Recently, a member of our editorial team came in with a question he couldn’t answer, “Who is the largest auto parts supplier?” Naturally, we all automatically said, “Autozone.” Pulling in $17.44 billion a year, Autozone appears to be the strongest contender in the market. But we were wrong. Autozone is the natural first answer, of course, because anywhere you go in America, you see Autozone outlets standing proud with a parking lot full of customers’ vehicles needing parts.
However, after a bit of digging, we all had to eat our hats, because Amazon.com is far and away the biggest auto parts supplier. Turning over more than $159.84 billion a year, no one can compete with Amazon. Autozone can’t even pretend to keep up.
After a coffee break and a rethink, we looked into how this could happen, and the answer isn’t much of a surprise. It’s all down to digital marketing.
How Digital Marketing Made Amazon the Biggest Auto Parts Supplier
Pairing down the data from our sources, it turns out that the initial report of $159+ billion is high, as it includes income from the many other product sales niches Amazon covers. But even after sorting out all of their non-auto-parts related sales, they still take in $18+ billion in auto parts sales alone.
That might give Autozone some breathing room when reporting to their shareholders. After all, it is individual sellers posting products on Amazon who are actually selling the parts. But that still puts Amazon ahead of Autozone in this category.
In the final analysis, this means Amazon is beating the leading dedicated auto parts distributor not by winning at auto parts sales, but by winning the digital marketing game. After all, even if there’s an Autozone in your neighborhood, ordering from Amazon is still easier, and you might even get faster delivery.
Pairing down the data a bit more, we could add an additional caveat in Autozone’s favor. Namely, the fact that they sell products on Amazon as well. But this means Amazon gets a cut of those sales. So, in the final analysis, it seems Autozone can’t compete with Amazon, even if it partners with them.
Once again, the sheer reach that Amazon achieves through unbeatable digital marketing puts them in the lead by at least a nose once all contributing factors are considered. Now, here’s how they did it.
The Meteoric Rise of a Titan
When digital marketing first appeared on the radar of the average small business person back in the 90s, the advantage was clear. Considering the fact that location would no longer be a limiting factor in the amount of reach an advertising campaign could achieve, it seemed we were on the verge of a generalized economic renaissance.
But even with every online seller in the world enjoying this advantage, no one seemed to grow as rapidly as Amazon.
At the time of this writing, Amazon has been winning the digital marketing war consistently for 29 straight years, even against its initial established competitors. Clearly, the first weapon in their digital marketing war chest was an aggressive investment in marketing.
When the company first started, it was an online bookseller. The company took in $20,000 in its first week and had customers in every state in America and 45 countries within a few months.
In the beginning, their marketing strategy was disregarded as a flash in the pan. Experts in the book sales industry predicted that established booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders would keep Amazon in its place. A lack of net profits from 1991 to 2001 kept their critics confident in their low opinion of the company.
Today, Amazon holds a competitive position in almost every product category, including auto parts sales.
Amazon’s Digital Marketing Strategy
Every digital marketer and online sales professional knows there are a lot of snake oil sales in Internet marketing. Still, in addition to its seemingly bottomless advertising budget, Amazon has a winning formula when it comes to online outreach. This is, at least in part, due to their use of automotive SEO services for online auto parts stores.
Customer Service Transparency
As one of the first platforms to allow customer reviews, customers had reason to shop with confidence. The result is that a seller with 99.9% customer satisfaction will lose out to sellers with 100% customer satisfaction. That may be tough on individual sellers (like Autozone) but it makes Amazon unbeatable.
Discounts & Free Shipping
Today, most merchants know free shipping makes or breaks many online sales. With Amazon, they can always put this burden on the vendor, leaving the Bezos operation nearly untouched by shipping costs, despite being the biggest fulfillment organization in history. They also have the resources to pressure individual sellers to offer discounts that benefit Amazon.
Amazon offers a lot of support to its customer. They make it possible to track packages, which takes a heck of a lot of technology. They also tend to favor the customer in disputes. Again, making the individual seller go the extra mile for the customer.
Innovative Digital Marketing
Amazon also has the proven ability to put together powerful digital marketing campaigns that can be seen everywhere you go online. If you have ever read a product review and wondered about the price, the answer is almost always a link to an Amazon listing.
Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board
But at the end of the day, Amazon’s success is based on the fact that it is amorphous. If a handful of sellers go under, Amazon doesn’t even feel it. It gives them the ability to deliver superior customer service, unbeatable shipping, and the biggest inventory imaginable.