a good online retailer great? Knowing what customers want
and making it easy for them to get.
Stewart, a 15-year veteran of the automotive and Internet
industries, combining his passion for vehicles and his knowledge
of the Web seemed like the ideal path to professional fulfillment.
In 2000 he founded xccessory.com,
an e-commerce provider of accessories and parts for sport
utility vehicles, trucks, and cars.
always wanted to have my own business, and after completing
graduate school, all of my experience was automotive-related,"
he says. "I was looking at buying a car dealership, but
I also saw opportunities with the Internet. It seemed pretty
logical to combine the two."
originally SUVxccessory.com, grew quickly, eventually forming
three separate sites: www.suvxccessory.com,
While similar in functionality, each one offers accessories
that are exclusive to that vehicle type.
sell most of our products to SUV and truck owners," Stewart
says. "We offer everything from wood-dash interiors to
performance air filters, custom grills, and brush guards.
There's just a lot more you can put on a SUV or truck than
a car, but there's definitely a market for all three."
Forest, Calif.-based company currently serves around 15,000
automotive enthusiasts a year, generating a healthy revenue
stream that keeps the company growing. Getting to this point
took some work however, and Stewart shares his success strategies
Strategy #1 - Be Happy
As most southern Californians will tell you, commuting on
the 5 freeway isn't the most pleasant way to spend your morning.
Stewart, who spent 10 years with automotive-giant Nissan North
America and later with Edmunds.com in their Santa Monica offices,
spent far too much time commuting from his Orange County home
and not enough time with his son.
"I had been commuting at least two hours every morning
and nearly two hours every night," Stewart says. "I
came home one day and took my nine-year-old son out to dinner
to celebrate the last day of school. He had done really well
on his report card, so we went shopping after and I told him
to pick something out. He picked out a skateboard and said
'Yeah, I'm looking forward to having the summer off and riding
my board, but I'd be really excited if you could have the
summer off, too.' I turned in my resignation the next day
and haven't looked back."
extra time to spend with his family made it easier for Stewart
to focus on running a successful business.
a lot easier to be successful when you also have time to focus
on your family," he says.
Strategy #2 - Build a Great Site
After forming his business, Stewart began beta testing his
site in 2000. He initially turned to an outside design firm
but it took a while to find a designer he was happy with.
wasn't really happy with the work the first design firm I
hired did," he says. "I started looking around for
some help and I noticed that Yahoo! Merchant Solutions provided
the service I needed, not only from a site-building process
but from an order management process as well, so I signed
up. We've been able to do our own layout and design work that
integrates easily into their system. They've been great to
work with, and I'm really happy with the site."
says that the only way for a retail site to be successful
is to make it easy to navigate.
have a successful retail web site, you have to make it easy
for your customers to find what they're looking for,"
he says. "The less time it takes them to find the item
they want, the more likely they are to buy it."
this, he simplified the navigation on xccessory.com to make
it as fast as possible for customers to find the accessories
they're looking for. When customers enter the site, they can
browse products by first selecting the year, make, and model
of their SUV, truck, or car. They're then taken to a page
that lists every available accessory for their vehicle.
are so many accessories available for a particular car that
people would get lost blindly searching a site," Stewart
says. "We try to organize the products in a way that
makes sense. It's easy for them to choose the wrong item without
the correct navigation."
Strategy #3 - Cater to Your Customers
Auto enthusiasts shopping for accessories are looking to add
either style or performance to their vehicle, not because
they need to, but because they want to. Stewart keeps this
in mind and limits his inventory to products that fit his
"We focus on selling items that are easy to install,"
Stewart says. "We stay away from hard-to-install mechanical
repair parts. We figure people are installing mechanical parts
because they have toit usually means something's wrong
with their car, so they're not happy to begin with. With accessories,
they're buying something that they really want. So this way
we don't have a lot of returns. Pretty much everything we
sell is do-it-yourself."
Strategy #4 - Market to Win
A good marketing strategy is critical for any online retailer.
Stewart, who puts 10 percent of his revenue into marketing,
believes that marketing plans should closely follow your business
plan. Xccessory.com's goal is to sell auto accessories, not
build brand recognition, so he sticks mainly to search engine
and paid-search marketing so his customers can find him more
ads and the like are great for someone looking to build a
brand, but we're looking to make sales. The more customers
that find us, obviously, the more successful we'll be. And
they'll find us by doing online searches."
that it's important to be aware of not only who your customers
are, but where they are.
do most of our marketing online, since our customers are online,"
Stewart says. "It wouldn't make much sense for us to
do a lot of print advertisements because that's not what our
customers are looking at."
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