Q&A: The Parts Market's Digital Shift

Jan. 11, 2018
Openbay CEO Rob Infantino on his company's partnership with eBay Motors, and how the online parts market will shake up the automotive aftermarket.

The sale of automotive parts has undergone a major shift over the past several years, especially through the channels of eBay and Amazon.

In December, Openbay joined in the e-commerce parts aftermarket, as they announced a partnership with eBay Motors to provide the availability of millions of searchable online parts and accessories. Through this service, businesses can research, source and acquire automotive parts directly through Openbay.

The selection includes genuine OEM automotive parts, white label parts, national brand aftermarket parts, remanufactured and used parts, as well as parts that are no longer manufactured.

Rob Infantino, founder and CEO of Openbay, spoke with Ratchet+Wrench to discuss the partnership, and his opinions on how it can benefit independent automotive repair shops.

How did this partnership come to be?

We have been in awe of eBay for a long time. When you think of eBay, you think of the gold standard of online marketplaces.

We did a major study where we interviewed over 185 shops. We found that over 50 percent of shops book their appointments more than two days in advance. For our customers, 72 percent book in advance. If you’re a shop owner, and you receive an appointment for a customer, you know their VIN, year, make and model, as well as the service they’re going to get. From there you can preorder the parts. If it’s an older car, sometimes those parts are hard to find, but if you go online you can probably find them right away, and you can have them delivered next day.

There’s a lot of synergy between this and what our customers need. We felt that having an online parts catalog would service both sets of customers on our platform.

Ultimately, what is the benefit of this partnership to auto repair shops?

It’s an alternate channel to research, source and acquire parts. They already have relationships with NAPA and O’Reillly and AutoZone. In some cases, parts may be hard to find, and if they have the time, they can buy them online. There is a significant cost savings when buying parts online. If you look at a specific brand and a specific part number, it’s less expensive to buy those parts online through eBay than through a local warehouse distributor.

Today customers are armed with information before they buy their vehicle. They know the car they want, they’re educated on the vehicle, and they know the price they want to pay. The sales rep at the dealership is at a disadvantage. If the customer doesn’t get the price they want, they’ll go elsewhere. What’s happening with auto repair is that customers are becoming much more educated on what goes into their repair. They’re armed with this information. When they walk into a shop and the shop says it’s gonna cost X, and the consumer says, “I’ve done my research and it should cost Y,” the shop’s at a disadvantage, and they’re not going to make the margins they thought they would.

You’ve said the abundance of older vehicles among millennials translates to “a large and growing opportunity to service a unique customer segment.” What exactly did you mean by that?

Millennials represent the largest population in U.S. history, and they’re generally buying an older car, nine or 10 years old. They generally don’t like speaking to anyone, they like doing things online. Shop owners who are savvy to align services to modern day consumers are at an advantage if their websites offer unique or dynamic features that can interact with the consumers. If the website isn’t interacting with the consumer, they’re going to move on.

Many shop owners have been stuck in time. They need to modernize their websites, and modernize the way they do business. It’s a big opportunity to capitalize on the way millenials do business, if they make changes to the way things are done online.

Overall, what advantages does eBay Motors offer that a brick-and-mortar shop cannot?

We’re not saying that you need to change your relationships with your current part suppliers, we’re saying that there’s another option out there for parts. In many cases, that option might be better than the current relationships you have in place. The more choices you have, the better decisions you can make. The ability to research parts online, find the price and availability without speaking to anyone is a big advantage.

A lot of parts ordering is spent on the phone. Sometimes parts are not available locally, so they have to keep calling around. Being able to go online and check the year, make and model, that’s a tremendous advantage. It really just streamlines the parts ordering process.

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