E-Motive industry insider interview Karl Wellman

In today’s Parts Insider Interview, we’re talking with Karl Wellman, North American Business Development Director and Andrew Rowson, the CEO and Founder of E-Motive, a global company that specializes in omnichannel solutions for auto parts ecommerce. E-Motive Online assists auto parts businesses with multilingual, multi-marketplace setup and software integration, inventory management, data building, data management, cross-border selling and more. These omnichannel experts will share their views on the value of 3rd party marketplaces, brand control, and the art of navigating some of those marketplaces effectively.

photo of e-Motive Bus Dev Director and CEO
Karl Wellman and Andrew Rowson

How would you describe your product/service to someone who knows nothing about it or the marketplace?

KW: We do everything multichannel. Omnichannel is the new and modern approach to the customer’s wants and needs. Our mission in business is to help our customers sell more online.

Although we specialize in helping manufacturers, we also work with many white label brands, sellers and distributors to embrace the e-commerce multichannel opportunity.  In our Managed Services approach to eCommerce, we support the entire client and customer journey and pay attention to brand messaging, brand control, reputation, sales and product positioning. 

When speaking with potential customers, what are the three most important things you want them to know?

KW: One of the nice things about ecommerce is you can reach a very large audience relatively simply. If you walk away with only three things, remember these:

  • You must drive traffic, whether you’re selling on your own website or a 3rd party marketplace.  The days of “list it and they will come” are over.
  • There are a lot more costs with selling on ecommerce than you may think.  The beauty is that there are always alternatives if something isn’t working and those changes can be made relatively quickly.
  • You never can have too many good things going for you. Every opportunity presented to you from a 3rd party marketplace should be analyzed before dismissing anything out of hand.  Things move very quickly in the ecommerce world and what is new and innovative today could be out of style by next week.

What are some of the most common problems brands face when they decide to list their catalog on sites like Amazon or eBay?

KW: The value of the brand is a well-known important aspect of every business. Protecting this asset is key but can be a challenge. Locking down your brand through registration on 3rd party marketplaces and through the USPTO and other brand control governmental agencies is vitally important.

 Brand owners often experience

  • Interloping… other businesses stealing your intellectual property and trying to pass it off as their own.  For example, your product listing is doing extremely well so another merchant hops on and lists their knock-off on your product page as a different color variation.  A buyer gets an inferior product and believes it’s your brand resulting in a very poor customer experience.  That customer leaves a negative review and complains to the marketplace that you’re selling a counterfeit product which may result in your account being suspended and then terminated.
  • Value and pricing.  The price of your brand helps establish the value of your brand in the marketplace.  If you are not in control of your brand, others will control it for you which is not always in your best interest.  If too many sellers are competing on the same brand your price may go so low as to be considered a value brand when in fact your product may be a luxury item.  This significantly hurts your value and your margins.

There are ways to protect your brand and its value.

Amazon has Brand Registry which provides protection for brand owners and offers unique marketing programs, but the customer must have an active trademark which can take upwards of 6 months to get. They have recently introduced a new program, the Brand Accelerator, which matches the customer with an attorney to file with the USPTO. Although getting the trademark still takes months, Amazon accepts the work done by the member attorneys and allows the merchant to join Brand Registry within weeks of making application for a trademark.  

Brand Registry has many control mechanisms and Amazon provides even more through their Transparency Program.  Your brand is assigned a range of codes and every single one of your products has that code on the packaging. Amazon watches for that code and any product without it won’t get through Amazon’s system.

eBay also has a brand protection program similar to Amazon known as VeRO. VeRO stands for Verified Rights Owner Program which e-Motive utilizes in their brand protection efforts.

What are some of the biggest mistakes brands make when it comes to Amazon?

KW: The single biggest mistake brands make is believing that Amazon will protect their brand.  Amazon will not stop anyone from selling your branded product unless you’re on the Transparency program.  Brand Registry alone will not do it.  And if you suspect someone is selling counterfeits, it’s up to you to prove it.

Just remember, protecting your brand is your responsibility.  Amazon only cares about the buyer’s experience, not you.  Everything Amazon does is for the customer.  As long as you follow their rules and use the programs set up for brand protection, you’ll be good. 

Amazon will approach you asking to sell your brand if they believe there’s money to be made from doing so.  Be careful!  If you allow Amazon to sell your brand (Vendor Central and 1 P Selling) you will lose control of your pricing.  Also, once you allow Amazon to sell any particular product, you are not allowed to sell it on Amazon yourself.  There may be ways to blend Vendor and Seller Central, but do not attempt to do it on your own.  You need eMotive to guide you through this.

Where do you see Walmart fitting into the automotive ecommerce landscape? Should brands be thinking about eBay, Amazon, and Walmart when they think about multichannel ecommerce?

KW: YES, absolutely. Multichannel is where the sales are made. Having optimized listings on multiple platforms is part of the modern ecommerce landscape. Consider for a moment that these 3rd party marketplaces are people aggregators, places where people are drawn to shop. Walmart, having its roots in retail and wholesale, has been the latest to join the eCommerce party and has set its sights on the Automotive vertical.  They have programs in place to attract strong automotive brands.

What are some of the big differences between optimized and unoptimized listings on Amazon or eBay that manufacturers need to understand? Obviously, sales are higher with optimized listings, but are there other benefits beyond sales that manufacturers and brands should be aware of?

KW: This is related to “list it and they will come”.  A buyer finding an unoptimized listing is tantamount finding a needle in a haystack.  Obviously, sales is the elephant in the room.  However, messaging is of paramount importance.  If the message is lackluster or sloppy the buying public will begin to see your brand in that same light.

Your company tackles large fitment data projects – what are some of the biggest data problems you help manufacturers overcome? What are some of the most common problems you help them with?

AR: The volume of the data is of particular concern.  There is so much of it there is a tendency to let the quality slip – you have to think like a buyer and set up the touch points they search for in order to find your products.  It is not rocket science. Our team are experienced at producing data sets that embrace all these channels.  After all enhanced data results in more sales.

Many manufacturers have in-house data teams, but they’re often overwhelmed or behind in terms of building out fitment information, catalog information, data optimization, etc. Does your company offer services to support in-house teams?

AR: YES, and we prefer to work with inhouse teams as it always works better if there is someone client-side that is owning the process.  We help these teams to speed up their service and output and reach places they would not have normally considered due to time restraints.

If a manufacturer doesn’t have an in-house data team – or maybe has just one or two people tasked with managing data – what should they outsource to your company to make the in-house team as efficient as possible?

AR: This is a common question we come across.  Actually, one of our clients earlier this week summed up the answer very well.  They are a brand and manufacturer and they want to concentrate on what they are good at which is making products.  They understand that great data is as good as great salespeople.  The challenge is that requirements for many different channels are changing all of the time.  This is where we come in.

Does your company help guide brands and manufacturers who are new to Amazon or eBay, or advise and consult with them about multichannel strategy?

KW: Yes, we are known for taking the very best care, custody, and control of white label brands and manufacturers that have never sold online before.  Our staff will “hand hold” the customer through each and every aspect of the eCommerce challenge and consult with them to make them comfortable.  We believe when you have done what we have done for so long and you know what to look for, why would anyone who has no idea what it is all about go on their own into this jungle without a Sherpa?

Your company has offices on multiple continents – how much of your business is with companies in the US and Canada?

AR: 70% of our business is based out of the US and Canada.  A lot of parts originate and are marketed out of this region which is why it is an important place for us to partner with people.

Does your company help US brands stretch into markets outside the USA?

KW: Absolutely, we work with US brands to help them through the entire process including:

  1. Brand Registration
  2. VAT taxes
  3. 3 PL and logistics
  4. The appropriate platforms for their vertical
  5. Customer Service
  6. Product Optimization and Development
  7. Accounting work and systems
  8. Language translations to normalize your company marketing language
  9. eCommerce Marketplace Strategies
  10. Social Media Support
  11. And more….

And we cover a very large piece of global real estate when you consider all of North America, Europe’s (28 Countries), Africa and South East Asia.

Where do you see the market for your product/service moving over the next 5 years?

AR: We have been growing 40% year over year for the past 6 years.  We have been adding services and components to support our customers, and we continually add internal specialists that can handle the day to day and take the strain out of your global expansion.  Why put yourself in a position where you find yourself worrying about whether you’ve made the proper personnel selection for your eCommerce task/project, are they going to need backup when they go on vacation or maternity leave, or simply get ill?

Something to remember about eCommerce, unlike brick and mortar if you’ve made a bad choice you can stop it and redirect yourself in another direction and typically it will not break the bank.  But, with leases and other such fixed overhead it can be very costly to have to retrench and abruptly go in another direction

Why take this road when you can outsource this aspect of your company’s growth with professionals that have already been there and done that?  I believe our market will only improve over time and as we mature, like a fine bottle of wine, we will assure you that we will pass our knowledge on to others in our organization as we grow to continue to help others just as we promise to help you.

If you are an auto parts manufacturer, white label brands, distributor or parts seller who wants to do business worldwide and/or sell across a variety of marketplaces, e-Motive’s managed services can help accelerate your success.