The automotive aftermarket industry is undergoing major technological innovations. And together with shifting customer expectations and an increasingly competitive market, stakeholders in the industry are forced to change the way they are conducting business. Today, the automotive aftermarket is valued at around $400 billion. The automotive aftermarket is in the business of selling all sorts of vehicle accessories and equipment, while those involved in the manufacturing, distribution, retail, installation, and repair, are all considered to be part of the auto aftermarket industry.
All of these changes have made eCommerce aftermarket trading a leading trend in the industry. But when it comes to selling auto parts online, stakeholders in the industry need to take their fitment data very seriously. To put it simply, fitment data will provide everything from the year/make/model of vehicles, as well as more complex vehicle configurations, such as engine types, trims, submodels, fuel types, and other such relevant data.
Online channels, such as Wal-Mart, eBay, and Amazon, have become dominant ways through which people acquire what they need. These eCommerce platforms have provided customers with a quick and easy way of accessing useful information, such as component prices and how those components fit vehicles or each other. To take advantage of this situation, many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), retailers, and distributors are also increasing their online presence. And to do so, they’ve begun making use of ACES and PIES data.
Managing an Auto Parts Catalog
Those that have technical skills and the necessary time can manage their ACES and PIES database by themselves. Aftermarket data suppliers, such as Amazon and eBay Motors, sell compatibility catalogs or will charge a fee to access theirs. However, there are those whose auto parts may not be included in these catalogs. In this case, they will need to add the fitment information by themselves. There are two main ways of doing this: manual or catalog fitments.
With manual fitments, the online retailer overrides the information provided by the marketplace for each individual component with their own fitment data. Manual fitment integration is also used when there is no available aftermarket data in the database. This usually happens when custom-made parts and accessories haven’t had their information added to the catalog yet. Catalog fitments, on the other hand, will list auto parts and match them against other existing catalog entries. All fitment data and compatible vehicles will be assigned to these vehicle parts automatically.
It’s important to keep in mind that managing your Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) and Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) data standards is an ongoing task. Unfortunately, fitment data is short-lived. About once per month, the Auto Care Association will update its own Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) and Parts Configuration Database (PCdb), adding new vehicle configurations or redefining existing ones. In addition, new research will affect Original Equipment (OE) fitment patterns, as will opening new trading channels with supply chain partners.
Most problems occur when auto parts or accessories are mapped to a vehicle that’s been either redefined or removed. When this happens, these components will be marked as invalid. And when a potential customer is interested in looking up one of these components, they will not be able to find it. These are commonly known as holes in a catalog and are a primary cause of lost business. While a vehicle database is a critical business asset, it can only prove its worth if the fitment data that backs it up is also complete, accurate, and up-to-date.
With vehicles consisting of thousands of small components, keeping track of all of them, their manufacturers, and all the possible vehicle-component combinations can be incredibly complex. What’s more, managing your database will be an ongoing and time-consuming process, preventing you from focusing on other key areas of your business.
Keeping Your ACES and PIES Database Accurate
Fitment data is composed of all the details and technical specifications of auto parts that fit North American vehicles. The Auto Care Association (ACA) makes sure that all those operating in the industry are able to “speak the same language.” For this purpose, the ACA has created two industry standards capable of transmitting this “universal” information.
The Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) industry standard is in charge of information regarding the brand, make, model, year, engine, transmission, etc., of vehicles from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) standard, on the other hand, covers automotive product data about various vehicle parts and accessories bought and sold on the automotive aftermarket. These product attributes can include everything from sizes, weights, brand ID, prices, and more. These two aftermarket data standards are used for managing and exchanging fitment data between all partners of the supply chain and their customers.
However, since new vehicles and components are being introduced to the market regularly, the data standards are updated by the Auto Care Association on a monthly basis. Therefore, your ACES and PIES database will also need to be updated. If they aren’t, more and more inaccuracies will appear, making them unusable over time.
To ensure the accuracy of your database, you will need to go over your auto parts catalog on a regular basis and update the information by hand. Luckily, there is an easier and much faster solution. As a cloud-based, digital database and inventory solution, Evokat Premier can create all ACES, PIES files on your behalf, as well as automatically manage all monthly updates. This platform will make sure that you are compliant with the information exchange standards and will eliminate the need to manually add fitment information on each inventory listing in your automotive aftermarket catalog. You can quickly and effectively import and export your inventory and ACES XML files in bulk.
By using Evokat Premier’s vehicle mapping interface, you will also be able to receive immediate feedback on your vehicle configurations. This way, you will make sure that you are in line with all of your target attributes and industry standards. The mapping process is completely configurable and is based on each user’s own unique needs and preferences. Some may decide to add just a simple year/make/model configuration, while others may like to add extra data, such as fuel types, body styles, engines, and more. Evokat Premier is perfectly capable of addressing both preferences.
Those who get their fitment data from third-parties, such as manufacturers, suppliers, or other partners, can also incorporate that information into their mapping strategy. Evokat Premier will allow the creation of associations between different components, as well as multiple catalogs. This will eliminate many other potential problems or inconsistencies down the line.
In order to identify and solve any issues that may exist as quickly and as efficiently as possible, you need to perform regular and complete health checks of your product information and application’s data. Evokat offers an easy-to-use dashboard and charts that will highlight any trouble areas with your database. In the majority of cases, it will also provide clear resolution paths, offering a clear guide on how to fix existing problems.
All of these features will not only save you time and money but will also help increase the speed to market for your products. By having an accurate ACES and PIES database, you will also expand your customer base from people who do their own repairs to bigger repair facilities. Accurate fitment data will also help reduce the overall number of product returns, giving you more time to focus on other core areas of your organization.
Illumaware also provides catalog management services for business owners who don’t have the time to do this themselves. If you want to learn more about our offer, feel free to contact us directly or schedule a live demo at your convenience.