Auto Tuning Store was established back in 2010 as a vision of owner Todd Schafer, who wanted to provide affordable performance and aftermarket auto parts to car enthusiasts like himself. Never having started a business of his own before but with many years of running multimillion dollar International aviation support companies, he felt that his expertise in business would transition into the billion dollar industry of aftermarket parts. The goal was to create a business from scratch with only limited resources. So in October of 2008 Norcal Auto Concepts, LLC was formed in Oakley, CA.
With a bankroll of under $200 he began the journey of creating his first website, Motorintakes.com. It was soon discovered that there was a lot involved in getting a site up to par: data preparation, procuring suppliers, website design, merchant accounts, marketing, SEO ect.. the list went on and on. Never the less, the site went live December 2008. Injen, Fujita, Winjet, Hyperlinks and CGS Motorsports were the first suppliers that bought into Todd’s vision. It had long been established that in order to go direct with a manufacturer that you needed to invest a large sum of money for a buy in. Well, with the economy in the US suffering at the time, the prerequisites had been lessened and direct accounts were becoming more readily accessible. Armed with good discounts, Motorintakes.com was going to change the world. Wrong, over the course of the next twelve months, the website failed to take hold due largely in part by the infrastructure of the shopping cart not functioning correctly and the lack of user friendliness. It was obvious that a more robust, more mature shopping cart needed to be developed in order for Todd’s vision to succeed.
Undaunted, Todd went out to look for suitors that could build a better shopping cart. Really Easy Cart was found. REC was a relatively new start up company located in the UK founded by Neil Whelan. They wanted to get a foothold in the US market and Norcal Auto Concepts needed a new platform. They had extensive experience in eCommerce, SEO and site building. They didn’t however have experience in auto parts data. It was soon discovered that their existing database would not work for the thousands of parts and variations that Norcal Auto Concepts wanted to offer their customers. A new database had to be created from scratch. The main goal was to create the best Year, Make, Model search engine on the internet.
Over the course of the next few months, we went through prototype by prototype trying to get the database as robust as possible, to stay as fast as possible, since we knew if it was too slow then customers wouldn’t stick around, and user friendly. There were times that the whole project was on the verge of collapse but the designers and engineers at REC fought through the problems and found a way. In September of 2010 the database was completed and a new site could be designed. Todd didn’t own the naming rights to Motorintakes.com so a new name had to be created. That name turned out to be Autotuningstore.com and in October, 2010 the new site was launched.
It was clear immediately that we had made the right decision to go with REC’s technology. The site was more user friendly, all the pieces worked right out of the box, our new search engine was exactly what we wanted. The site was picking up steam and elevating up the organic search results every day. We were gaining a large fan base and were getting loyal return customers. Competitive prices, friendly knowledgeable Customer Service Agents and one page checkout made Autotuningstore.com the desired site to buy aftermarket performance parts online. What we didn’t expect was lurking around the corner and it hit with such force and swiftness that it almost put us out of business.
Google and its updates and policy changes nearly had us close our doors. Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates changed the way of life for many webmasters that had gained rank using SEO techniques that Google deemed unacceptable. Google Shopping which served as our bread and butter for free advertising of our products to millions of users was changed to a pay to click model. Where once we had free traffic now cost us every time a user clicked our products on google. A new unexpected cost was being incurred for advertising that we never had to pay for before. It would be one thing if a click meant a sale but with pay per click (ppc) that is rarely the case. Retailers are lucky to get a 4% ROI on ppc. This was cutting into our profits to the point that we needed to come up with a plan to get more organic traffic which could offset an advertising budget that was putting us in the red. As much as we hated to do it, we had to part ways with REC.
The decision was made in November 2013 that we would switch platforms again. This time we wanted to go with something that had a proven track record in good SEO and organic results. We also decided that partnering with a data catalog provider would free us up to work more on marketing and content creation resulting in a better user experience for our customers. WordPress and RPMWare fit both bills. We would use WordPress as our front end to the users and RPMWare as our parts catalog.
WordPress had become the go to platform for bloggers but its development over the years has made it a perfect platform for all sorts of websites also. Although not quite ready to tackle large complex eCommerce sites due to the volume of parts and variations, it is better served as a front end to another site. Its structure lends it to be a perfect platform to gain valuable page rank in the difficult SERP results. RPMWare is a catalog site that only deals with aftermarket auto parts. They provide 24/7 up to the minutes updates on all their data. To be able to find a service like this allowed us to cut costs and time by letting someone else take on the task of keeping our data fresh. New designs were formulated, testing was conducted and January 2014 the new Grand Opening of Autotuningstore.com was launched.
It is too early as of this writing to determine if our change was for the better, but we will be monitoring it on a daily basis and tweaking it where necessary. The one thing that can be certain is that our users will always be our number one priority and we will continue to serve you with the utmost care and professionalism that you have grown accustomed too when ever you call or email us with your questions. We look forward to continuing to be your go to source online for all your aftermarket performance parts and accessories.
UPDATE 10-17-2015: Its been more than a year since our relaunch and we have decided to go in another direction once again. In order to cut operating expenses and keep our prices competitive we have parted ways with RPMWare and decided to handle all of our data in-house. We feel that by taking on this daunting task it will benefit our customers by allowing us to provide aftermarket car parts at prices they can afford.