With technological advancements and consumer expectations accelerating at full throttle, today’s shop owners face a stark reality: Keep pace by embracing modern omnichannel strategies or risk falling behind in a brave new world of business.
“The game is changing, whether we want it to or not,” affirms Melanie Hellwig White, president at Hellwig Products. “As such, it’s forced everyone to look at new ways to adapt and be successful.”
An omnichannel approach strives to provide current and prospective customers with a unified and seamless brand experience across multiple channels, ensuring consistency whether a person is conducting business at a traditional brick-and-mortar location, perusing a company’s social channels or shopping online. TurnKey eShop and Parts Via, two industry-leading digital solutions under the Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. umbrella, demonstrate how a fully integrated shopping experience not only caters to modern consumer preferences, but also provides independent shop owners with a runway to thrive in an increasingly complex retail environment.
While most business owners acknowledge the importance of a robust online presence, many toggle back and forth regarding exactly where to start.
“Oftentimes, knowledge and bandwidth are barriers that halt jobbers from taking that necessary next step in
e-commerce,” says Nick Geiger, program director of Keystone Automotive Operations’ Click to Mortar division, including Parts Via and TurnKey eShop.
He points to Keystone’s TurnKey eShop solution as an easy and affordable first step developed to bridge the gap between physical and digital shopping spaces. Intended to “close the loop and complete the omnichannel experience within the shopping process,” Geiger says the platform allows independent retailers to effortlessly establish an online presence and immediately maximize opportunities within their local markets, all while encouraging in-store foot traffic through a buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) delivery option.
With TurnKey eShop, a team of digital experts lead the design, development and ongoing maintenance of a company’s professional website–showcasing a retailer’s full line of products and services, which current and potential customers can view 24/7.
“TurnKey eShop’s development team manages the entire site-building process, eliminating all the technical nuances that can come with building an e-commerce site,” Geiger says. “Just go in, set your preferred brands, establish your pricing structure, then sell.”
Featuring complete e-commerce and mobile-responsive functionality, TurnKey eShop provides online shoppers with access to a comprehensive year, make, model lookup to browse thousands of parts across 400+ brands.
Jobbers who want to take the shopping experience a step further can select the Gallery Plus package, which incorporates next-gen vehicle configuration software. Interactive Garage allows users to virtually customize an on-screen vehicle that looks similar to what sits in their driveway. Bumpers, lights, lift kits, wheels and tires, floor mats and more can be digitally enhanced on the sample vehicle, offering users a realistic representation of the modifications.
“We have all had those customers who are on the fence for a purchase because they are unsure of how something will look once installed. This tool really helps the customer visualize their accessory and guides their decision of the purchase,” says Billy Glass of Pickup Outfitters in St. Ann, Missouri.
Accessing accurate data can be expensive and time consuming, Geiger adds. Since TurnKey eShop is fully integrated with Keystone Automotive’s inventory management system, he says jobbers can rest assured product data is not only correct and validated, but also live.
Consumers also benefit from convenient automated order and payment processing, with features like real time estimated delivery for home or BOPIS delivery options. Online shoppers can ship items–even big and bulky accessories–for free and with confidence, knowing their products will arrive on time and in ready-to-upfit condition. At the same time, shop staff can significantly reduce and streamline sales and fulfillment duties.
“The free in-store delivery option also provides dealers with the chance to initiate and schedule service and installation, while increasing the opportunity for complementary add-on sales,” Geiger adds.
Glass calls attention to the many challenges traditional brick-and-mortar retailers face, including immense pressure from big-name online stores like eBay and Amazon.
“We retail guys are up against a world of convenience,” he says. “A lot of people are accustomed to shopping from the comfort of home or their phone. It’s impossible for us to stay open 24/7, but a beneficial tool like TurnKey eShop helps us stay in the game.”
CHARTING NEW GROUND
Industry professionals agree early truck and off-road e-commerce sites severely disrupted the marketplace–initially sending shockwaves through the industry by oftentimes selling inferior products at rock-bottom prices that made it nearly impossible for standup jobbers and reputable brands to compete. While such platforms paved the way for an explosion in online shopping, pandemic-era preferences flipped the switch yet again. Consumers under the weight of unprecedented regulations and stay-at-home orders yearned for a more comprehensive solution that far surpassed a quick online transaction.
The emerging BOPIS model was fast-tracked during 2020–effectively demonstrating how traditional brick-and-mortar and innovative online shopping can coexist in a modern retail environment. With BOPIS, digital consumers not only transact with the familiar expediency of e-commerce, but also capitalize on the expertise and greater resources of a local shop.
Keystone Automotive Operations’ Parts Via program combines the convenience of online shopping with the authenticity of an in-person business by allowing customers to shop a brand’s individual website and then choose between traditional home delivery or free next-day shipping to a local network dealer. By handling the entire transaction and fulfillment process on behalf of the brand, Parts Via helps manage the consumer’s online experience while also securing the sale at the peak of their shopping process. Additionally, it incentivizes the ship-to-dealer option, encouraging shoppers to explore available installation services, professional know-how and other in-store benefits.
The program’s consumer-facing online marketplace, PartsVia.com, further cultivates this arrangement. Consumers enjoy the same conveniences as the branded websites but with more power of choice, as they can now shop multiple suppliers in one location with one checkout. However, the platform still prioritizes a free ship-to-dealer option, effectively carving out space for in-store experiences in a shopping model that traditionally excludes them.
Since its debut in 2019, the unique marketplace has helped complement dealer offerings by driving foot traffic and sharing transaction revenue. PartsVia.com also offers engaging features like a comprehensive YMM lookup tool, interactive try-before-you-buy-software, and an informative blog with educational automotive material.
In the automotive aftermarket especially, enthusiasts have high expectations and increasingly crave authenticity at every turn. As such, Geiger says more consumers are reaching for name brands with high-quality products to best support their outdoor lifestyle of choice, from weekend off-roading and overlanding to extreme desert racing.
A valid seller and installer are just as important as a trusted product backed by reputation and warranty. He says the consumer’s emphasis on excellence extends past components that perform in a pinch to include the vast knowledge and specialized installation services a local Parts Via network dealer provides.
For automotive enthusiasts, such expertise and customer service are the bedrock of loyal business dealings. This is especially true in the truck, off-road and performance sectors where suspension products and their proper installation, for example, are not only a question of quality and capability, but also safety.
Likewise, Geiger says that Parts Via serves as an opportunity to grow the overall customer base. He points to the many online shoppers who are not enthusiasts, but rather general consumers in need of a bumper, tonneau or large bedliner installed.
“No one wants a 300-pound bumper crate showing up in their front yard,” he jokes. “So, the online sale is a great passthrough to someone within our extensive dealer network.”
The consumer transacts online with ease, then benefits from the collective experience and product knowledge of Keystone Automotive’s premier distribution network. Meanwhile, the brick-and-mortar store picks up a new customer and has the opportunity to upsell complementary products upon installation and/or pickup.
“There is demand for the ‘Do-It-For-Me’ customer, and I love how the Parts Via platform links us all together and helps protect that customer experience,” Hellwig White says.
The multi-prong structure of Parts Via not only delivers consumers with a seamless digital experience from onset throughout installation, but also provides dealers and suppliers with a proven turnkey solution to expand their reach, boost profitability and thrive in an ever-evolving digital environment.
Like independent retailers, many suppliers are eager to commit to an e-commerce strategy but sometimes lack the resources to do so, or simply find a partnership with Parts Via to be an easier transition into digital expansion, while also benefiting from a dealer network customized specifically for their brand of products.
In one Parts Via scenario, supplier participants like Hellwig, Mickey Thompson or Draw-Tite place a “Buy Now” button on their website directing end-customers to purchase. From there, shoppers can select a traditional home delivery or support a local business by sending their online purchases to a Parts Via network dealer for pickup and installation–all with the added benefit of free next-day shipping. The platform handles the entire transaction and fulfillment process, while also managing the consumer’s online experience from start to finish. Profits are then shared among the participating supplier partners and dealers
Empowering, growing and supporting the jobber network, while simultaneously protecting the customer experience were two clear motivators for Hellwig Suspension to partner with Keystone Automotive and Parts Via.
“We’re a member of the Parts Via program because they value the customer experience (the same way we do),” Hellwig White says. “At Hellwig, we always wanted to give our customers the opportunity to buy through our website, but also wanted to ensure an awesome experience. With Parts Via, it’s a win-win.”
Glass agrees, adding how combining TurnKey eShop and Parts Via gives brick-and-mortar “the best of both worlds.”
“We can still accommodate the customer who doesn’t like shopping in the store, or the customer whose schedule doesn’t allow them to come to the store during normal business hours,” he says. “These tools allow the customer to continue to shop and support local, but also do it from the convenience of their own home, on their own time.”
Parts Via also rewards its participating network dealers through a multitiered loyalty rewards program. Unlike many models, which offer participants the “chance to win something,” the Parts Via’s loyalty program turns profits into actual redeemable points. It also gives dealers power of choice over how to use those points. They can obtain personal rewards like gift cards, electronics and vacations, or choose business rewards like free P.O.P. displays and delivery credits.
Keystone Automotive customers and suppliers are encouraged to take full advantage of the Parts Via program. If you are interested in learning more or signing up as a network dealer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.