Parts.com Puts Together Mail Campaign, Offline Phone Sales Channel

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Parts.com, an online business-to-business marketer, plans to enter the world of offline direct marketing this week by offering inbound telephone sales to its customers.


Parts.com customers will be able to call a toll-free number to reach a Parts.com "parts adviser," who will guide the consumer through the order process. The adviser ensures that the order reaches one of the 1,000 dealerships that fulfill orders for Parts.com.


The company plans to promote the toll-free number through a direct mail campaign. This week, Parts.com expect to drop mailers to approximately 160,000 repair shops nationwide.


The 8-1/2-inch-by-11-inch folded mailer includes information on how to order from Parts.com. It also contains a sticker that can be affixed to a telephone receiver that bears the Parts.com toll-free number. The company hopes it will serve as a reminder to repair shops that they do not need a computer to order from Parts.com.


Market researchers have found that 62 percent of repair shops in the United States have access to the Internet, compared with 14 percent in 1996, said Shawn Lucas, president/CEO of Parts.com. However, only about 12 percent of the shops with Internet access use it to place orders for parts. In contrast, Lucas said, researchers have found that people responsible for inventories at repair shops spend up to 50 percent of their time on the phone ordering parts.


"The reality of it is we know some traditional means of sales are not going to go away," Lucas said.


Parts.com needed an offline sales channel to avoid being shut out of most of the market, Lucas said. When a repair shop requests a part, either through the toll-free number or online, Parts.com's software system locates the part from its directory of dealers and arranges the sale and delivery of the product.


Existing offline parts services only locate the part and do not arrange sales or deliveries, said Lucas, who hopes to compete with parts-location services such as PartsVoice, Portland, OR, and Reynolds & Reynolds, Dayton, OH. Those companies receive up to 700,000 parts orders per month, Lucas said.


Parts.com is using operators instead of an interactive voice response system and has up-to-the-minute lists of available parts. Eight agents are staffing the phones at the company's inhouse call center to take orders between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST.


The company recently completed a 4,000-square-foot expansion at its 8,000-square-foot office to house the new inbound telemarketing section. The company has room to expand to up to 50 agents.
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