having a home “laboratory” in the garage means they’re much more likely to handle car maintenance at home – even if they have to  load up a YouTube tutorial on their phone while tinkering under the hood.

    How to market to Man Cave Dwellers

    The obvious route is to target the inherently masculine sentiment and bravado of man caves. Feature images of tricked-out home garages stocked to the brim with engine fluids, filters, car detailing gear, etc.

    • For the techy dweller of man caves, show off some cool garage gadgets in your campaign too – digital torque wrenches and calipers, multimeters and ECU tuners wired into engine harnesses, etc. 
    • Another zeitgeist to capture in your campaign is the social nature of man caves. Almost all man caves are designed as cool places in which to hang out – car maintenance is sometimes more or less just the excuse to get together in the garage. Show groups of buddies chatting, laughing, drinking beers, eating burgers, all while gathered around a car on jackstands with your products in full view.
    • A final niche to target is man cave dads who build their garage hangouts as a place to bond with their kids. Obviously the sentiment to go for here is fatherhood – an image showing a proud father helping his son turn a lug wrench, a dad scrambling to get out of the way as his kids wildly spray car wash foam out of a flailing hose, or anything of that nature.

    Car Enthusiast Forums

    Car enthusiasts love their niche forums. Virtually every different vehicle platform has its own dedicated forum where owners post in-depth discussions on maintenance, modifications, and common reliability issues. What better place could there be to advertise your platform-specific aftermarket parts?

    Why Market to Users on Car Enthusiast Forums?

    This one’s pretty self-evident. They own the cars that your parts fit, they’re enthusiastic about said cars to the point that they join social circles based on them, and they’re much more likely to buy aftermarket upgrades and DIY maintenance parts than the average driver.

    How to Market on Car Enthusiast Forums

    Most car forums allow sponsored vendors to market products to their users. You go through a vetting process, pay an advertising fee, then you get to post your products and promotions directly on the forums.

    Making your store a sponsored vendor can be a boon to selling aftermarket upgrade components. Users will be salivating for their upgrades while reading installation guides and browsing pictures of other users’ vehicles on the forum, so you want your products to be easily within their digital reach. Alternatively, you can use Google Ads and grassroots methods to target these shoppers less directly. Car Forums is an excellent example of this. 

    Conclusion

    Users on car enthusiast forums have turned their vehicles into a hobby and passion, so they’ll be more susceptible to lifestyle marketing that connects with their love for their cars. Due to the cost and complexity of performing extensive aftermarket modifications, enthusiasts also tend to plan out their upgrade purchases weeks or months in advance. That means they’re likely to cross shop and be very price sensitive, but also susceptible to discount campaigns and promo codes.

    To learn more about how your automotive brand can begin to target susceptible markets to grow your business, contact us today.

    April 2021 Automotive Aftermarket Orange Report

    April 2021 Automotive Aftermarket Orange Report

    April 2021 ORANGE REPORT

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    Unique, quality images are integral to your automotive web store. But how to get your images in front of the eyes of potential customers when your competitors doing the same thing?

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    UPDATED: Image Search Engine Optimization 101 for the Automotive Aftermarket

    UPDATED: Image Search Engine Optimization 101 for the Automotive Aftermarket

    What’s the first thing that shoppers look for when considering a new aftermarket upgrade for their cars? Pictures, usually. More specifically, pictures featured on platforms like Google Images, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

    Whether it’s aftermarket modifications or DIY maintenance components, modern automotive shoppers generally do their research online. As noted by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) in a meta analysis, automotive aftermarket “shopping starts with an inspiration, which for this generation begins online.” Browsing images of cars similar to their own is what “stirs their emotions and encourages them to formulate dreams.” In other words, they want to see their car “trying on” the component before they make a purchase.

    There’s no doubting that unique, quality images are integral to your automotive web store. The challenge is getting your images in front of the eyes of potential customers when all of your competitors are trying to do the same thing.

    In that regard, the journey to maximizing the visibility of your images across platforms – and using that visibility to boost traffic to your website – begins with some proper SEO and image optimization. For a great example of product images, check out Putco’s webstore

    Compress to Conserve Data

    Google doesn’t like it when you waste users’ bandwidth – especially mobile users, who are often restricted by monthly data caps from their ISPs. Taking a large image and simply shrinking it down via HTML tags only changes the appearance of the image. The same unnecessarily large file is still loaded on users’ devices, it’s simply displayed smaller on their screens.

    That creates a couple of problems. For one, Google’s algorithm notices those oversized image files wasting data and dings your site for not being optimized. Secondly, larger files equal longer load times, which Google also penalizes. Having your website populated with unnecessarily large image files can even make it hang up or freeze on some users’ devices, hitting you with the third and final blow of an increased bounce rate.

    Create Relevant File Names

    It’s only a small bump in SEO friendliness, but every bump counts. Edit the image file names on your server to something unique and relevant. For example, you might name an image of a chrome wheel something like “20_inch_mag_wheel_chrome.jpg” instead of the random string of characters that it’s named by default.

    Those relevant keywords in the file name give search engines another opportunity to properly categorize and rank your images. Furthermore, it makes them more user-friendly: users who open your images in new browser tabs or download them will be met with a nice, descriptive file name.

    Write Unique and Descriptive ALT Tags

    ALT tags give you yet another opportunity to sprinkle your images with some SEO- and user-friendliness. Essentially, the whole purpose of an ALT tag is to describe the content of an image for algorithms as well as visually-impaired users. Make sure all of your images have brief, relevant ALT tags peppered with some of the keywords your page is targeting.

    Combining the descriptive file name and ALT tag, you’re left with a nice SEO-friendly image tag that looks like this:

    Surround the Images with Relevant Text

    Of course, in the end it all comes down to content. No amount of optimization will propel your site and web images to the top of search results if the written content isn’t unique, relevant, and well-executed.

    When it comes to images, the page text will further help search algorithms categorize and rank you by subject and quality. For example, an image of a chrome wheel could appear on an automotive aftermarket web store, a bicycle shop, a page offering Google Chrome icon packs, etc. It’s the text on the page in the vicinity of the image – most notably the caption – that tells algorithms what they’re looking at. Below, you’ll see a great example of this:

    Conclusion

    Once you get all of your web images compressed, optimized, and placed correctly for SEO purposes, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to build platform-specific image marketing strategies. Create unique, high-quality images, tag and market them effectively on Google and social media, then you’ll really have a leg up on your competitors’ stores when shoppers go browsing on their favorite image platforms for some automotive inspiration. Reach out to us today and let’s discuss how to make this magic happen on your own automotive eCommerce site. Check out our DualLiner case study too. 

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