There are good, bad and mediocre reasons for starting an eCommerce store for automotive, motorsports or performance parts. Before you even start thinking which of these customer segments you want to go after – or more generally if you’re considering setting up and eCommerce store in some other industry – it’s good to clarify why you might want to go down this road, pun intended.
Writing a business plan is overkill, but before thinking of store names, buying a domain name, researching different eCommerce platforms, looking for suppliers, etc., you should think about why this is a good opportunity for you or your company. Starting an eCommerce store isn’t just a matter of being a “car guy” or “being good with computers”. Both of those help a lot, but we suggest starting your journey with a much more simple question.
Do I have a unique attribute, knowledge or skills that would give my store an edge or sustained competitive advantage?
Knowing car parts and different popular car platforms in your target market is definitely helpful. It will help you select popular products, verify their quality and provide good pre and post sale customer service. It also makes the business interesting and fun when you like what you’re working on. Such domain knowledge certainly speeds up getting your store of the ground. But that said, nowadays you can look up nearly all product information you might need if you’re good at Google, so this is easily overvalued and perhaps can even be constraining in being less objective about what to sell beyond what you think is cool. Importance: medium.
Another potential unique attribute is if you already have an existing audience of users or followers somewhere, whether that’s Instagram, TikTok, a blog or some other site. Customer acquisition is a lot harder and more expensive than it might seem, so an existing audience which already knows you can be a big jumpstart and turn into a sustained competitive advantage. If you’re already engaging with that audience anyway, then your customer acquisition costs (CAC) could be near zero. Yes, your users may need to navigate off the app or site they’re on to your store, like having to navigate from Instagram to a website, but there are fairly simple ways of pushing product from your store site into most of the channels users are engaging with you on. Importance: high.
There are also a whole host of technical skills which some find helpful. For example, if you’re handy at manipulating spreadsheets, this can help with importing products. Or if you know some HTML, it can help you make small changes to your store layout. These skills are all helpful and reduce the time need to get things done when you’re not having to bug an expert for them, but they are not required skills to be successful. Many sellers we work with have an outsourced team which has set up their store for them and it works out great. Most use hosted platforms, so there’s no server maintenance or other technical upkeep to be done. I would say the core technical skill the store operator needs to do is be able to add products and merchandise them well and even this can be non-technical. With our Warehouse as a Service (WaaS™), uploading products to a store is done with one click. Importance: low.
Having existing supplier relationships seems like it could be helpful. Sourcing products can be another big hurdle and one that can also quickly turn into a cash flow question. Also, know that with self-fulfillment – meaning you own inventory and pick and pack it yourself – you sign yourself up for being available every working day of the year or have coverage to do so. If you can start with one or a few brands where you have an excellent relationship already to allow you to source it at a good discount, doing your own fulfill for those could make sense. However, signing up for the minimum dealer tier of a manufacturer will give you a subpar discount and you’ll only end up buying a subset of the available SKUs to stock, leaving you to (hopefully) have the manufacturer drop ship the rest, which many are not set up to do well. Instead, in most cases it makes sense to sign up for a drop shipping service like Torqued Distribution. We handle all order fulfillment for you and for almost all manufacturers, we have stock of every SKUs – you just tell us where to ship it and our WaaS™ will get it there for you. While having that existing supplier relationship could be helpful, it will never give you the breadth of products a reputable warehouse distributor like Torqued Distribution can provide for you. Importance: low.
There are certainly more things which could be a difference-maker in your store’s success and we’d love to hear from you if you’ve had anything that you think really made the difference.
More than just drop shipping
With the tools provided by popular platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce, the digital portion of selling goods has become quite simple in many ways. But the physical part of putting those parts in boxes and shipping them is inherently still the point of the business. It’s best to let a reliable outsourced professional handle the physical part, just like most sellers trust a hosted professionally managed eCommerce platform.
In the long run you will be far more successful and happier by building an operation this way, because today it’s no longer about emailing purchase orders around and pounding the phones to get stuff shipped for you. The world has moved to eCommerce automation technology to reliably link the digital and physical parts of your business. That’s what we do, the Torqued Warehouse as a Service™.