Steve Bieszczat was appointed senior vice president, automotive and
marketing for Epicor in October 2012. In this role, he has
responsibility for the company’s automotive aftermarket electronic
catalog, systems, data warehouse products and services in both North
America and Europe. Bieszczat has more than 25 years of experience with
Epicor, primarily in the automotive, electrical, hardware and home
center, lumber and building materials and specialty hard goods markets.
In addition to his automotive aftermarket responsibilities, Bieszczat
has responsibility for Epicor retail distribution solutions.
today's Executive Interview, Bieszczat discusses the critical role of
modern software solutions in a successful distribution business, and
offers up his thoughts on the role of e-commerce in retail today.
jobbers and distributors are still relying on software that was
developed back in the early 1990s. What are they missing out on in terms
of features that could save them time and money?
that many independent jobbers are still using older, less powerful
solutions, but we have seen a strong, sustained trend toward new
technology among distributors and multi-store businesses in order to
improve their overall efficiency and competitiveness. When you think
about the characteristics that separate today’s most successful
aftermarket businesses from those that are at a competitive
disadvantage, many are related to modern technology. For example, a
modern business management system can help you dramatically improve
operational efficiency, implement more cost-effective inventory
practices and drive faster response to new sales opportunities. You can
increase customer loyalty through tools like online statements and
automated delivery and dispatch services and by arming your sales team
with a world-class eCatalog. Technology is a powerful differentiator
that can help two- and three-step distributors and jobbers increase
sales, improve margins and attract new customers. But without these
tools, chances are you’re working harder month after month simply to
maintain your current level of business.
It seems like many
business owners are afraid to take the plunge because a new system
represents a significant investment. Can a solutions provider like
Epicor point to tangible, measurable benefits to help convince the
distributor or jobber to make that investment?
new technology is one of the most important decisions an aftermarket
business owner might make in a given year. When we are contacted by a
distributor or jobber, we begin a very carefully structured discovery
process that helps our team identify the unique competitive and
operational challenges facing that business, while also providing a
roadmap through which the business owner can understand how he or she
will benefit from a technology investment. We recently asked 200 Epicor
customers about the type of payback a distributor or jobber can
anticipate from new technology. Our users reported that a business can
expect a 10-percent sales increase, on average, as well as a 3 to 5
percent gain in gross margin. More than 70 percent said their system
helps reduce returns, and 80 percent said it helps increase customer
loyalty. So, ultimately, the distributor or jobber can see that their
investment can more than pay for itself while helping to re-energize
their business for long-term growth.
E-commerce is revolutionizing the sale of consumer goods. Do you expect it to have the same impact within the aftermarket?
is already having a significant impact on the aftermarket, but the
benefits are being felt most at the business-to-business level. For
example, there are some 23,000 distributor and jobber businesses that
are now connected with more than 170,000 installer locations via the
Epicor Internet AutoParts (IAP) e-commerce solution. We’re seeing
consistent annual sales growth of 25 percent or more, which demonstrates
that installers overwhelmingly prefer to source parts and related
products via e-commerce-enabled traditional wholesalers. There’s no
denying that certain aftermarket products will be sold at increasing
volumes via business-to-consumer e-stores, but we expect traditional
distribution to continue to be the industry’s predominant sales channel.
Aftermarket wholesalers are exceptionally good at supporting installers
through very high service levels, competitive prices and trade credit.
These characteristics will continue to drive the growth of their
businesses over the long-term as they leverage the power and efficiency
of IAP and Epicor’s other e-commerce solutions.
manufacturers and distributors say that the aftermarket’s success is
ultimately in the hands of the front line professionals who look up and
sell parts and those who diagnose and repair vehicles. How do Epicor’s
solutions make these professionals more efficient and effective?
the right information at the point of decision whether it’s the parts
counter, service desk or an e-commerce solution like IAP is a
critical competitive tool that ultimately enables our industry to
provide the quality, convenience and value demanded by the motoring
public. Modern electronic catalog solutions integrated with
point-of-sale systems at the distributor and service dealer levels
enable front-line professionals to almost instantly capture key vehicle
information, which in turn unlocks virtually all of the content
including product images, TSBs and other information needed to
facilitate a fast, efficient and accurate repair.
a lot of news recently about Epicor’s growing portfolio of business
intelligence solutions. How do these benefit participants in the
aftermarket value chain?
Our Epicor Vista business
intelligence solutions are helping manufacturers and distributors
rapidly move beyond traditional category management by tracking and
analyzing actual parts lookup and buying activities at the point of
sale. Now, rather than basing your production and stocking decisions
largely on VIO data, you can determine which parts on those vehicles are
being replaced, at what rates, and which brands are being looked up and
sold most often for those applications. Distributors can also create
customized “market basket” assortments by vehicle, across categories and
brands and specific to each store location all based on factual
down-channel intelligence. This level of business insight has long
driven the success of mass-market retailers, and it’s now quickly
becoming a reality in the aftermarket distribution community.
industry is becoming increasingly interconnected, thanks in part to
technology. Epicor is taking that to a new level by connecting car
dealerships to aftermarket distributors via the Epicor Parts Portal. How
will this benefit the industry?
This is another great
example of the power of B-2-B e-commerce. The vast scale of Internet
AutoParts and our other electronic connectivity, estimating and sourcing
solutions is very appealing to vehicle dealerships, which are
increasingly reliant on aftermarket parts and supplies for their own
service bays as well as their used-car operations. Traditionally, they
haven’t been able to source aftermarket parts through their dealership
management systems, which has limited the growth of this sales channel.
by using the Epicor Parts Portal and our integrated electronic catalog,
the dealership employee can quickly look up, price and source virtually
any part that’s on the shelf at most aftermarket distributor locations.
Dealerships love the convenience and reach of this solution, and it is
now driving sales growth for aftermarket distributors who are part of