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Auto Parts Professionals Are Getting The Shopping Experience Right

Where others fall down, they excel. Walk into the store, you get acknowledgment. “What can help you with?” Engagement. Walk with you to the product. Point it out. “What else do you need? Can I install the wiper blades for you?”

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I actually walked into a mall the other day to look at things they have for sale in the stores. It was quaint and it felt terribly dated. The overall experience was amazing to me because I have become an immense fan of Amazon.com in the past few years.

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This few short years of online retailing excellence has obliterated the old shopping experience and reshaped my high expectations. The idea of physically driving to a store, searching for a product on store shelves and waiting in line to pay for it seems almost alien to me now. I almost can’t bring myself to do it and I find myself doing it less and less. Am I demanding? Yes, demanding as hell.

After all, there is nothing I cannot order on Amazon.com. And when I order, I get exactly what I want delivered to my door. If I don’t like it, I send it back — for free. What I’ve come to understand from some cursory in-store shopping lately and by using Amazon.com is that the more friction you put between me and the product I want to buy, the less likely I am to buy it. Amazon.com has removed all friction. I can order almost anything on my phone through the company’s app. Sure, it makes impulse buying very easy and, well, impulsive.

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Just yesterday, I went to a shoe store and was attempting to buy … you guessed it: shoes. The shoe box was actually inside the bag. We’re ready to go here, people. But the assistant manager was unable to properly work the app — her company’s app — on my phone so I can get the coupon I had earned through numerous visits to the store. So she just gave up. And I said, forget it. I quickly snapped a photo of the shoebox label, went home and ordered them from Amazon.com, ironically, for slightly more money.

But back to the mall. One of the stores I visited is a big name retailer, one that announced recently it will close a number of stores. And, no offense to the company, I could see why. No one of the many in-store personnel who seemingly had nothing to do but stand around and chinwag, said hello to me. No one acknowledged my presence. The shelves were barely stocked. The walls were dirty. Alas, I left the mall with nothing in hand but the reminder of why I rarely visit a mall.

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But let me tell you about someone who gets it right: You.

I often randomly walk into a auto parts store wherever I am to check its pulse. Recently, it was a retailer outside Harrisburg, Pa. Sometimes, it’s the numerous stores close to my home.

At the store in Pennsylvania, I bought some oil to top off my car. I was away from home so of course, I needed a funnel. The parts pro upsold me on a brilliant funnel that features a notch to rest the oil container on. It’s a small but useful feature and I felt great about paying a little more for the funnel and the aftermarket making a little more money.

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But here’s the important part: auto parts stores are getting the shopping experience right. Where others fall down, they excel. Walk into the store, you get acknowledgment. “What can help you with?” Engagement. Walk with you to the product. Point it out. “What else do you need? Can I install the wiper blades for you?”

Auto parts stores are getting it right. Auto parts pros are the most attentive, helpful, engaging, knowledgeable people about the products they sell. If they’re not sure about something, they go find someone. Or — gasp — look the info up. Or install it on your car. These products matter, so it’s important to get it right. Perhaps it’s not even fair and I shouldn’t even be making these comparisons but it’s hard not to.

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So, keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re doing so much right. 

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