The automotive aftermarket industry is expected to undergo significant changes in the near future. As customer expectations are evolving, and the acceleration of technological innovations seems to only gain speed, a major shift between automotive competitors is on the horizon. These changes will only work to reshape the way auto parts eCommerce businesses and other players in the industry will conduct their affairs and generate value for themselves and their customers.
In addition, emerging markets are already creating new needs and pressures on automotive eCommerce organizations to take the initiative. It’s important to keep in mind that the eCommerce automotive aftermarket on the North American continent is worth over $16 billion. It’s also growing by about 15% year over year. To better put things into perspective, the entire aftermarket industry is worth $381 billion, with the light-duty vehicle segment representing around $282 billion out of the total.
What’s more, roughly $150 billion worth of auto parts across both brick-and-mortar and online sales channels are being influenced by digital tools. Over the next several years, that figure is expected to exceed $160 billion. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the need for ACES and PIES software has never been greater. But before we can go into the details surrounding the use of such software, we need to take a closer look at the aforementioned aftermarket data standards, as well as why it is important to use such software in the first place.
The ACES and PIES Aftermarket Data Standards
Unlike all other industries, the automotive aftermarket needs to use fitment data in order to operate effectively. In order for aftermarket operators and consumers to know which auto parts and accessories they need, the industry needs to operate with fitment (compatibility) data to ensure the correct parts can be found. To put it simply, it stands for the year/make/model of the vehicle, as well as the trim/submodel, engine, product information, and more. To successfully coordinate all of this information, the ACES and PIES aftermarket data standards were created.
And on a similar note, the main reason for using data management solutions is to make sense of the ACES and PIES standards. To simplify matters, both the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) and Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) were created by the Auto Care Association (ACA) to be used by those in the automotive aftermarket industry to manage and exchange fitment data and part number information among themselves. In a sense, these exchange standards offer a universal language for those in the industry to better communicate and coordinate.
Whenever a manufacturer, supplier, or retailer needs to identify a certain auto part or accessory, they will start by referencing ACES. This data standard determines if that component will fit a certain vehicle. If it’s compatible, they will move to PIES data and determine if that auto part is able to satisfy all the intended needs and requirements. By using ACES and PIES together, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and customers will be able to eliminate most of the guesswork that goes into ordering the right automotive products and components. This process also helps reduce the total number of fitment application formats, product returns, and missed sales opportunities.
The Need for Fitment Data Management Systems
The ACES industry standard consists of two databases: the Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) and the Parts Configuration Database (PCdb). These contain all the different vehicle configurations in North America at a given point in time. Researchers from the Auto Care Association regularly scour the internet and other specialized publications, looking to update these databases. However, since this data is not provided by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), it’s possible that it’s not always accurate or complete. As such, the fitment data used in an aftermarket catalog only has a certain amount of time before it “spoils.”
As more time goes by without your catalog data being updated and validated on a regular basis (about once per month – on par with the Auto Care Association’s own database updates), you risk your own fitment data becoming less reliable. As the ACA removes and replaces old vehicle configurations with new ones, you will start developing “holes” in your catalog data. If you have data mapped to the old configurations, and someone searches that product information, theft will not be able to see it.
To prevent this from happening to your catalog product data, you need to conduct monthly validations. You can do this manually, but trying to discover all the new holes and fix them one at a time is an incredibly time-consuming and arduous task. A far easier, more accurate, and more time-efficient method is to use catalog systems, as they will automate many of these tasks. And even though they will not solve all of the fitment data issues that may arise, they will eliminate a lot of headaches and manual work.
Using Catalog Data Management Solutions
While it depends on how each software was designed and built, using such data management systems should be pretty straightforward and intuitive. The system should be able to connect you to every vehicle type currently being published in the Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb), as well as the product data found in the PCdb and Product Attribute database (PAdb).
The system will help evaluate your catalog data against the newly generated PIES and ACES XML files, highlighting any existing issues and offer you actionable insights on how to resolve them. The software will also need to provide you with the possibility to configure the way the data is mapped. This means that you should have numerous levels of details you can add to your parts. Depending on what you want or need, you could go as simple as a year/make/model configuration or add extra elements such as fuel types, engines, body styles, and other such details to your digital assets.
Your catalog data management software should also be able to provide you with regular health checks on your ACES data to ensure the viability of your aftermarket catalog. These comprehensive health checks on both application and product data will likely identify and, in most cases, resolve any issues that may arise. More professional solutions provide you with enhanced reporting capabilities that will highlight opportunities to add more data in line with your existing coverage goals.
The Evokat Premier Software
Truly professional ACES and PIES software will be able to provide all that we’ve talked about up until this point, and more. This is where Evokat Premier comes into play. It is an ultra-flexible solution that’s perfectly able to provide your customers and channel partners with unique sets of data, while also allowing you to manage all disparate requests from a single place. To put it simply, Evokat Premier will offer you highly-customizable authoring and reporting capabilities and an intuitive design that is in line with ACES, PIES, and their databases.
It’s also a Software as a Service (SaaS) aftermarket catalog solution, meaning that you will be able to manage your catalog data from anywhere and at any given time, granted you have an internet connection. And since it is a cloud-based solution, you don’t need to invest in any hardware or software to use it. The system also provides you with enhanced security features and branding flexibility that allows you to market your products in multiple marketplaces and under multiple brand names.
In other words, if you are in the automotive aftermarket industry, you will most likely need to keep your fitment data clean and accurate on an almost daily basis. And the only way to ensure that level of consistent accuracy, you will need to use an aftermarket auto parts data management software. Evokat Premier will help you do that, as well as increase your speed to market, reduce the chance of product returns, and increase your total number of monthly sales.