Six years ago eBay Motors was a relatively new endeavor that auto recyclers were trying out to sell their inventory online. It was the only major ecommerce solution to find, and buy, recycled auto parts online. And, according to Jim Eitvydas, owner of Tom's Foreign Auto Parts, good or bad, it still is.
“EBay is still the gorilla to find auto parts online,” he acknowledged. “More people use it now. Everyone is more comfortable online.”
Eitvydas should know. Tom’s Foreign Auto Parts, located in Waterbury, Conn., has sold auto parts on eBay since 2003. Eitvydas and the staff at Tom’s Foreign Auto Parts became such pros at selling parts on eBay, that the company was a Platinum PowerSeller with a 99.7 percent positive customer rating. Eitvydas even gave industry presentations on how to get the most of using eBay, such as at the 2009 IT convention, and spoke about it to the Locator UpFront that same year. Now, with eBay in its 20th year, the question has to be asked, has the online marketplace giant continued to work just as well to sell auto recyclers’ used parts? Yes and no.
In 2009 eBay was emerging as a viable revenue stream for auto recyclers. Any auto recycler could put on an engine or a side view mirror for sale to the public. Tom’s Foreign Auto Parts (www.tomsforeign.com) then had 28,000 pieces of inventory on the site, which made up about one-third of all the facility’s sales. They key was photos, and that hasn’t changed.
“Photos are more important than ever,” Eitvydas emphasized. “We went one more step and added narrated videos.” Tom’s Foreign Auto Parts now has 4,100 videos to accompany its eBay parts, with 1.4 million hits and 4,000 parts pictures.
One major change to how auto recyclers use eBay now is the new technology. In 2009 Hollander, Inc. had just made a deal with eBay Motors to integrate its auction service, Blackthorn, with Powerlink. Now Hollander uses eLink, launched in 2010, which Eitvydas said is an exclusive listing tool. It allows auto recyclers to automatically generate eBay listings and sell products across the globe. Other new technologies include the eBay Motors iPhone app. EBay stated that 340,000 auto parts and accessories are sold through this app each week.
Eitvydas guessed in 2009 that eBay sales would grow to account for two-thirds of his business’ sales. He wasn’t far off. Today, the late-model foreign specialist now has 60,000 pieces of inventory on eBay, more than double the 2009 amount, which accounts for half of the company’s sales. But, because the process is so streamlined, Eitvydas said Tom’s Foreign Auto Parts still has the same number of employees, four full-time, dedicated to eBay sales.
But the changes haven’t all been positive. Eitvydas and Daniel Tole, Tom’s Foreign Auto Parts’ e-commerce manager, said eBay’s tinkering with seller performance measures, or defect rates, has made life more difficult for sellers to achieve top seller status.
“We’ve had 50,000 feedback responses, which have been 99.8 percent positive, and we are still not a top-rated seller,” explained Eitvydas.
“EBay needs to get rid of defect rates,” added Tole. Tole went on to explain that eBay has replaced the minimum positive feedback requirements for top sellers, with a complicated algorithm that measures the aspects of the transition that eBay believes are most important to buyers. The defects rate, which went into effect in August 2014, doesn’t take into account issues beyond he seller’s control. So if something goes wrong with the transaction, it counts as a defect on the seller’s account. A defect can be the item was not as described, negative or even neutral feedback and the transaction being cancelled due to being out of stock. Top-rated sellers can only have maximum defect rate of 2 percent for all sales transactions and 5 percent for all other sellers.
These things have made using eBay a lot more challenging today, Eitvydas acknowledged. So, they’ve decided to look more at generating online sales through the company’s own website.
“The next thing we are doing is our own website,” added Eitvydas. “It will be a true e-commerce site.”