J.C. Whitney Overhauls Website

To make it easier for customers to shop for its automotive parts and accessories, Chicago-based merchant J.C. Whitney & Co. in June unveiled its new and improved Website. The revamped site makes navigation easier for customers and provides a more powerful search function, along with more products and larger images. Geoff Robertson, vice president of e-commerce, says the revamped Website “changes the dynamic” of the business. “The first thing is we have to present ourselves, who we are and with a new look and feel, and accentuate our value proposition,” Robertson says. “It’s our strength and differentiates us, first and foremost. We want to let people feel comfortable with who JC Whitney is.”

Founded in 1915, J.C. Whitney sells automobile, truck, and motorcycle products and accessories such as stereos, tools, operating manuals, security systems, and electronics. On the new site “you can scroll over an image without leaving that page,” Robertson says. “People are starting to see that efficiency and it’s shown with an increase in conversion. If we can make it an easy experience, then we can appeal to their needs. We’ve also made it easy to shop by make, model, or year. We’ve tailored a lot of landing pages, added cross sells and up sells. We’ve shown what other people are buying. How do you make customers feel good about their purchase? Assort by best sellers and customer reviews.”

Robertson says the Website must be easy to navigate, considering the company’s vast collection of automotive parts and accessories and its 12 specialty shops that cater to specific vehicles. J.C. Whitney’s merchandise selection includes 130,000 accessories that fit over 6 million different vehicles, plus more than 1.2 million parts that fit upward of 25 million different vehicles. “The goal of the design is to more quickly present relevant product to our customers and make the overall shopping experience easier to use,” Robertson says. “With such a large selection of automotive parts and accessories, our challenge is to make finding the right item for their vehicle as simple, as accurate, and as enjoyable as possible.”

The redesigned Website isn’t all that’s new for J.C. Whitney. Shortly after the site was relaunched, the company in late June named Lawrence J. Marmon president. Marmon is in charge of J.C. Whitney’s marketing and merchandising for six catalog titles and two Websites. Multichannel marketing poses many opportunities—and challenges—for J.C. Whitney, Marmon says. Just in the past few years “a lot of our products went from hard to find to easy to find. It’s a different ball game. The competitive field has changed dramatically.”

The improvements to its site will better help it compete with other marketers, Marmon notes. “The quality of our Internet site shows customers the availability of products through easy navigation,” he says. “We’re competitively priced and we focus on giving our customers more information about our products.” What’s more, he adds, “we’re letting our customers comment about their experiences. We want to bridge the gap between product and content because every vehicle is different.”

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