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Automotive parts finder: 3 ways to improve your ecommerce UX

Written by: Guest Author

Article // October 11, 2017

In the automotive industry, the product finder widget is easily the best way to find the exact parts you need. Shoppers love this feature, but are you using it correctly? Could you be getting better engagement from your visitors by making a few minor adjustments to how your automotive parts finder works?

Let’s explore a few best practices to ensure that yours is working the way your shoppers expect it to.

1) Location of the automotive parts finder

The location of the parts finder is incredibly important,  but a lot of automotive sites get this wrong. Where should your product finder be located?

The simple answer is that it should be everywhere. The product finder will only be helpful if your visitors can actually find it. Many auto sites are making the mistake of placing it only on specific pages.

auto parts finders UX is hidden, don't hide it

Autozone, for example, doesn’t have a product finder anywhere on their home page. Suppose you wanted to find a headlight assembly for an Audi A4. How would you go about doing that?

You could search, or browse through the categories, but both of those options are likely to result in pages that require further refinement.

auto parts finders UX

As a matter of fact, Autozone does return a helpful page with a form of guided selling. The fact remains, though, that further refinements are needed to find what we need. We will either have to browse using one of the categories in the left sidebar, or by clicking one of the images in the center of the page.

This page does actually display the year/make/model finder that we really want, though. But wouldn’t it have been much easier to use this tool if it was on the home page? Rather than seeing the confusing and redundant options available here, I could have used this on the home page and been taken directly to a more relevant set of products.

Unfortunately for Autozone, after making a selection in the product finder pictured above, very little on the page updates.

auto parts finders UX

This strange behavior confuses shoppers. Many of them might think that the feature isn’t working at all since there’s little visual confirmation in the products that are shown. This is likely to happen to visitors on others sites where the parts finder is introduced in the middle of the session rather than at the beginning.

By placing the parts finder in the header, we can determine accurately what vehicle the visitor is shopping for early in the process. This also means that we don’t have to rely on the user’s spelling, or in their providing all of the details necessary. If, for example, the user types “A4 headlight” we know the model and a broad category, but don’t know the make or the year.

auto parts finders UX

MXGear places the product finder front and center on the home page. Their setup is slightly different since they sell parts for various types of vehicles. But the concept is solid. Here, they ask for the type of vehicle, the make, the year, and then the model.

Once the shopper clicks “find”, they can select exactly what they need for their vehicle.

auto parts finders UX

Along the left side, they have controls to filter down to the specific type of part that they need. Granted, this setup works great for MXGear because they don’t sell parts in dozens of categories. Regardless, for ecommerce UX best practices, placing this feature in the header where it will be available on every page allows you to gather more information about the customer’s needs early on, and in our testing does increase conversion rates in sessions where these finders are used.

2) Mobile

Mobile is an entirely different beast when it comes to parts finders. The header is a great location on full desktop sites, but not on mobile. The traditional horizontal layout, where the drop down boxes are located side-by-side, just can’t work on mobile since screens are far too narrow.

A vertical layout (boxes on top of each other) isn’t great either since this takes up too much vertical space.

While it’s perhaps even more helpful to have a parts find on the mobile site, deciding where to put it is a significant challenge.

One possible option is to have the parts finder available in a slide-out menu. Experimentation will be necessary based on the layout on an individual website, though.

MXGear’s solution is to use a tabbed interface. This could easily be implemented into the header so that it’s available on subsequent pages.

auto parts finders UX

As noted above, there are different variations of this concept, and testing these options is a great idea. If your shoppers rely heavily on your parts finder, a more prominent location will likely be better, and vice versa.

3) UX Refinements

Outside of general placement, the user experience needs to be honed in to ensure that shoppers are seeing what they expect. One simple refinement that can be made is to include a reset button as we see on MXGear.

This allows shoppers to clear out all their refinements and start over without needing to reload the page, or possibly even their browser session. This is helpful if they are shopping for multiple vehicles, or just aren’t finding the right part with their current selection.

The experience available after the parts finder selections have been completed is also very important. MXGear carries a fairly limited selection of parts, but as mentioned above, stores that carry products in dozens of categories can still be hard to navigate even after year/make/model selections have been made.

AutoZone is onto something with their current ecommerce UX best practices.

auto parts finders UX

Rather than show a random assortment of products after the finder selections have been made, images are used to display broad categories. These categories are still fairly complex, and are split up over seven pages, but this is closer to being an intuitive experience. Creating a guided-selling page with more broad categories such as “Exterior, Interior, Engine, Exhaust, Transmission” might be even easier to use.

Sites with fewer categories than AutoZone might have more success with this type of interface. At the very least, facets in the sidebar should be grouped and collapsed by default to make it easier for shoppers to find the category that they need.

What challenges are you having with your parts finder?

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