Editor’s note: This post includes insights directly from an automotive seller using the ChannelAdvisor platform. If you’re looking for actionable ideas you can use to get ahead of the e-commerce competition, be sure to read it all the way through to the end. And if you find yourself eager for more advice, visit ChannelAdvisor booth 30227 (located in the Business Services section, in the South Hall Upper) at the SEMA Show next week.
Can e-commerce automation really make your life easier? Does relying on a centralized e-commerce platform make a noticeable difference in sales growth?
Based on our experiences with sellers using the ChannelAdvisor platform, including those who have watched revenue climb as much as 800%, the answer is definitely “yes.”
But what are those sellers actually doing to make such noticeable changes across their e-commerce marketing, selling and fulfilling? How are they weaving e-commerce automation into day-to-day operations?
To find out, we turned to a ChannelAdvisor customer that’s successfully selling in one of the most challenging categories of all: automotive and powersports.
An In-Depth Q&A With Automotive Seller 1 Factory Radio
As the sales manager at 1 Factory Radio, Derek Sipple (DS) juggles a lot. The automotive retailer specializes in remanufacturing and modifying car and truck radios, with sales centered around important promises to consumers — things like great prices, free shipping and reliable warranties. And because 1 Factory Radio is continually coming up with new innovations, there’s always something big to promote.
After working with ChannelAdvisor for four years, the company has developed a very thorough system for managing customer relationships, optimizing listings and mastering fulfillment.
So when Sipple generously offered to provide advice for other automotive sellers, we jumped at the chance to share his insights. Our interview did not disappoint. 1 Factory Radio has developed a system to keep customers, marketplaces and partners tremendously satisfied — one that left an impression on even the most advanced e-commerce experts here at ChannelAdvisor (something that’s not easy to do).
If you work in automotive and powersports, this is one Q&A you’ll want to read in full. So, without further ado, here are the highlights in Sipple’s words.
First, we discussed customer metrics. Maintaining high seller ratings across marketplaces is critical to success, and one factor that contributes significantly to this is customer satisfaction.
How does 1 Factory Radio manage customer service to maintain high ratings?
DS: “We prioritize several critical elements, including:
Reliable phone support. Many customers prefer phone because they can have their questions answered quickly and directly. Some feel much better speaking with a live representative, as it builds trust and lets them know there’s someone to assist with problems if any arise.
Quick email responses. Customers often like having all the information on record so they can refer to it at a later date. It’s also a good idea for you to have the information on record in case you need it to defend yourself on a marketplace.
Some marketplaces require email messages to be addressed within 24 hours. Even if the marketplace doesn’t require it, this is a good policy to build into your customer service.
Fast returns processing. It’s important to process returns as quickly as possible, as customers may be relying on that money to purchase something else from you. Although marketplaces have return processing windows of a few days, it’s a good idea to process returns within 24 to 48 hours for customer service purposes.
And if returns are not processed quickly enough, you could run into escalations or negative feedback.
Making the most of manpower. It’s important to staff for spikes in customer service needs, but you should also have side projects for staff to work on when it’s slower. It’s also good to have backup staff to help with customer service in times of need. Even if an employee simply takes a message, it’s better than the customer having to leave a voice mail.”
Next, we addressed the fitment that’s so unique to the automotive industry, and the need for very robust data. This is one area where relying on ChannelAdvisor to manage data accuracy has become especially critical.
How should automotive sellers leverage data to improve the selling and buying experience?
DS: “Fitment accuracy is perhaps the most important aspect of being an automotive seller. Many auto parts appear the same at face value but fit differently or are non-interchangeable due to mounts, features or data streams.
We build our fitment into ChannelAdvisor listings, which are then pushed to marketplaces via API. Some marketplaces do not have fitment data built into the listing so it’s also important to state it in plain text in descriptions or bullet points. Plus, educating the customer ahead of a sale will keep them from opening a return on an incorrectly purchased part.
Taking the time to have correct fitment can give you a leg up on the competition, too. Some may only list an item for the vehicle from which it was removed — even though it fits many other models.
Perhaps most importantly, having the correct fitment on a listing can protect you from an angry customer who has not paid close enough attention to your listing.
For example, some radios require dealer unlock. If a customer purchases the wrong radio and then pays to get the radio unlocked, the dealer will often charge regardless of the unlock success. With fitment on the listing, you can prove to the customer (and the marketplace) that you did everything in your power to help them purchase the correct radio.
Circling back to customer service, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place. In our case, we can offer to service the customer’s original radio to prevent them from having to get it unlocked. This works great in situations where the customer has initially purchased the incorrect radio. It shows the marketplace that we’re willing to problem solve and work with the customer.”
Last but far from least, we turned to fulfillment. Mastering this area of e-commerce is essential to preserving margins and staying ahead of the competition, and is something that 1 Factory Radio pays very close attention to.
How does 1 Factory Radio maintain such a high level of accuracy and efficiency when managing drop ship and D2C orders?
DS: “It’s important to have a well-oiled shipping department that can quickly and accurately process orders for many different marketplaces — which often have very different needs. The same applies to fulfillment partnerships. Top priorities for 1 Factory Radio include:
Keeping inventory updated. Making sure you have the correct inventory on hand and in ChannelAdvisor can go a long way in meeting stated handling times.
Staying mindful of marketplace handling times. If you aren’t 100% sure you can fulfill an order in the stated handling time, do not offer it on that marketplace. ChannelAdvisor makes it easy to exclude marketplaces by removing that label from the SKU.
Adjusting as needed. You should always be reassessing handling time with the availability of your product. As manufacturers, the amount of time needed to build a product changes with external variables such as the quality of a batch of cores. You can quickly change this by creating an attribute for handling time which is mapped to the appropriate template.
Communicating clearly. If there is a delay, you should contact the customer directly as soon as possible to let them know. Often, customers will be very understanding and not mind a short delay as long as they are notified ahead of time. The situation can quickly go south if the customer is not notified of a delay, so this is extremely important.
Collaborating with drop shippers. Communication with the business selling your product is a key factor in developing a good relationship with them. It’s important to be transparent in your handling time. Many retailers will build this into their product page and, in my experience, it doesn’t noticeably hinder sales. If you have a handling range, be sure to update them with the tracking number and when the item will ship.”
If 1 Factory Radio’s story seems remarkable, would you believe there are more like it? ChannelAdvisor works with many successful automotive sellers who, like Sipple, have been freed to focus on optimizing operations and growing the business — all because they’ve become proficient in ChannelAdvisor’s e-commerce automation technology.
We’ll be sharing these stories at the SEMA Show next week. Be sure to stop by booth 30227 to learn more about what you can do with our automation software.