Online sales in a supply-challenged market

by | Jan 6, 2022 | 0 comments

It may sound counterintuitive to announce your company’s service-level challenges to online customers up front, but it may in fact be the best route to maintaining customer satisfaction.

It’s no secret that supply chain disruptions have had an impact on virtually every sector of the economy, but lately it feels like issues in the new-car industry have been getting a lot of press coverage.

And while aftermarket supply issues don’t always move in lockstep with new vehicle production, there is some commonality in the manufacture and transport of discrete parts.

With so much commerce conducted online, it’s important to recognize that setting customer expectations at the outset, and presenting options, are an important part of providing a positive customer experience, even in the face of supply challenges.

A recent study by J.D. Power into the digital storefront offerings of automakers highlighted the challenges, and some possible approaches.

Low inventory is not only affecting dealerships, but also manufacturer websites, according to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Winter. Specifically, 53% of OEM websites saw a satisfaction decline in the feature that helps shoppers find a vehicle.

Online vehicle shopping, it is not hard to see, can be a frustrating affair when vehicles matching a customer’s wants simply cannot be found with certainty.

“Despite things that are out of the manufacturer’s digital control, like inventory issues, there are some best practices out there that can help mitigate these digital challenges,” says Jon Sundberg, director of digital solutions at J.D. Power. “Optimizing the website speed and including things such as waitlists, order when available, or even simply stating issues upfront can make a big difference in website satisfaction.”

So, to reiterate on the points advanced:

  • Ensure your website/e-commerce platform is fast.
  • Include a “waitlist” or similar mechanism.
  • Include an “order when available” option.
  • State upfront any supply delays or similar issues.

The goal in this approach to your online sales is to ensure, as much as possible, that customer expectations are managed in a way similar to what a professional counterperson would do on the phone: helping customers to understand how to schedule jobs or projects and anticipate delays.

And while the new-car shopping process does differ from the parts and accessories market in many ways including ticket price, providing a transparent shopping experience by setting realistic expectations for parts delivery/pickup can help retain the customer today, and keep them coming back tomorrow.

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