Image Search Engine Optimization 101 for the Automotive Aftermarket

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:

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.

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.

Generate More Traffic by Optimizing Your Web Images Cross-Platform

Generate More Traffic by Optimizing Your Web Images Cross-Platform

Whether you’re selling flashy sets of custom racing wheels or plain plastic clips for interior trim panels, images are absolutely integral to your automotive e-commerce store. They make your website design approachable, they lend reputability to your product listings, and they give all those online shoppers who are visual learners a way to browse your digital shelves without having to read every tedious description and spec.

Your web images can be very effective off-site tools as well. From improved SEO, to ranking at the top of Google Images, to building your brand and audience via social media – sprucing up your web images and sharing them around can help bring a whole lot of new shoppers to your aftermarket automotive web store.

In this guide you’ll learn how to optimize and share your product images to drive more traffic to your automotive aftermarket website.

 

Being Unique Goes a Long Way

Whenever possible, it’s always better to use a unique image instead of a stock one. Search engines will count it as unique, relevant content, which lends a hand to your on-site SEO. It will also make your product listings stand out from your competitors – customers will see your product pages as tailored, refined, and reputable rather than yet another auto-generated product directory from an anonymous third party. 

  • What If I Have a Huge Product Catalog or Drop-Shipping Program? If you have thousands of components listed for sale or a large drop-shipping program, taking unique photos of every product you have listed isn’t feasible. Still, you should take the time to snap quality, unique pictures of your top selling products (with multiple perspectives and vantage points whenever possible). Include those on the product pages along with quality product descriptions instead of copy-pasted manufacturer specs. This will make your pages really stand out from the competition.

 

  • What About eCommerce Stores that Sell Premium Aftermarket Parts and Upgrades?  On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re an automotive aftermarket store offering custom car parts and performance components, it’s practically imperative that you focus your product listings around unique imagery. Whether it’s racing wheels or performance exhaust systems, selling premium aftermarket components is all about getting the viewer to picture the product installed on their own car. To accomplish this, you need to showcase quality images of the components installed on each specific vehicle that the component is compatible with. If a user is shopping for a custom muffler kit to install on their 2010 Ford Mustang, they’ll be much more enticed into buying it if they’re greeted with a picture of the kit installed on a 2010 Ford Mustang when they click the page. A manufacturer’s image of the uninstalled muffler kit or a stock image of it installed on a Honda Civic will come across as impersonal and generic to the shopper.

Turn Your Product Pictures into Billboards on Google Images

All of the usual SEO rules apply when it comes to ranking your store’s product shots on Google Images. Obviously, due to ample competition, domain authority is going to be the biggest factor when it comes to ranking stock images that you host on your server.

For smaller stores, the way to outrank the big dogs is to post unique product photos that are of equal or better quality than their stock counterparts. Google will rank those unique images within the top results of copy-pasted stock images that larger stores use on their product pages – as discussed above, using unique content makes you stand out from the crowd, literally in this case.

To make sure your unique images are properly scraped and categorized on Google Images.(Check back next week for our  “Image Optimization 101” guide.) For now, you can start by surrounding the images with a quality product description, fact-checked specs, and organic keywords that focus on the vehicle make and model which Google users will be searching for.

Reach Some Niches on Social Media

You can turbocharge the outreach of your web images by sprinkling them across social media. Pinterest is a great platform for this because it easily lets you cross-post images straight from your site, copy-paste a relevant portion of your product description, tag some relevant keywords, then set your pictures loose into the wild. Google Images automatically scrapes Pinterest too, so the images you post there and on your web store should pop up side by side in user searches.

Instagram is another great repository for your web images. Stock photos won’t play very well there when it comes to audience reach – they’ll come across as spammy and generic. Instagram is a platform where your unique images can really shine though. Simply cross-post them, throw on a cool filter if you want, and tag them with a dozen or so relevant keywords, such as the name and type of the component, the make and model of vehicle, and colloquial hashtags used by demographics likely to shop at your web store.

For example, you could target pictures of aftermarket wheel sets, lowering springs, and other suspension components at the “#stance” hashtag; or you could target images of customer vehicles equipped with aftermarket off-road suspension components at the “#4x4life” hashtag.

Finding the niche tags that are followed by the demographics you want to target with your products takes a bit of research up front, but it’s a great way to get your brand in front of the right users and potentially build a reliable network of social media followers that you can easily market to.

Image SEO Is One Integral Piece of the Larger Puzzle

Optimizing your images for search engines and cross-posting them isn’t a magic bullet that will suddenly flood your site with millions of viewers – unless by chance you post an image that goes absolutely viral. Nevertheless, it’s an integral part of the overall SEO picture that will give your web store a better foothold on the climb up the ladder of SERPs.

In the end – as always – content is king. Publish great content, supplement it with quality images, make sure everything is search engine optimized along the way, and your automotive aftermarket e-commerce store will have a great foundation from which to build.

If you would like to discuss or explore these techniques or any other site optimization or digital marketing issues for your auto aftermarket site, please drop us a line.

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5 Strategies to Improve Your Automotive Aftermarket Webstore Today

5 Strategies to Improve Your Automotive Aftermarket Webstore Today

Spring time has officially sprung and with it brings a boom in business  for the automotive aftermarket industry. Thanks in large part to the combination of tax return season and DIY’ers getting outside from the winter months. To meet this increased demand and traffic merchants are continually trying to make the webstore more appealing and accessible while adding product lines to spur growth and satisfy shoppers’ requirements. This can be labor intensive with the vast amount of data and content involved. With this being such a vital time of year and resources limited its important to focus on webstore improvements that will be the most impactful. In this blog, we’ll be covering five techniques to improve your automotive aftermarket website and improve traffic and sales. 

Update Your Images

Don’t just settle for stock images. You’re better than that! (At least you should be.) Using just stock imagery makes your site bland, and doesn’t inspire any sort of emotion or urgency on the part of site visitors. Invest in original imagery, and perhaps video if you have the resources, especially for your primary galleries and marketing material. Shooting your own images and videos will provide your site with unique lifestyle-driven content that will connect with customers and give your brand more identity and personality than stock images. Use stock imagery is ideal for part number-specific images. There’s no need to spend time and money shooting your own images of specific SKUs, lug nuts, windshield wipers and other items – focus your efforts on primary gallery and lifestyle content.

Improve Search Functions to Include Fitment Data

If you are selling auto or truck parts, you should already have search functionality with fitment data, but it’s important to also ensure your keyword site search delivers the same vehicle filters and product results as your year/make/model or categorization lookup. For many automotive sites it does not. It is imperative that you make it as easy as possible for customers to find the parts they need for their specific vehicle as quickly and easily as possible. One way to ensure this is to program your fitment data into your on site Search functions for those more specific site searches, such as “year model product line” or even “year model brand product name”. This will give customers another, more direct way to find the parts they’re looking for,which will lead to more time on your site and more sales. 

Update Your Homepage and Messaging and Be Consistent with Your Branding

It may seem like a very basic task but it’s one that many companies, not just those in the automotive aftermarket industry, often overlook. We see many teams focusing on onboarding new products, while letting the homepage and general marketing graphics go stale. This next suggested technique is more popular in the apparel industry, but update your promos and hero banners regularly to entice repeat visitors and stay on top of your competition. In a somewhat related topic, all of your graphics used in site banners, remarketing, even product images, should be consistent in their theme and style for consistent branding. Your name and logo must be prominently displayed on your header, social media channels and official communications. A great example is the page header for Tonneau Covers, which you can see below:

Include your contact information on your site  footer and on the social media channels as well, as customers continually reach out on channels most convenient for them. And don’t make them search all over the site for your phone number or location. We also recommend adding a Chat option to your site, like Zendesk, to give customers another way to interact with your brand and have their questions answered. These may seem like basic items, but you’d be surprised how many companies overlook them, and it’s the small details that differentiate your brand and site from the noise. 

Invest in Content that Adds Value

It’s not just your product catalog and UX/UI that will keep customers coming back and attract the attention of new customers. It’s your expertise as well. Luckily, there are a number of ways to showcase your automotive expertise and reach an audience that both needs your help and your products. Installation videos, which can be created for auto enthusiasts of all skill levels. These can be embedded on your site.

These installation and comparison videos can also be posted to YouTube, where they can be viewed by car owners who are searching that platform for guidance. Make sure to brand the videos with your logo and include links to your webstore and any relevant products in the video description. That way, viewers searching YouTube for product comparisons or tutorials who view your content can easily click over to purchase the product(s) you’re working with or explore your webstore. Adding video content to YouTube can also boost your Google search ranking as well.

Buyer’s Guides are another great form of original content that will attract auto owners to your site. Creating a guide around a series of products or components of a vehicle (Brakes, Cooling, etc) will showcase your expertise and, just like tutorial videos, these guides will bring customers to your site who were searching the web for these sort of information already.

Merchandise Upselling & Cross Selling That Follows Fitment

Another aspect that many sites or modules get wrong is that their upsell and cross sell products don’t fit the customers’ vehicle. This inattention to detail reflects poorly on your brand, and your automotive knowledge. Plus, it could lead to more abandoned carts,  canceled orders and returns. Simply put, you must have your fitment data programmed into your cross/upselling functionality. Not only will it help prevent these fitment issues, but by recommending merchandise that is relevant and fits your customers’ vehicles, you can actually sell more products and create long-term customer loyalty. Which is what this is really all about.

Conclusion

There may be a no better time than the present to update your automotive aftermarket webstore with some of the techniques we’ve described in this blog. If you would like help with any or our recommended ideas,  contact us today to speak with an automotive eCommerce expert and start your trip down the road to more sales.

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People Skills – Who You Need to Make an e-Commerce Initiative Work with CEO Brian Dwyer

People Skills – Who You Need to Make an e-Commerce Initiative Work with CEO Brian Dwyer

Creating a successful eCommerce company starts with the people. It’s vital that you have a cohesive team that can work together and grow together. In this presentation from the 2019 AASA Technology Conference , Brian Dwyer showed attendees how to staff an eCommerce team that will accomplish their goals, short and long term.

Download the entire powerpoint here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1htpOMvlD2OqmRlGCnpA3xsA8Vh2yxsv9/view?usp=sharing

To learn more about how to optimize your new website, or if you’re in the market for a new eCommerce site, contact us today. In business for over 20 years, our certified Magento developers and marketers know the eCommerce site art and science front-to-back and can help you make the absolute most of your site and your brand.

 

Let’s Talk Automotive eCommerce Technology with Joe Williams and Scott Thompson

Let’s Talk Automotive eCommerce Technology with Joe Williams and Scott Thompson

 

 

At the 2019 Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association Technology Conference in Boca Raton, presenters Joe Williams (VP Client Services – InteractOne) and Scott Thompkins (Sr. Product Marketing Manager – Epicor Software, Aftermarket Division) discussed the ever-changing eCommerce world and what goes in to creating a website that will connect with visitors and service their automotive needs.

Click here to view the full presentation deck: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1htpOMvlD2OqmRlGCnpA3xsA8Vh2yxsv9/view?usp=sharing

To learn more about how to optimize your new website, or if you’re in the market for a new eCommerce site, contact us today. In business for over 20 years, our certified Magento developers and marketers know the eCommerce site art and science front-to-back and can help you make the absolute most of your site and your brand.

What is the Best eCommerce Platform for My Automotive Accessories Site?

What is the Best eCommerce Platform for My Automotive Accessories Site?

Selling auto parts and accessories requires a platform that can handle a complex database, even if you don’t adhere to ACES/PIES. Year/Make/Model lookup is just the start since some parts are universal and other parts might fit a subsection of vehicles. Platform choice touches on many big questions that you will need to consider: How important is your current branding? Do you have brick and mortar retail locations? Do you have dealer rates, regional restrictions, or installer relationships to factor in? What about legacy system integrations?

 

Auto-specific eCommerce Providers

An automotive-focused platform can sometimes be a great fit, sometimes not.

The Pros:

  • Built to handle make, model, year and cross-referenced fitment.
  • Provides a design template that accommodates part and fitment lookup.
  • If no customization is needed, and you like the design and functions, then cost of ownership can be lower than with a more full-featured platform like Magento.

The Cons:

  • Pre-packaged, custom themes don’t offer much design flexibility.
  • Coding practices can be questionable and can lead to bugs and glitches as new versions of supporting technology conflict with the themes.
  • Most of the solutions available are older technology and closed environments, with little to no option to add custom features.
  • Similarly, pre-customized themes or platforms can make it difficult to adapt the site to the needs of the business. In fact, often you’ll need to adapt your business practices and selling ability to the capabilities of the site.
  • Most options are a shared shopping cart solution, so you have all the same features and functionality as everyone else on that platform, making it hard to find a competitive advantage.

Our Take:

Auto-specific eCommerce platforms provide an industry-targeted viewpoint that is helpful when creating a small, niche online store. However, we’ve found that these platforms often silo your growth, constrain personalization and limit brand flexibility.

 

Saas Platforms Like Shopify or BigCommerce

In contrast to Magento Open Source and Commerce, Shopify and BigCommerce take care of site hosting for merchants. These platforms target merchants who lack design experience and need an easy-to-use website builder. Smaller or niche merchants can find great success on these platforms, although automotive eCommerce stores still require some level of customization or add-ons.

The Pros:

  • No design experience is needed.
  • There is a consistent cost profile, month to month.
  • Software patches are included in fees.
  • It is easier to administer.

The Cons:

  • Apps available for popular customizations like year, make, and model may require customization, which can get expensive, and development options are limited to the module developer.
  • There are ongoing annual or monthly fees – whether or not you are making changes.
  • You don’t own your own website.
  • SAAS platforms do not support large catalogs (500K+ SKUs), and Enterprise-level versions can become very expensive compared to the base-level fees.
  • Some desirable features, such as faceted navigation or additional product attributes, aren’t available out of the box.

Our Take:

It comes down to your current scale and your growth expectations. SAAS platforms can be the right answer until you outgrow them or until you decide you need some site customizations. Still, Shopify, in particular, has become more flexible (for a SAAS) and can handle a surprising amount of traffic and level of transactions.

 

Magento

Magento is the most widely-installed and one of the most respected platforms in the eCommerce community. We have been a Magento partner since 2008 and have experience building automotive eCommerce sites on Magento. We know it really well.

The Pros:

  • Magento sites are highly customizable and functionality can be added via extensions.
  • Certain features (like back-end data integration with a PIM or some sort of advanced order management or keeping track of selected vehicles) aren’t available on Shopify or are harder to configure than on Magento.
  • You own the site and can migrate to another platform (if needed) with less cost and hassle.
  • You are able to choose development and hosting partners that best suit your needs and budget.
  • You have the ability to evolve the functionality on your site as need demands and budget allows.

The Cons:

  • The ongoing cost of ownership is higher than it would be on SaaS or auto-specific platforms so merchants who plan to achieve at least $2 to $3 million in sales may want to consider other paths.
  • Concerns and costs go hand in hand with managing site security, hosting, and ownership of your website code.

Our Take:

Overall, one of the greatest things about Magento is the ability to grow as your business grows. The fact that Magento is an open-source platform allows you to start with more basic features and capabilities than SaaS or auto-specific platforms (such as product attributes and the ability to use any payment gateway you wish) as well as a great design, and then the ability to continually add new features as your site grows. The site is entirely yours and the platform is a great fit for merchants who desire growth and flexibility above all else. Cost of ownership out of the box is higher, but if you want to evolve a site on a solid platform that will grow over time and add features as budget allows, Magento is a great choice.

Want to Learn More?

If this article has piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about alternatives for your business, please contact us to schedule a no-obligation discussion about your situation and what the best solution for your business might be.

What Are Successful Auto eCommerce Merchants Doing to Stay on Top?

What Are Successful Auto eCommerce Merchants Doing to Stay on Top?

auto eCommerce

2018 marked massive growth of Automotive eCommerce and merchants, as they are now selling everything from parts, to accessories, to services for both B2B and B2C buyers. Automotive eCommerce is no longer a niche segment, it’s a rising standard.

As we enter 2019 and automotive eCommerce revenue continues to grow at an exponential rate, more and more merchants want to reap the benefits by launching their own websites. Expectations for these sites are high as competitors are improving their sites every day.

So how can new automotive sites compete with already established merchants? Following some of these basic rules is a great start.

Product Listings must be Clear, Visible, and Detailed

Automotive eCommerce shoppers tend to be passionate and well-informed. They know what they are looking for and if they can’t find it on your site, they will move to the next where they can. This is why proper SEO techniques and rich product content is crucial. This tactic will increase product visibility across browsers and marketplaces, improving a brand’s presence as well as offering a competitive edge.

To ensure visibility, be sure to include searchable keywords in the title, such as the manufacturer name, type of part, and the reference number. Craft detailed product descriptions and feature reviews beneath product to establish credibility and build trust. Also, be sure to include crystal clear, high-resolution images that allow for zooming in and enlarging (check out our Automotive Images Guide for more helpful tips).

Mobile Friendliness and Adaptability is Top Priority

In the modern world of eCommerce, a mobile-first strategy is required. Customers are shopping via iPhones, Tablets, Androids, Macs, and the list continues. When building a new eCommerce website, this type of functionality is imperative for success. Analyze how your site looks on all types of devices, and note any discrepancies or disabled functionalities.

Consider Offering Free Shipping

Though shipping can present an issue for automotive merchants (due to the size and weight of the products), many successful automotive merchants have found ways to offer free shipping. Whether that be after a minimum order threshold has been met, or as part of a promotional offer, it is something merchants should consider when analyzing their checkout process. High shipping costs are commonly the cause of abandoned carts – so if you can offer free shipping, even for a portion of your catalogue, you should.

Provide Value Through Kits and Bundles

Bundling allows merchants to sell more product while also satisfying customers. You can test out what products sell best with others, or offer a Buy One Get One (BOGO) promotion on certain products. Some merchants are including features such as “recommended products” or “related products” that appear beneath a product listing, to keep the customer enticed and buying more. The more buying options that are available to the customer, the faster they can make a purchase that is right for them.

Navigation Must Follow the Customer Experience

Navigation is crucial to automotive eCommerce because inventories tend to be extensive and associated with the make and model of certain vehicles. More often than not, site visitors won’t waste their time trying to encrypt confusing menus or unclear navigation. This presents a dilemma for merchants: how should your site be organized? Our main message is this: data should fit the customer experience— not the other way around. Consider how a customer actually shops, then construct a process that follows those steps. For more information on navigation for automotive eCommerce, check out this blog.

Allow Customers to Create Accounts

Encouraging customers to create accounts is a great way to improve the overall customer experience. It streamlines the checkout process because customers can save their billing information or quickly reorder something they previously purchased.

Additionally, because automotive eCommerce shoppers tend to be enthusiasts, allow them to gain points for their purchases or enroll them in some sort of reward system. It will build loyalty to your brand and provide an incentive for customers to continue shopping there.

Our Automotive eCommerce Experience

Our experience in the automotive eCommerce industry has given us insights into the challenges merchants face as well as the successful trends many are utilizing. If you need assistance with your automotive-focused eCommerce site or require help with marketing, contact us today.

The Automotive eCommerce Guide to Navigation and Images

The Automotive eCommerce Guide to Navigation and Images

automotive eCommerce

In order to construct a visually appealing Automotive eCommerce site that promotes a fluid customer experience, there are two important things to keep in mind: know your customer and keep it simple.

Those statements may seem obvious. Certainly you must identify your customer base, and of course, you shouldn’t over-complicate your site. As obvious as it may sound, many Automotive eCommerce sites get it wrong. Whether that is due to the considerable amount of data on the topic or simply the nature of the industry, here are some tips to help keep you above par.

The best converting Auto eCommerce sites are the ones that are easy to navigate. First, identify your niche. Then, cater your navigation to your specific customer. The biggest challenge is always the data.

Data Should Fit the Customer Experience – Not the Other Way Around

Data is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of Automotive eCommerce because it is extensive, complex, and ever-changing. Recent trends in the Automotive industry point to the year, make, model, and engine-filtered navigation. We have seen Auto eCommerce companies spend so much time, money, and effort simply integrating this functionality that they gloss over the issue of how a customer actually shops. The best automotive eCommerce sites are the ones that are extremely simple and easy to navigate with the ability to land customers on a very relevant and specific landing page. That’s very hard to do with the year, make, and model lookup. Our favorite (and the best converting) sites are the ones that utilize categorized navigation effectively, such as runningboardwarehouse.com and bumpersuperstore.com.


Running Board Warehouse separates their navigation into vehicle, category, and brand.


Bumper Superstore has multiple categories (including best selling, front and rear, style, vehicle, and all) that allow the customer to shop in a way that best suits their needs.

Make the user experience cater to how the customer shops – don’t try to cater the customer experience to the data. Because of data difficulties, merchants should start by identifying their niche (accessories, reused parts, etc.). Once they do, basing your site navigation and user experience around that specific niche will make fitting your data in that much easier.

Images Can Make or Break a Conversion

Automotive parts sites are often notorious for having either poor quality or catch-all representative images. Merchants that successfully convert prospects to customers generally take their own photos. Some do better than others, but having images that are detailed, bright, enlargeable, and vehicle-specific are more likely to resonate with customers. Nobody with a Dodge Ram wants to look at a Ford F-150 when shopping for aftermarket accessories – they want to know what the product is going to look like on their vehicle.

Often times images are pushed to the back of the to-do list. But, if you’re selling online, you need actual photos of every individual part. When people are searching for a specific product online, they use their eyes to verify that they are purchasing the right thing. If there are basic filler images and customers receive a product that’s not right, they won’t trust you again. They need to be able to look at the picture and description and know that’s what they need.

Consistency is key, but lifestyle images should be incorporated into your site as well. If someone is searching for a tonneau cover, they want to see how to use it. They want inspiration – so inspire them to buy your products by showing them how to use the product and its various features. This can be done with images and video – don’t limit your team to just a photographer. Investing in video will pay off and help you inspire ideas and trust with customers. Incorporate videos onto your site with product demonstrations, installation how-to, Q&A, and customer testimonials.

Build a Community

Keep in mind that your customers are enthusiasts. Build a community around your brand with good content, social and email outreach/remarketing, or even some sort of rewards program. These days, when things are increasingly competitive in the auto industry, it’s a necessity to do more to engage your customers after their initial purchase. For additional help in building a strong customer following, check out one of our previous blogs on the topic.

If you need assistance with your automotive eCommerce site, feel free to contact us today.

Benefits of Automotive Shopping Campaigns for eCommerce

Benefits of Automotive Shopping Campaigns for eCommerce

Automotive Shopping Campaigns for eCommerce

By Joe Williams, Magento Solution Specialist

Automotive shopping campaigns and Product Listing Ads (PLA) are an excellent tool for automotive eCommerce merchants to promote specific products or as a component of an overall ongoing PPC strategy. PLAs are also called Shopping Ads because they display product photos, title, price, shop name, and more inside Google’s Shopping results. In contrast to paid search ads that are driven by a list of targeted keywords, shopping campaigns use product attributes from a data feed to match results to relevant searches. There can be several ways to format a product feed for shopping campaigns, depending on the structure of your catalog and use of product attributes.

PLAs are particularly popular with automotive accessories retailers because of the specificity demanded by vehicle fitment and part number searches. Vehicle fitment can provide a unique challenge depending on the structure and user experience of a website. For example, if a merchant is utilizing simple category navigation, they need to be sure to send customers to the right product for their specific vehicle. If a new customer doesn’t immediately land on the website page they were looking for when they clicked the ad, then they will most likely bounce instead of navigating to find the right product. If a merchant has Year/Make/Model lookup, they will need to either send customers to a page for them to select their vehicle or a pre-selected vehicle page with the ability to add to cart immediately with little effort.

Regardless of the type of site navigation, here are three tips for eCommerce automotive merchants to optimize Product Listing Ads for better ROI.

Test Ads With and Without Vehicle Info

Experience has shown that more specific product listings are traditionally more successful. However, they tend to have lower impressions with higher click-through rates and conversions. Although, for merchants that haven’t tested this theory before – test it out! Different customer experiences are successful for various reasons. Some merchants have more success with traditional ads with no vehicle information in them because of excellent site usability. Other merchants may profit more from specific ads with vehicle information in the data feed product title.

We recommend setting up different campaigns or product groups utilizing different titles and landing pages for testing. Being organized will help distinguish metrics between different campaigns in Analytics, and which product feed structure is more successful for the site’s user experience. In testing, merchants may also find a different type of solution is more successful for desktop and mobile, instead of utilizing the same for both.

Imagery

For merchants that have vehicle-specific images to go along with vehicle-specific ads, use them! According to Salsify, 66% of customers say they want to see at least three pictures for a product while shopping online. Statistics (and experience) show that customers use images more so than text (even pricing) when making a purchase. Therefore, application or SKU-specific product images will be more attractive to shoppers than traditional catch-all photos. Be sure that the photos are of good quality. Research shows that when merchants use poor quality images, the number used doesn’t matter. A study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that customers were more attracted to and felt better informed when shopping after viewing clear, high-quality images.

Traditional best practices for images also apply. Always use the same image in the PLA  that customers will see on the landing page to help with a consistent experience from ad to page.

Segregate products and brands

One mistake merchants and agencies can make in automotive shopping campaigns is poor campaign and product group organization. Our basic suggestions for an adequately organized campaign is to first, create a different campaign for each category or brand. Then create separate ad groups for each product line including configurable products or groups of SKUs.

Organized shopping ads and campaigns will help later when making any adjustments. When campaigns are well planned, the ability for granular scalability is essential due to varying profit margins and Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) fluctuations per brand or product line – which leads us to tip #4.

MAP Pricing and Bid Strategy

Cheating MAP pricing is a big problem in the automotive eCommerce industry, particularly the aftermarket arena. To make matters more complicated, we’ve seen that Amazon rarely obeys MAP pricing on nearly everything they sell directly. Sadly, some merchants pay a very high price in PPC to learn that visitors are only window shopping. Or, merchants have seen customers chose a competitor who may be only advertising below MAP price. Tools such as Pricing Assistant are available to help monitor competitor shopping ads and pricing to address pricing issues. Notably, some of these tools can automatically make bid adjustments to avoid errant clicks or wasted ad spend.

Get started with Automotive Shopping Campaigns

Experience has taught us of the many intricacies of the automotive aftermarket in eCommerce. From unique website customization requirements to digital marketing needs and shopping ads, automotive requires specialized knowledge. Contact us to learn more about structuring product feeds or to see how we can help with your current marketing efforts.

The Challenge of Magento Customization for Automotive eCommerce Websites

The Challenge of Magento Customization for Automotive eCommerce Websites

Automotive eCommerce

By Joe Williams, Magento Solutions Specialist for InteractOne

The automotive eCommerce market is flooded with competition, primarily due to the availability of dropship suppliers and endless niche opportunities for retailers to focus on. With MAP pricing and relatively standard product offerings, the best way to differentiate your automotive aftermarket site is a stellar customer experience and content.

Let’s face it – it’s difficult to create a different customer experience, let alone a superior one when using one of the several automotive-specific eCommerce platforms on the market today. Magento is the best platform to create an enterprise-level auto parts website, but don’t expect a small monthly payment to cover everything. If you want cookie-cutter prices, you’re going to get a cookie-cutter website.

The two biggest challenges we help automotive eCommerce merchants resolve include data and functionality, both on the frontend and in the admin.

Fitment Data

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers all feel the challenges of automotive product and fitment data. ACES and PIES have become the standard, but strict data standards often leave a lot to be desired when it comes to flexibility to create a superior customer experience. Automotive eCommerce

Also, data is available from a wide array of sources in the automotive aftermarket, such as (but not limited to) DCI, SDC, ASAP Network, and direct from manufacturers. Your data drives your customer experience, and none of the data sources available are plug-and-play to work well with each other. eCommerce retailers need to be able to update fitment data and add new products quickly, so ease of maintenance is important. They also need to display the data in a customer-friendly manner to help drive a better experience than the competition.

Vehicle lookup tools are the default go-to for finder functionality, but multiple challenges can arise through the process. Such as when creating a search engine friendly structure to have dynamic vehicle landing pages with custom content.

Another challenge for fitment data is maintenance. Price updates, superseding part numbers, new part numbers, new product lines, new fitment and changes to fitment are all easier with a strong import/export utility. But nothing exists out of the box, and basic parts finder extensions create their own fitment tables. Therefore, many merchants are stuck having to run multiple imports to update product data (PIES) separate from fitment data (ACES). This can be a huge time suck, and add technical overhead to your servers when processing imports and reindexing.

Retaining Default Functionality

The challenge with vehicle lookup functionality is that no mainstream eCommerce platform has attributes that function sequentially the way a Year/Make/Model/Submodel filter needs to work. There are several parts finder extensions available on the Magento Marketplace, and some of them are good. But, what if you want to use configurable products or some other native functionality the module doesn’t allow out of the box? For example, a new Magento 2 automotive eCommerce website for lighting and truck accessories manufacturer, Putco, needed the ability to utilize configurable products for distributors to reference features and benefits content. We created a custom vehicle fitment module with the ability to use all product types within Magento 2, as well as an import routine that maps fitment data to the parent configurable products based on simple product mappings.

Many merchants then decide to hire an offshore extension developer to add functionality. Often times, offshore developers do not fully understand the needs of the merchant. Sadly, an endless trail of feature development begins. Before you know it, you can’t upgrade your Magento website and you have to follow a convoluted process to even try. Oh, and the Custom Options functionality was hijacked for something else, so you can’t use those. (Ooops.)

The Customization Trap

Custom development often seems like a good starting point to implement an extension that gives you most of the functionality you need. However, it can often be a bad decision in the long run. It’s what we refer to as the “Magento Customization Trap.” Over-customization adds unnecessary technical debt, and often a lot of frustration throughout the lifespan of your website.

After many customization headaches, some merchants end up thinking they need to re-platform to get away from Magento. They often go to a cookie cutter platform that doesn’t solve the original problem. Thus, creating an endless cycle.

The Magento and Automotive Experience

For automotive eCommerce merchants, it’s important to choose a developer that fully understands Magento and the automotive industry to prevent over-customization from the beginning.  

Automotive eCommerce merchants generally require more complex functionality and often choose Magento because of its scalability and reputation. Choose a partner that understands the data and needs of your business to create a thoroughly scoped project. Avoid that frustration and miscommunication that comes from a developer that doesn’t fully understand the automotive industry.

Contact us to learn more about Magento customization for automotive eCommerce websites. We’ve helped many automotive eCommerce merchants with their eCommerce websites over the years including a merchant that migrated from Volusion to Magento and another we helped to remedy Magento performance issues.