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Broaden Your Demographic: Sell Online

Order Reprints

Selling vehicle accessories doesn’t have to be just limited to your local customer market. For BMW of Minnetonka in Wayzata, Minn., selling accessories online through Amazon has brought about new opportunities for the dealership, including reaching a new customer base that extends throughout the United States. The dealership has seen so much success with online sales that it has been in the top 5–10 percent of BMW accessory retailers in the United States from 2012–2018 and looks to keep that going in 2019, says Wayne Lais, parts manager.

“I think it’s a great marketplace because a lot of things we would never sell in this part of the country, we sell tons and tons of,” Lais says. “It gives you much broader opportunity.”

Being able to accommodate a wider region means various products are requested from customers across the country. Sun deflectors are constantly bought through the online site, Lais says, but not typically sought after for local Minnesota customers.

Although it can result in a small, additional source of profit, having the ability to sell more to customers can present further financial opportunities for employees depending upon your company.

To accommodate online orders, accessories are handled by e-commerce coordinator, Liza Rodahl, who oversees all orders from the dealership’s online store platforms.

“Our efforts online is enough to keep Liza busy all year long,” Lais says.

Selling accessories—online and at the dealership—has brought new insight to both Rodahl and Lais on how to properly handle customer service. Both share mishaps they’ve run into when selling parts online and provide insight on how to make it a successful and sustainable part of the dealership business.


Don’t bring everything in-house.

Although certain products can be a hot commodity online, it doesn’t mean they won’t pile up dust and take up unnecessary space on your shelves. According to Lais, roughly half of the inventory sold is not stocked in-house to prevent this.

While some products are located at the dealership, Lais says orders through the company can simplify the process.

“We don’t stock hardly any of the things that we sell,” Lais says.

For example, if floor mats are selling quickly online, then the dealership system might recalculate a 30-day supply to now amount to 80 floor mats—when, in reality, the store might only sell five floor mats per month and not need that amount on hand, Lais says.

“We found that sometimes it’s easier to order [accessories] from BMW than to pull them off the shelf,” Lais says. “By structuring the supply chain like that, it makes us more efficient and allows us to keep much less on hand inventory.”


Prepare for additional product expenses.

Just because a transaction has been made and a customer receives the product, doesn’t mean this is the last time your department could hear from him or her. Lais says he was frustrated once he found that some customers will try to claim products were never received or were damaged to rip off the dealership, which ultimately creates additional expenses for the dealership when handling those transactions.

“We went into it thinking that everybody’s honest and I’m never going to have any issues, and when the issues started coming and those expenses for those issues started coming up, it just got me angry,” Lais says. “My biggest piece of advice would be to go into it knowing that these people exist and you’re never going get rid of them, and go into it expecting those expenses and not getting caught off guard when they arrive.”
Dealing with customers online can be different compared to talking with a customer in person, Rodahl says.
“We get so many of those customers that just are not the best customers to work with sometimes because it’s so hard to prove if the carrier did something or if I actually did forget,” she says.

Develop a process that works for you.
When product orders come through, it’s important to have a set schedule that your staff can follow in order to stay organized for customers. At BMW of Minnetonka, Rodahl says her process includes working in advance as their store typically sends products within three days after purchase.
“With Amazon, you can put how many days you want out, so I technically have three days. So, when I come in on a Monday and I’ve got 70 orders, I’ve got three days to ship those things out,” Rodahl says. “Being here for eight hours, I get a lot of things done. I just have my own technique and how I do things.”

It helps Rodahl to stay organized by printing all orders out and giving each item a part number, she says.
“I have a really good routine; it takes me about two days to get things out,” Rodahl says. “You find what works with you and what doesn’t work for you.”

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