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Moving Parts Online


8/10/2011

Selling on eBay Motors is easier with new software solutions, but pricing and customer service are critical to success.
 

By Morgan Lewis Jr.

Selling your inventory on eBay Motors (motors.ebay.com) used to be a painstaking process. You needed to type every part’s line code and other specifications individually online and then post it for auction or direct sale.

For Jeff Kleckner, operations manager at Meyers Auto Parts (meyersautoparts.com), a three-location retail aftermarket chain in Las Vegas, the process of posting, selling and shipping on eBay Motors was a losing proposition.

“You’d have to devote a full-time person to do nothing but put stuff on eBay,” he said. “Who can afford to do that?

Recently, however, new software solutions, such as Epicor ListingExpert and WHI Solutions’ Nexpart, help businesses streamline the data entry process from the warehouse to eBay. Although the systems are unique, they both pull all the parts’ line codes, subgroups and other specifications from your inventory tracking system and then automatically list each item, including asking price, online.

For Kleckner, who uses Epicor’s product, that meant about 7,000 items were instantly listed on eBay Motors, reaching 14.2 million unique visitors per month.

“We opened the flood gates and it rained hard on us,” he said. “It’s been an adventure.”

A new revenue stream
Until recently, auto parts businesses used eBay Motors to unload obsolescent parts that weren’t selling to local customers. Kleckner was drawn to the site for that reason and was pleasantly surprised by the results. He rapidly sold $10,000 in parts that had been sitting on his shelves for two years. Popular items have moved on eBay even faster.

Sales also are strong for TBA & Oil Warehouse (tbawd.com), a Federated Auto Parts member and ACDelco DDG in Indianapolis, which sells on eBay Motors under the name Pete’s Discount Auto Parts. (Meyers also sells on eBay under a different business name to avoid any conflict with its local customers.)
Duane Law, general manager at TBA, doesn’t have retail customers in his local market, so creating the name for eBay Motors was a necessity because most of the 30 orders a day he receives are from ordinary consumers.

“We wanted to unload some dusty product in our warehouse,” Law says. “We didn’t think it would sell that much, but it just blew up.”

Watch your pricing and competitors
Both Kleckner and Law, who also uses Epicor for his eBay Motors sales, recommend to businesses which haven’t yet made the plunge online, to carefully monitor and adjust product and freight prices. eBay Motors and Paypal — its payment system — tack on fees that increase the final asking price, but don’t boost your bottom line.

When Kleckner launched on eBay Motors in February, he priced some of his inventory too low. Thanks to his consistent profit analysis, he soon discovered that one of the fuel pumps he sold, for example, was only garnering an 86-cent profit after subtracting the shipping charge and eBay/Paypal fees. (Epicor and WHI each charge differing fees for their services.)

“It definitely takes some time to get the pricing right,” Kleckner said. “It’s something we monitor constantly.”
But don’t expect to get rich on eBay Motors, says Law, whose business is averaging an 8 percent profit margin on the 30 parts a day he sells on eBay.

“It’s been worth it,” he said. “The biggest thing is that we’re moving product and it’s instant cash-flow, which our CFO loves. It’s a good way to supplement our main revenue source.”

Customer service is critical
Customer service is crucial to success on eBay Motors. Millions of potential customers have an instant gauge of previous customer satisfaction thanks to the site’s rating and feedback content.
Visitors to your online store profile will see a customer satisfaction star rating on four factors: selling the item as described, communication, shipping time and shipping/handling charges. Below the star ratings, potential customers can click through to see all the previous customer feedback whether it’s positive, neutral or negative.

You can’t erase the negative feedback from your store profile, but you can respond to it and your response will be posted with the customer complaints.

Customer service online is even more challenging because, as many of you already know, your retail customers are often not as knowledgeable, can be more demanding about brand and ask many more questions than those customers who work within the industry. Moreover, inventory is not updated in real-time, so you might sell out of a part before it disappears from eBay forcing you to issue a refund or for the customer to wait for a restock.

When Law placed 30,000 items from TBA’s inventory on eBay Motors in mid-March, he had 40 questions from potential customers on the first day. He and the employee assigned to TBA’s e-commerce business also receive 20 to 30 customer phone calls a day about online transactions.

If you don’t intend to field the customer calls yourself, be careful who is assigned to respond to customer calls and emails. Finding someone with the technical skills to manage online transactions and speak with customers requires a special, highly organized individual in your organization.

“You do spend a lot of time on this,” Law says. “You can’t just throw it up there and you’re done.”

Start small and grow
If you’re considering posting some of your inventory on eBay Motors, Kleckner and Law recommend starting with a small number of items and expanding once you determine the impact on your business.
For example, you could start with obsolescent parts (both men said these products sell well), or only one product category.

Law devoted an employee full-time to only eBay transactions, shipping and returns.

Kleckner has two employees assigned to e-commerce, but they also have other duties within the company.
If you’re considering this venture, don’t delay for too much longer, the men advised. Veteran eBay sellers with more transactions and a longer history of positive ratings typically have better sales online than rookies.

“It is getting saturated,” Law said. “The people who are thinking about it should do it soon. You don’t want to get behind the eight-ball.













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