Unlike other products sold online, auto parts need to be backed by fitment data. This type of information helps customers determine whether a component or accessory will fit their vehicle and precise needs. As such, fitment data incorporates various elements, such as the year, make, and model of the vehicle, as well as the other relevant component information, such as the trim, submodel, transmission, engine, and so forth.
This is incredibly important since most auto parts are compatible with dozens, if not hundreds, of different vehicles. Therefore, fitment data is a way of determining compatibility. But in order to do so, it needs to be clean, accurate, complete, and up-to-date. It should also go without saying that this data doesn’t only cover the brand but all other available aftermarket products that are compatible with any given vehicle. To make this information available to their customers, automotive companies will use an eCommerce catalog. These catalogs also help manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and all others operating in the automotive aftermarket industry sell their products, build their websites, warehouse their products, and put their brands above the competition.
The Need For Aftermarket Data Standards
To understand how an effective eCommerce catalog management works, we first need to take a look at the leading fitment data standards used in the industry. These are the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) and Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES). These two standards were created by the Auto Care Association, formerly known as the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and they are used by all those operating in the industry to manage and exchange their fitment and part number information. Basically, ACES and PIES data is a sort of common language for people to better communicate and coordinate with each other.
The PIES and ACES standards are made to work together. For instance, an auto parts shop owner will first reference ACES data to determine if a component will fit a certain vehicle. If it shows that it does, the shop owner will then look up the PIES data on that component and see if it will satisfy all the needs and requirements. By using ACES and PIES data, those operating in the industry were able to eliminate the guesswork that goes into ordering the right parts, reducing the total number of fitment application formats in the process.
Understanding ACES Product Data
As far as ACES data is concerned, it’s an industry standard that helps facilitate the exchange of automotive catalog applications data. The ACES standard includes not only the part name but also application fitment information that defines other vehicle attributes (i.e., where on the vehicle can the part be fitted, other parts classifications, and qualifier statements). These files are presented in an XML format and will be validated based on a subscription fee that’s paid to the Auto Care Association.
PIES, on the other hand, standardizes the field definitions and requirements, in addition to the delivery mechanism used to transfer all product-specific data between all members found in the supply chain. This includes elements such as prices, kits, interchanges, digital assets, marketing content, product attribute, and more.
In any case, the use of ACES data will also help reduce the number of total formats needed to communicate any product information by removing any additional efforts to distribute data in various formats. The more efficient this product communication is, the faster the products get to market. When it comes to maintaining the ACES files, it’s important to realize that the Auto Care Association updates its Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) once every month or so. However, this opens up the problem of an auto parts catalog’s aftermarket data not remaining clean, accurate, and complete. If there is any information missing, this might be perceived as an issue with the application.
How ACES Data Spoils
The ACES automotive standard consists of two databases: the previously-mentioned Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) and the Parts Configuration Database (PCdb). It’s important to know that these two databases contain information on different vehicle configurations at a certain point in time. They are created, managed, and updated by people who research vehicles and parts and input the information to these databases on a regular basis.
People need to realize that this information is not provided by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) but is researched by people who scour the internet and specialized publications. This means that the information is not always accurate and/or complete. All of this indicates that fitment data will always have a certain amount of time before it “spoils.” Therefore, it needs to be constantly updated and validated, roughly once a month, to be kept “clean.”
As more time passes without it being updated, the less reliable the information becomes. As previously mentioned, the Auto Care Association updates its databases once a month, at which time it will remove certain vehicles and replace them with newer vehicle configurations. If some of your fitment data is mapped to those removed vehicles, it will become invalid, and the components it was attached to will no longer appear to your customers. In other words, you will have “holes” in your vehicle and product data.
How To Keep Your Auto Parts Catalog Clean
To avoid having any holes in your aftermarket catalog, you will have to conduct monthly validations. However, doing so effectively and consistently is far easier said than done. You can try to manually discover where these holes are and fix them one at a time. However, with every problem you manage to repair, a new one seems to pop up. It’s safe to say that catalog management will be a never-ending task.
It’s a far better alternative to use an auto part catalog management software that will be able to automate much of this work. And even though it will not solve all of your fitment data problems, it will greatly increase the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of your updates. Evokat Premier is one such tool. This is an online-access, cloud-based solution that will help you with your inventory control. It will regularly conduct complete health checks on your product and application data, providing you with instant feedback on all available vehicle configurations and matching them with your custom-build attribute set.
It’s a highly-intuitive and easy-to-use platform that will highlight any issues that may exist in your catalog while providing you with step-by-step solutions on how to fix them. Evokat will also provide you with useful charts that show any potential eCommerce market opportunities that exist.
So, if you are in the online auto aftermarket business selling car parts, OEM replacement parts, or Powersports products, you will need your fitment data to be clean and accurate at every moment of every day. This is the only way you can ensure that your eCommerce website and business operations will thrive, as well as remain competitive on the market over the long term. You will need to keep your catalog up-to-date and facilitate your customers in finding your product listings. Otherwise, you will be missing sales and business opportunities. After all, people will not be able to buy what they can’t see.
If you want to know more about what the Illumaware LLC Evokat Premier has to offer to your auto parts catalog and how it has helped others, check out our testimonials and contact us at your earliest convenience.