fbpx
Connect with us

Opinion

R. L. Polk & Co.’s Ask the Industry Looks at the Future of Online Parts Ordering

Once considered nothing more than the latest trend for young and tech-savvy consumers, online shopping today is big business. While it has taken time for e-commerce to expand from its beginnings as a vehicle for primarily business-to-consumer purchasing, today, it has become a critical tool for successful business-to-business transactions. And, it seems that now, everyone wants in on the game. It’s not just a passing trend, but a must for those who want to keep their businesses current and on an upward growth track – especially in the automotive aftermarket. Simply type “buy auto parts” into Google and it will yield more than 50 million results.

Advertisement

By Amy Antenora

Advertisement

Editor, aftermarketNews

AKRON, OH – Once considered nothing more than the latest trend for young, tech-savvy consumers, online shopping today is big business. While it has taken time for e-commerce to expand from its trendy beginnings, today, it has become a critical tool for successful business-to-business transactions. And, it seems that now, everyone wants in on the game. It’s not just a passing trend, but a must for those who want to keep their businesses current and on an upward growth track – especially in the automotive aftermarket. Simply type “buy auto parts” into Google and it will yield more than 50 million results.

Advertisement

Activant, a leading software solutions provider for the aftermarket, offers a firsthand account of the e-commerce boom. According to Thomas Aliotti, vice president and general manager of Activant Solutions automotive group, the company is seeing continual growth in online parts ordering through the products it offers.

“Online parts transactions through our AConneX trading network continue to grow every month, as do sales through the industry’s Internet Auto Parts web portal, so it’s clear that many service dealers appreciate the value of this solution,” said Aliotti. “From a broader perspective, we expect e-commerce to become a key part of the WD’s overall strategy to increase customer loyalty and account profitability.”

Advertisement

Aliotti added that a number of forward-thinking WDs are now using business management solutions, such as those Activant offers, to leverage CRM strategies and create stronger partnerships with service dealers.

“Many of these WDs have discovered that online ordering is a very popular and effective tool when deployed as part of an overall CRM program. Of course, e-commerce will never replace personal selling; while many service dealers do order parts online, a large percentage of customers will always prefer the personal attention of a skilled counterperson,” said Aliotti.

Aliotti makes another great point: While e-commerce can offer speed and efficiency, it cannot replace the knowledge and customer service available through contact with a human being. Still, according to the most recent Babcox Internet study, nearly 75 percent of Counterman readers, who work in automotive parts distribution, use the Internet to locate parts and equipment. Forty-eight percent of Counterman readers utilize e-commerce to purchase parts from their main suppliers as well.

Advertisement

Ken Adams, customer service manager for Beck/Arnley, said his company is seeing more and more interest in online parts ordering but the stakes continue to be raised. Customers want more and faster. The demand for a more seamless, personalized and technologically sophisticated transaction have increased.

“Ordering parts online is becoming more and more in demand, for all parts,” Adams said. “Our customers are looking for a faster, easier method of getting parts and ordering online provides that. They expect the ability to look up parts by application, check availability and location, check their cost and track the order. Customers want access 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This is true for all parts and all applications, not just a few parts.

Advertisement

“Online ordering will continue to grow due to its efficiency and the amount of information available. Just think: Ten years ago people would have laughed if you said you could order parts online, with no assistance, and track them to your door. Now online ordering has become integrated with the rest of the business. Online ordering will be as common, and as critical, as e-mail is to us today,” Adams said.

One of the pioneers of online retail, Amazon.com has grown into a trusted household name today. And, with expected annual sales this year of more than $10 billion, the company truly has its finger on the pulse of online commerce. Steve Frazier, vice president of Amazon.com’s U.S. Hardlines Category Management, oversees the company’s automotive retail group. Frazier said he expects online parts ordering to increase for a number of reasons.

Advertisement

"First and foremost, through online resources like Amazon’s Automotive Store, parts buyers can streamline operations by cutting down on the time, money and complexity associated with traditional ordering methods,” Fraizer said. “The Automotive store offers unlimited shelf space, a large product selection and authoritative information, conveniently available 24/7. Our customers are exposed to sourcing and delivery options they might not have known existed otherwise. Through the supply chain, Amazon.com’s trading partners can sell more and lower their costs by improving the exchange of information electronically. As the data exchange continues to develop, availability and adoption of online parts ordering will only increase."

Advertisement

While most companies today are utilizing e-commerce in some form, those that haven’t yet still have plenty of resources for help. Industry associations such as AAIA, MEMA, SEMA and ASA offer their members numerous resources for getting started.

The online universe has become such an important part of business in the aftermarket today that AAIA began offering an annual business development conference called the Aftermarket eForum, which focuses on offering educational seminars on e-commerce and supply chain technology solutions for the automotive aftermarket. The next Aftermarket eForum will take place July 16-18, 2007 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago.

Advertisement

For those who don’t want to wait that long, on Oct.4-5 The University of the Aftermarket will hold a two-day seminar called Industry Standards for Aftermarket eCommerce. Developed in cooperation with the AAIA Technology Standards and Solutions Committee, this comprehensive program will give participants a complete orientation and basic implementation skills for the industry standards for electronic catalog (ACES) and product information (PIES). Additional content will explain the other components of the Aftermarket Technology Roadmap, including the PARTnerShip Network communication software; the industry standard for Internet Parts Ordering (IPO) and the shop connectivity standard, i•SHOP. To register, click here.

Advertisement

Advertisement

POPULAR POSTS

Connect
aftermarketNews