2020 was a turning point for many – if not all – industries across the globe. Shopping in person stopped being safe; social distancing became the norm; online shopping replaced traditional buying experiences. The same happened with the auto parts eCommerce market – in 2020, it reached over $16 billion in revenue, about 30% more than in 2019.
The automotive aftermarket industry is a promising field for those who want to open their stores. They can choose whether they wish to create their own website and shop or set up their business on an existing eCommerce marketplace such as Amazon, eBay Motors, and Walmart.
The ultimate guide to Amazon in 2021 will provide you with everything you need to know to establish a successful online car parts business.
Advantages of Selling on Amazon
There are three main reasons you should consider becoming an Amazon seller and choosing this platform for car parts.
- Enormous Customer Base
The Amazon marketplace brings in approximately 214.8 million unique visitors every month worldwide.
By signing up to become an online auto parts retailer on this eCommerce platform, you don’t have to painstakingly draw in customers one by one. This vast customer base is at your fingertips the moment you access the gated Automotive & Powersports category. Such a huge consumer pool is sure to be a significant boost to your business!
- Large Revenue Potential
Aside from having hundreds of millions of unique visits, it is no surprise that Amazon also brings in billions of dollars in revenue. Its car parts, car care products, and accessories department earned over $10.3 billion in 2020. $1.9 billion came from OEM replacement parts.
The revenue potential in this marketplace is astounding. Successful automotive parts retailers easily earn six figures per year from their Amazon stores alone.
- Simple Set-Up
Even though there are quite a few Amazon regulations and guidelines to meet when setting up your store, overall, it is still a relatively simple process. You don’t have to design or develop your website and online shop or bother with marketing and advertising fees.
Amazon requires some documentation, images for your products, and accurate fitment data – no more, no less. Anyone can become a seller, which is a benefit and a detriment, depending on how you look at it.
Disadvantages of Selling on Amazon
Trading on this high-traffic marketplace isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are also some downsides to selling on Amazon that you should know before deciding to enter this sales channel.
- Tremendous Competition
As mentioned above, almost anyone can become an Amazon retailer. The competition in the Automotive & Powersports category, in particular, is through the roof. Everyone wants a piece of this potentially lucrative marketplace, and most get quickly approved to participate in the trade.
It will be a challenge to distinguish yourself and keep your business afloat. You will need to set competitive pricing and impeccably manage your fitment information.
- The Customer Is Always Right
Amazon doesn’t want to lose any customers. At the same time, they don’t mind losing sellers since there will always be more where sellers come from. Any dispute between an auto parts seller and a buyer will likely be resolved in the buyer’s favor. This means there are countless opportunities for your business to get negative reviews.
The conditions of selling on Amazon can be quite rough. If you want to persevere in such a competitive climate, you must bring your A-game.
The First Steps
A question often asked on search engines is “How to sell car parts on Amazon?”. This process isn’t too difficult, but it does require research and attention to detail. The Automotive & Powersports category on Amazon is restricted, meaning that any potential sellers require Amazon’s approval to enter it.
Here are the basics of setting up your Amazon auto parts store.
Deciding on the Product Type
First and foremost, decide on the product type you’re going to sell. Not all auto parts are created equal, and not all of them are equally marketable on Amazon.
When finding your niche, some general guidelines include the following:
- Aim to interest the average car owner and not a professional mechanic or dealership owner. Overall, you shouldn’t expect much interaction with your potential customer pre-sale. If they need advice on a part or accessory, they likely won’t want to contact you with questions and won’t order the part that caught their eye.
- To expand on the ‘average car owner’ bullet point, offer products that are easy to install and don’t require any particular skill, knowledge, or equipment to replace.
- Go for lightweight items and, as such, not too expensive to package and ship.
- Items that frequently need replacement are a good option, such as tires, spark plugs, brake pads, and similar.
- Your customers will be grateful for parts that have high compatibility with many different makes and models. If someone can’t find a part for their specific vehicle, they will look for parts of other vehicles to fit into theirs. This is why high-quality compatibility data is crucial in your fitment information.
- Lastly, try to void items that need urgent replacement if they fail. Examples of this are alternators, batteries, and starters. In an emergency or a rush, consumers won’t stop to compare prices and choose the best deal. If your business is not one of the biggest on Amazon, it will likely get overlooked in a mad dash for these parts.
If you want to sell genuine parts (OE) parts, you will need additional Amazon approval. This is also the case if you’re going to deal with refurbished (or used) parts. The categories of OEM parts and third-party parts are not as difficult to break into from the platform’s side. However, the competition in them is high, so you will have to find a way to stand out from the crowd.
Obtaining a Seller Account
One of the first steps to setting up an online store on Amazon is to sign up on the Professional Selling Plan. This isn’t free and comes with a $39.99 monthly subscription fee. Since the Automotive & Powersports category is gated, you cannot access it as a seller without being on this plan.
At the same time, being a Professional Seller is not the only requirement for getting Amazon’s approval for the automotive parts category.
How to Get Approved by Amazon
An important thing to know is that you might be looking at more than one approval process, depending on the product type you’re selling.
We’ll start with the most common one: getting approval to enter the Automotive & Powersports category. This is a restricted category because Amazon wants to ensure no one is selling stolen parts or illegal equipment (such as tools for deactivating car locks or modifying odometer readings). It also gives Amazon more control over the customer experience.
- You must be on the Professional Selling Plan. Having your business website and shop through which you’re already conducting business is a bonus.
- Your products have to be listed using the universal product code (UPC). Any major car brand uses this code to label its products.
- All product images have to be made following Amazon’s guidelines and policies.
- The fitment data you provide must be in line with local, state, federal, and international laws and regulations. It also needs to be in the right, Amazon-approved format.
- All products must come with a warranty either from the manufacturer or the remanufacturer – even the refurbished products. You have to disclose whether the warranty of the used part is from the manufacturer or your own.
- If you’re selling accessories and parts only for specific vehicles, such as car seat covers, seat belts, floor mats, and other interior parts, you need to review Amazon’s Part Finder and Fitment Data page. It would be a good idea to check it no matter what type of components you’re offering.
Special attention is paid to the quality and composition of product images on Amazon. If any of your photos violate Amazon’s image regulations, your products won’t be accepted. Moreover, customers like to see different angles of a product and sharp, high-quality images, so they are confident they are ordering the right part.
When creating a gallery of your inventory, follow these guidelines:
- The image files must be in one of the following formats: .jpg/.jpeg, .png, .gif, or .tif/tiff.
- The color mode of the files has to be either CMYK or sRGB.
- The height or the width of an image should be at least 1000 pixels in dimension.
- Each image’s filename should include a product identifier (UPC, EAN, ASIN, JAN, or the 13-digit ISBN). Dashes, spaces, or additional characters are not allowed. If you accidentally include any of those, your image won’t make it online.
- Product drawings or illustrations are not allowed. The image needs to be a professional photo of the component without any additional objects in the frame that may confuse the consumer.
- A pure white background is non-negotiable.
You don’t have to hire a professional photographer for the pictures – you can do them yourself if you’re handy enough with a camera. If you’re the photographer, make sure that the product takes up at least 85% of the frame and is clear and focused. Natural lighting is best, as you want the part to appear as realistic as possible. For the same reason, you should avoid color filters and other photo adjustments such as inset images, text, or graphics that might overlap with the product.
Refurbished or Pre-Owned Parts
Amazon doesn’t use the term ‘used.’ Instead, used parts are ‘refurbished’ or ‘pre-owned.’ To sell refurbished products, you need a special kind of approval.
Along with other information you send in your application, you will also need to provide invoices as proof that you have earned at least $50,000 in total sales of refurbished products in the last 180 days. Yes, Amazon won’t allow you to trade in pre-owned components if you haven’t already established your pre-owned auto parts business.
Lastly, as mentioned above, you will require additional approval for selling genuine parts of specific brands, such as BMW. You need to provide extensive documentation, supplier invoices, and possibly even a letter of authorization from the manufacturer itself.
Waiting for Approval
When you fulfill the basic and image requirements, you need to fill in a form in the Seller Central section of the website. It typically takes Amazon around three business days to reply via email. They will ask for additional information and documentation, or they will immediately grant you access to the Automotive & Powersports category (and possibly the refurbished parts or genuine brand parts categories, if you asked to enter them as well).
In general, most people get approved by Amazon. It happens very rarely that someone is rejected.
Managing Fitment Data
The good news is that Amazon has an extensive collection of catalogs their sellers can use with their fitment data. If your parts are already listed in Amazon’s catalogs, you won’t be required to provide your own information.
However, it may happen that some parts are missing. Custom-made components might be missing from any official catalog, and so you will have to manually enter the information for them. You can either do this through research (finding its fitment data on your own), or you can turn to a fitment data provider for help.
Regardless, your obligation as an automotive parts retailer is to maintain your fitment data and make sure it is accurate, in the right format, and as complete as it possibly can be. Including detailed compatibility information is also preferable.
Amazon utilizes the Vehicle Configuration database from the Auto Care Association as its primary source of vehicle information. It would be best if your data is also according to the VCdb and updated right along with it, once a month.
Don’t Neglect Other Channels
Even though there are clear advantages to opening up a store on Amazon, you shouldn’t overlook other sales channels, such as eBay, Walmart, and especially your website.
Online platforms are useful because they already have a customer base you can tap into. However, it is essential to build your business (dropshipping or otherwise) separately as well. Designing a website and managing an eCommerce store takes time, skill, and money, but it also offers more than an existing marketplace ever could.
With your website, you get:
- Better interaction with your customers and the opportunity to offer better customer service.
- Full control over your brand, your brand’s story, and how it is presented to the world.
- Complete control over what product types you’re selling and the amount of information you give in the product description sections.
- A chance to build your business block by block and develop social media and other marketing campaigns that draw in precisely the kind of customers you want.
- A solid foundation that won’t let you down even if you stop selling on an online platform.
The trick with online marketplaces is that they are fickle things. You might be doing good one year but poorly the next. This ever-changing landscape is why auto parts businesses want to branch out on as many sales channels as they can. If one fails, there are still others to keep the shop afloat.
Even though Amazon is a good starting point, don’t miss out on other opportunities to grow your business.
Retailers flock to Amazon because it offers hundreds of millions of potential customers. The potential for revenue and volume of sales on this online marketplace is staggering. At the same time, it is relatively easy to open a car parts store.
Once you know what type of parts you’re going to sell (new or refurbished, genuine or replacement, or even third-party), create an Amazon account and sign up for its Professional Selling plan. You will need to obtain Amazon’s approval to access specific categories, such as the Automotive & Powersports category and the refurbished parts and genuine brand parts categories.
To get approval, you must meet all of the basic and image requirements outlined on Amazon’s website.
When you’re clear to set up your store, you need to upload your fitment data in the right format. A crucial factor in a successful car parts business is accurate and complete data. Thanks to it, your customers won’t receive the wrong part, and they won’t be compelled to turn to your competitors for better information.
Finally, there are some downsides to being an Amazon seller. The competition is fierce, and there is little chance to interact with the customer, get to know them, and perhaps establish a connection that will have them returning for more products.
Consider other sales channels as well, such as other marketplaces and your business website. As your business evolves, so should your reach across the internet.
If this has been a lot to take in at once and you’d like more advice on the topic, please contact myFitment. Navigating the depths of Amazon can be tricky, and we would love to help you come out on top!