Auto Parts Website Design Best Practices

As much as we wish we could tell you the old adage, “If you build it, they will come” applies to your website, we can’t. Simply having a site that offers parts for sale isn’t enough. To be a successful ecommerce retailer, you need to design your site to draw customers in and, ultimately, convince them to make a purchase.

In that vein, we’ve put together some website design tips and tricks to help your parts ecommerce site be more successful.

Best Practices for Auto Parts Websites

Keep Your Home Page Simple

As a general rule, your home page should be simple. You may be tempted to add sliders, coupons, featured products, videos, photos, and every scrap of information about your company, but that’s only going to distract and/or overwhelm your customers.

The purpose of your home page is to guide customers to other places on the website that will ultimately lead to a purchase. Your navigation in both the header and the footer should be easy to understand and use, and your contact information should be highly visible. If you have a toll free number or a customer service email address, make sure they’re easy for customers to see. Use a different text color, bolder font, different background color, etc – you want to make it obvious.

But what customers should really be drawn to on your home page is the search function. Each ecommerce platform offers a slightly different way to set these up, but it should always be easy for your customer to find parts for their exact vehicle.

Offer Social Proof and Utilize Trust Symbols

Social proof doesn’t mean just social media accounts such as Facebook or Twitter. Essentially, social proof shows your website is run by a legitimate and active parts retailer. Social proof can be anything from customer testimonials to accreditations to association memberships. Are you a member of SEMA? Mention that! Do you have a lot of positive Google reviews? Link to them!

Social proof does also include social media. If you’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, etc., provide links to these pages. Use a call-to-action such as “Like Us on Facebook” to encourage customers to not just visit the page but to “like” it so they can interact with your posts. And if you’re not active on your pages, get to it! (Or hire a marketing company, like Spork, to help you be more active.)

Like social proof, trust symbols establish your website as a legitimate business. The most important trust symbol is proof that you’re using SSL encryption. Customers like to see that their private information is being protected. Other trust symbols include the logos of the credit cards and payment types you accept and the shipping companies you use.

Tell Your Story…Briefly

It’s important to have an About page, but you want to avoid being too wordy. Often, businesses use the About page to answer every question a customer could possibly have about the company. That’s what an FAQ page is for! We’d suggest paring down your About page like this:

  • Mention what makes you unique – this can be your heading and/or subhead
  • Go through your history briefly – how/why did you get into the auto parts business? How has your business evolved? Keep this section to a couple of paragraphs at most.
  • Include a photograph of key staff – the general manager, parts director, parts associates, etc. Customers like to know who they’re doing business with.

Your About page is meant to humanize your brand. Customers want to do business with brands they trust and believe in, but you also don’t want too much time to be spent on this page – you want customers to be finding and purchasing parts! Use an FAQ page to address other information you want your customers to know about doing business with you, and keep your About page brief.

Provide Clear Policies for Shipping, Returns, and Warranties

Nothing ruins the online shopping experience quite like getting to checkout and finding out that – surprise! – shipping costs nearly as much as the part itself. Or expecting a part to arrive in a few days and getting a shipping estimate of several weeks. Or getting the wrong part and having to navigate through a complex return policy or warranty claim.

It’s imperative as an online parts retailer to provide easy-to-understand information regarding shipping rates, shipping times, warranties, and return and/or exchange information up front. Provide basic information about your policies on the home page, product pages, FAQ page, and then offer links to your detailed policies. You should also include links to the detailed policies in your main navigation – preferably in both the header and footer.

Make Your Product Pages Stand Out

Your product pages are the most important pages on your website – they’re the last chance you have to convince a customer to purchase. There are several ways to optimize these pages.

  1. High quality images. Your customers want to see the part they’re purchasing. Whenever possible, offer multiple views of the part and the ability to zoom in for a closer look at part details.
  2. Don’t use the manufacturer description if possible. It’s not very interesting and it’s what everyone else is doing. Stand out from your competition by writing unique product descriptions.
  3. Offer fitment information. Customers want to know a part will fit their vehicle, so it’s always good form to offer fitment details on the product page.
  4. Offer shipping, return, and warranty information. As previously mentioned, it’s important for a customer to understand your policies prior to making a purchase. This is especially important if the information differs from the standard policies, as might be the case with hazardous or overweight items.
  5. Use short, descriptive, SEO friendly URLs. Many auto parts website systems, such as Web Shop Manager or Revolution Parts, will automatically create these types of URLs for you.
  6. Utilize a call-to-action. Something as simple as a visually contrasting “Add to Cart” button can go a long way in getting the sale.
  7. Provide product availability information. Let customers know if the item is in stock, out of stock, or if inventory is low. Give a specific number of parts left whenever possible.

Be Mobile-Friendly

In case you haven’t heard, having a mobile-friendly site is now more important than ever. Google rolled out an update on April 21, 2015 that gave preference in mobile searches to websites optimized for mobile devices such as smartphones. While your customers may not necessarily be purchasing parts from their mobile device, Google says there are now more searches from mobile devices than desktops.

Your options to be more mobile-friendly include either a mobile-only website or responsive design. There’s already research showing sites are losing rank as a result of Google’s update, so it’s important to implement a mobile-friendly option as soon as possible.

Have a Smooth Checkout Process

There are some common mistakes parts retailers make at the checkout process, but they’re easy to remedy:

  1. Unexpected shipping costs. As previously discussed, make sure your shipping costs are clear to customers before they get to the checkout page. Even if you can only offer that shipping is calculated by weight or can provide a range (i.e. $5 for 0-5lbs., $10 for 5-10lbs, etc.), this at least prepares the customer for shipping costs to be added.
  2. Not accepting a certain payment method. This is why it’s important to provide the logos of payment methods you accept in the footer of your website as trust symbols. If a customer really wants to make a purchase, they’ll have an accepted payment form ready at checkout.
  3. Forcing the user to create an account before checkout. This is an additional and cumbersome step for the customer. Offer a guest checkout option and let the customer decide after checkout if they want to create an account. If you really want customers to create an account, offer an incentive such as order tracking.

A typical ecommerce checkout process should take 3 clicks at the most. If navigating your checkout process is too cumbersome, you may lose sales. Run through the checkout process yourself to make sure it’s easy to navigate and there aren’t any issues.

Ecommerce Isn’t Easy

Selling auto parts online isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great way to create additional revenue for your business and also increase brand awareness. Keep these tips in mind as you design or update your website, and you’ll be on your way to getting or increasing sales.

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