Monday, October 14, 2013

Kicking the Tires with an Auto Parts Customer (Part 1)

Camilo Delay's 1985 BMW 635CSi
What auto parts dealer doesn’t want to get into the mind of the customer to find out what they’re looking for in an auto parts website?

SimplePart first learned of California native Camilo Delay and his 1985 BMW 635CSi through the car enthusiast site Petrolicious

Delay, a graphic designer in the San Francisco Bay area (check out his website), reassembled the BMW himself, so when he needed parts for the 635CSi, he used SimplePart client BMW of South Atlanta’s website. In part one of our interview, we ask him what’s important in an auto part website and how he came up with that chalkboard hood idea.

Why was using an OEM BMW dealer like BMW of South Atlanta important?
Delay in his reassembled BMW
Being the owner of a car that wasn't produced in terribly large numbers means that there tend to be parts that are exclusive to your car. When I browse my usual dealer's site, they have the general shared parts between an E24 and E28 for example, but when I'm looking for specialty parts, they don't have it all. This is why I was really lucky to stumble upon BMW of South Atlanta. For what I've been looking for, they've usually got the rare part I'm looking for, brand new. And since I know I'm looking for a specialty part, I have to mentally prepare my wallet, but the prices are reasonable enough on top of that, to my surprise/delight. 

What do you look for in an auto parts website? Since you're a designer, does the design matter to you, or is price more important?
I just look for ease of navigation. I'm used to searching for the BMW part number off RealOEM, then punching it into various sites to compare prices and whether or not it's OEM or not. I realize that when people build a site for their parts supply business, they sometimes figure they could do without a designer and go straight to coding, so I can't be too picky on the design. But really, if the site's easy to use, the design is working well enough. Usability has its own aesthetic for things like these. So I'd say the price point is on the top of my hit list. But if it's a pain to find my parts on the site, I probably won't come back unless the prices are too good to pass up.

What inspired you to get a chalkboard hood for you car?
A buddy of mine had a tasty E39 540i wagon which had a chalkboard hood, and I fell in love with the idea, although it seemed a bit unattainable. I got my first car, the 635CSi a year or so later, and found out that a spare hood from the junkyard would only be $60. So I picked it up, along with a $10 tub of chalkboard paint, and rolled it on. From then on, it's been a blast to use. If you park the car and leave chalk on the hood, you come back to find out that people do actually draw on it. Very fun, spices up your morning commute, that's for sure.

Photo courtesy of Camilo Delay
In part two of our interview, we ask Camilo Delay about his goals for his BMW and advice he would give to someone else who wanted to get a 635CSi.

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