While there are some ecommerce sites that manage to achieve great success trying to be “the Amazon of parts and accessories,” most successful ecommerce sites find success focusing on a specific niche of the auto parts market.
A niche focus is often a make or break proposition for new retailers: If you cast your net too wide (say, by trying to sell truck parts to all truck owners), you’ll struggle to get noticed when compared to well-known brands that sell every kind of part and accessory. But if you focus too tightly, you’ll miss out on opportunities for growth. The “trick” is to focus on a niche that makes it easy for consumers to notice your site AND that offers growth.
Still, we’ve found that retailers who focus on a specific type or class of part, a specific brand, or even a specific model tend to strike the right balance between getting noticed and growth.
Niche Focus and Getting Noticed
When you go to a car show, who are you more likely to talk to?:
- Exhibitor “a”, who is showing a car you used to own and is about your age or,
- Exhibitor “b”, who is 20 years younger and showing a car that you really don’t like?
Obviously, the answer is “a.” We’re drawn to people that we have something in common with, and in this case exhibitor “a” seems like the kind of person we’d get along with. This basic aspect of human nature is the foundation of niche marketing.
By focusing on a particular type of part, type of enthusiast, brand of vehicle, or even vehicle model, marketing your ecommerce website becomes much easier. If you’re focused on selling towing accessories to F-150 owners, for example, you can:
- Put images of F-150s towing boats, RVs, etc. on your website, your Facebook page, your Instagram account, etc.
- Participate on F-150 owner and enthusiast forums, helping people with their towing problems, answering questions, etc.
- Create articles, videos, and graphics about towing that F-150 owners would find useful.
- Sponsor F-150 owner’s groups, buy advertising on websites that cater to F-150 enthusiasts, etc.
Frankly, a website with a tightly focused niche practically markets itself. If you do the basics, you’ll have no trouble getting noticed and finding some degree of success.
The Problem With Being Too Niche
In the example above, we’re focused on selling towing accessories to F-150 owners. While this is probably a niche that can support a business, the business isn’t going to be massive. It’s not the kind of company that’s going to get listed on the NYSE, for example, or the type of retailer that might be acquired by a big name in the parts business.
Fundamentally, this is the problem with focusing on a tight niche. If you focus too much, you limit your potential for growth. The trick is to strike a balance between choosing a marketable niche and attacking a market that has room for growth.
In terms of choosing a good niche, we don’t have any magical solution. This is one of the hard parts of launching a new site. However, we will point out that many companies start out by selling a particular type of part to a narrow range of consumers. After finding some success, these companies start to expand their focus…they offer a new line of parts or “rebrand” when they’re ready to expand.
Basically, companies that start by focusing on a narrow niche are not forever limited by that niche. There are ways to “break out” when the opportunity is right.
We’ll also point out that most of the retailers who start out trying to sell all kinds of parts to all kinds of people struggle mightily unless they’re very well funded and very well managed. If you’re taking the “we’re going to be the Amazon of auto parts” approach, you need to be positioned to compete with the big dogs.
If you own an auto parts brand or ecommerce site, please share your comments below.