How to Choose an Auto Parts eCommerce Platform
The online auto parts industry is hot.
By the end of 2021, the online auto parts industry market in North America is expected to hit $26 billion – a jump of more than 30% from 2020. Due to continued investment in eCommerce and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a great time for entrepreneurs to begin selling auto parts online.
But how do you choose the best auto parts eCommerce platform when there are dozens of different auto parts eCommerce platforms out there.
How do you know which one is right for your auto parts business?
What’s the difference between them, anyway?
Below we’ve put together an overview of the six most commonly-used auto parts eCommerce platforms.
However, before we dive deep into discussing auto parts eCommerce platforms, there are a few initial steps you need to take.
STEP 1: Decide on Your Business Model
Before you jump headfirst into building your auto parts eCommerce website, you need to take a step back and decide on your business model.
There are many business models to choose from, including:
Website (dropshipping) – This is a great option if you’re just starting out. There’s less investment upfront since you’re not purchasing any inventory. Your drop shipper will take care of that. You won’t have the headache of dealing with shipping rates or making sure your orders are shipped in a timely manner. Your drop shipper will take care of that. And if you choose wisely, your drop shipper will even handle returns for you.
Of course, with so much of your buyer’s post-purchase journey out of your hands, you’re at the mercy of your drop shipper. Nevertheless, this remains a great option for first-time store owners.
Website (with inventory) – Carrying your inventory increases your initial investment; however, you will have complete control of your buyer’s journey. This will help you create memorable customer experiences that can drive repeat purchases. The main decision you will need to make is which eCommerce platform to choose. But then again, that’s the focus of this blog post so if you keep reading I’m sure you’ll find some valuable information that will help you choose the best auto parts eCommerce platform.
Website plus brick & mortar – This is a great option since so many customers now prefer to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS).
Marketplace – If you want to avoid managing your own website completely, marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay are a great, quick start option. You can sell your auto parts on these marketplaces that can even stock your inventory, fulfill your orders, and handle returns. Of course, they take a steep cut of every sale, so be sure to do some number crunching to make sure you’re coming out ahead after all the fees are other expenses are taken out.
STEP 2: Decide What Specific Auto Parts eCommerce Functionality You Need
Your auto parts website can have a long list of features and functionality. However, there are some core features that you’ll want to look for in an parts eCommerce platform:
YMM Lookup – Year Make Model Lookup provides a standard and fast way for your customers to filter products and find the exact auto part they’re looking for.
VIN Lookup – Give your customers the ability to search for a product by one of the most common vehicle identifiers: VIN.
Dropship Integration – Integrate your auto parts platform with your distributors or wholesalers to quickly and accurately ship out your dropship orders.
Fitment and EPID Integration – Provides your customers with vehicle-specific parts for any vehicle.
Advanced Parts Search – Provide your customers with the ability to search by any field stored on the product, including custom fields (e.g., brand, MPN, catalog fitment, etc.).
Kits and Bundles – Easily create product bundles (e.g., 4 tires) or kits that include multiple items (e.g, wheel and tire set).
Catalog Data Integrations – Integrate with your website with ASAP, DCI and SDC catalogs, along with fitment matching from MyFitment, to give you access to over 1.5 million parts, including descriptions, fitment, feature points, images, eBay categories and more.
Data Management (ACES and PIES) – Ensure that your catalog stay up-to-date and mapped files are always in sync.
Visit our Data Management page for more info.
Product Attributes – Go beyond brand, size, and color and offer your customers the ability to filter products by multiple product attributes, including, bolt-pattern, mounting, material, and gear ratio to just name a few.
Brand Management – Brand management allows you to connect multiple products under one brand and search for similar products by brand. You can also set up brand pages, link to brands from product pages and show similar products from other brands with ease.
STEP 3: Evaluate the top auto parts eCommerce websites
There are dozens of auto parts eCommerce websites to choose from. To make your decision a bit easier, we’ve compared a few of the most popular auto parts eCommerce websites below:
Magento (Adobe Commerce)
Magento is a free and open source eCommerce platform that’s now owned by Adobe. There’s also a paid, cloud-hosted version of Magento called “Adobe Commerce,” which is primarily marketed to larger businesses.
Magento (Adobe Commerce) is a very powerful and scalable auto parts eCommerce platform. It’s trusted by some of the biggest companies in the world, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Nike, to name just a few.
However, with its power comes complexity. Unless you’ve got technical skills, you’ll probably need to hire a developer to build your Magento(Adobe Commerce) website. Hosting and technical support are also not included, unless you opt for Adobe Commerce.
Completely customizable – Almost any aspect of Magento (Adobe Commerce) can be altered and modified to your heart’s content, as long as you’ve got the skills to do so.
Open-source – This means that your data is easy to transport, migrate, and archive in case you ever want to switch to a new eCommerce platform in the future.
Packed with great features – By default, Magento (Adobe Commerce) comes with a ton of great features to help you sell auto parts, and you can add more extensions and features from the Magento Marketplace.
Complex initial setup – You likely won’t be able to set up your website unless you hire a developer to help you with the process.
Performance can vary – Unless you opt for Adobe Commerce, the paid version of Magento, your performance may vary depending on your web host and a lot of other factors.
Administrative learning curve – It may take some time to get used to the feature-packed administration tools provided with Magento (Adobe Commerce).
Shopify may be a good choice for your auto parts business if you want a very simple to use eCommerce platform. It’s an all-in-one, “Software As A Service” platform that aims to make the initial setup process as easy as possible.
When you use Shopify, you get an all-in-one platform that requires little customization and initial setup. You can often start selling products in just a few days. It’s cheap, too. Plans start at just $29/month, though they get a lot more expensive for eCommerce stores with a high volume of sales.
However, Shopify does have some disadvantages. It’s a proprietary platform, so it’s pretty hard to migrate to a different eCommerce platform if you want to do so in the future. It’s also not nearly as customizable as some of the other choices on this list.
Simple setup – It’s entirely possible to build a new website and start selling auto parts within a day or two. Setting up a store is really simple and intuitive.
Prices start low – With prices starting at just $29/month plus a few other fees, you’ll have a low up-front investment.
Great for solopreneurs – If you’re a new eCommerce entrepreneur, Shopify lets you get started really quickly, and can be set up without technical help, in most cases.
You may outgrow it – Shopify’s features are pretty limited compared to platforms like Adobe Commerce/Magento, so you may outgrow it if you need more advanced features and product support.
Customization is really limited – Most aspects of Shopify can’t be customized, since it’s a proprietary eCommerce platform. This may make it harder for you to build the website you want.
It’s hard to migrate to a new platform – Migrating from Shopify can be painful and expensive due to the proprietary, closed-source nature of the platform.
BigCommerce is really similar to Shopify, and while it has a slightly lower market share, it’s still a really popular choice for entrepreneurs who want a reliable auto parts eCommerce platform.
Like Shopify, it’s a proprietary, closed-source, SaaS platform. Pricing is similar, too, starting at $29.95/month for its cheapest plan. Like Shopify, it has lots of simple drag-and-drop tools and a ton of themes. You can create, customize, and launch an auto parts website really quickly.
But this also means you’ll face similar restrictions. BigCommerce is a closed, proprietary platform, so it’s hard to move to a new platform. You’re pretty much locked into using it unless you want to pay for costly data migration.
Lots of themes – BigCommerce has lots of themes to choose from, and they all support modern technology like responsive design for mobile devices. Both free and paid themes are available.
Simple setup – Like Shopify, BigCommerce is specifically designed to help you launch a website on your own, with no need for technical assistance or web developers.
Includes unique features – BigCommerce provides lots of great features out-of-the-box, such as saving abandoned carts, a loyalty rewards program, and support for Google customer reviews.
Tier-based features – Some of the features of BigCommerce are only unlocked with higher-tier plans. For example, entry-level plans can’t use abandoned cart saving functionality.
Limited customization – While there are plenty of themes, customization falls short in some other ways. For example, most themes support only 3-4 fonts. Overall, you’re pretty limited in how you can customize each theme.
Sales limits for each plan – Unlike Shopify, there are sales limits for each plan tier. For example, if you sell more than $50,000 per year, you’ll need to upgrade from a Standard to a Plus plan.
WooCommerce is a bit different from the other auto parts eCommerce platforms we’ve looked at so far. It’s not a free plugin that’s designed to work with WordPress. This makes it appealing to entrepreneurs who have experience working with WordPress – given that WordPress powers nearly 40% of all websites.
Similar to Magento/Adobe Commerce, Woocommerce is really customizable. But this also means that you’ll need a lot more technical skills to make the most of its potential. However, if you have some experience with WordPress already, you may find that you can do a lot of tasks on your own.
Free to use – WooCommerce is completely free and open-source. However, you must pay for your own web hosting and other costs, similarly to WordPress or Magento Open Source.
Very customizable – Just like WordPress, WooCommerce can be customized and modified to a huge extent, as long as you’ve got the skills to do so yourself – or the budget to hire a developer.
Integrates easily with WordPress – This is huge for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and blogging. WordPress is an excellent CMS (Content Management System) for entrepreneurs. Using features like blogging can help you build up your website’s authority and SEO profile very quickly.
Requires more out-of-the-box setup – For example, you need to set up your own payment gateways and shipping solutions. Unlike platforms like Magento/Adobe Commerce, these are not set up by default.
You may have to pay for other add-ons – There are lots of themes and extensions for WooCommerce, but many of these are paid. If you need a lot of extra features and customization, you may end up paying quite a bit for what you need.
Performance can be spotty – Since you’ll need to work out hosting for yourself and you may have lots of add-ons and customizations, performance issues are a bit more common on WooCommerce and can be harder to address.
Squarespace is a website building company that offers “drag and drop” website builders. Using their platform, you can create a website from the ground up without touching a single piece of code. And with their new Squarespace eCommerce functionality, this includes eCommerce stores.
The biggest perk of choosing Squarespace for your auto parts eCommerce platform is that it’s really easy to set up, customize, and launch your website. Squarespace also handles hosting, domain names, and other technical things, similar to Shopify or BigCommerce. They also provide lots of support for new customers who are setting up their stores.
It’s cheap, too. Basic Commerce plans start at just $26/month, with no added transaction fees beyond those taken by your chosen payment gateway.
Drag-and-drop setup – Squarespace uses a “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) editor that’s extremely simple and provides you with a lot of flexibility to customize your website, even if you have no coding skills.
Tons of templates – There are over 100 templates that you can use, and they all support mobile devices and are built using the latest design techniques and best practices.
Limited payment gateways – Squarespace only uses Stripe or PayPal, which may be limiting if you want to use a different payment processor, particularly if you want to sell your products internationally.
Mediocre performance – It can be difficult to speed up loading times beyond 3-5 seconds with Squarespace. This may result in lost sales due to mediocre overall performance.
Customization is a bit limited – Due to the “content block” architecture used to build websites, you may have some trouble getting your website content exactly where you want it – particularly if you’re an advanced user.
Wix is really similar to Squarespace. It’s also an all-in-one solution for building, hosting, and running a website, and has eCommerce support. It requires no technical expertise and lets you get up and running really quickly.
It also has a free version. This version doesn’t allow you to accept payments, so you can’t use it to sell auto parts online – but you can still try out most of Wix’s features without paying, so this is a good way to get a feel for the platform and see if it’s right for you.
Pricing is also pretty similar to Squarespace and the other services on this list, at $23/month for the cheapest Business Basic plan. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the pros and cons of using Wix as your auto parts eCommerce platform now.
Very beginner-friendly – Like Squarespace, you can easily build an entire website from the ground up, and you have more control over how it looks and functions compared to a platform like Shopify.
Tons of payment options – Wix supports Stripe, PayPal, and Square, three of the most popular payment gateways. It also supports up to 50+ other payment processors, providing you with tons of options. This is great if you want to sell auto parts internationally.
Free version, money-back guarantee – You can use a Wix free plan to start building your website without paying a dime. And once you do subscribe, it offers a 14-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.
Storage limits – Squarespace offers unlimited storage on all of its plans. Wix limits you to just 20 GB for its cheapest Business Basic plan, and 50 GB for the Business VIP plan. To get more space, you need a pricey Enterprise plan.
Limited inventory management – Compared to some dedicated platforms like Magento/Adobe Commerce or Shopify, managing inventory and products is more difficult and has more limitations. For example, it doesn’t support stock management alerts.
Difficult to migrate – Like the other proprietary platforms on this list, Wix makes it hard to migrate your site. If you find that you need the tools offered by another auto parts eCommerce platform, you’ll have to fork over some serious cash to get professional help.
What’s The Best Auto Parts eCommerce Platform? It Depends.
Now that we’ve gone over a few of the top auto parts eCommerce plans out there, you may be wondering which one you should choose. Which auto parts eCommerce platform is the best for you?
The answer is…it depends.
New entrepreneurs may be better off with a platform like Shopify or Squarespace. People with technical skills may be comfortable using WooCommerce or Magento Open Source. It all depends on your budget, your store, your sales, and your own unique situation.
However, our choice for most entrepreneurs is Magento (Adobe Commerce).
Magento is scalable, powerful, secure, feature-rich, and completely customizable. And not only is it free to use if you get started with Magento Open Source, but your data remains your own, and free of proprietary platforms like Shopify.
And as your business grows, you can scale it. You can continue to grow your Magento Open Source site – or even switch to Adobe Commerce. This cloud-hosted eCommerce platform is based on Magento, but also includes a lot of amazing B2B tools, expanded analytics features, and so much more.
Need more information? We’re here to help. Contact us to schedule a quick chat with one of our Magento (Adobe Commerce) experts. We can explain the benefits of Magento in more detail, and provide you with the guidance you need.