Like with every other industry, the automotive aftermarket has its own series of challenges. However, in today’s economic climate, which is heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the automotive aftermarket industry is doing surprisingly well, at least when compared to the rest of the auto industry. In fact, according to the statistics, car sales all around the world are at an all-time low.
In 2020, it’s expected that new auto sales will be down by as much as 22%, whereas in the United States, that number is even higher, at 26.6%. On the other hand, the automotive aftermarket is expected to grow to $433 billion by 2021. Given the current economic downturn, it’s expected that people will stay away from purchasing new cars for the foreseeable future. But this also means that they will be more inclined to improve their existing models. Though unfortunate, the current pandemic and financial crisis can also open up new opportunities for those in the aftermarket business, allowing them to sell car parts online and increase their customer base of people who plan to do their own auto repairs.
However, just because the aftermarket industry and auto repair shops have an opportunity in the current situation, this doesn’t mean that every online auto business will be able to reap the rewards. For that to happen, they need to ensure that their auto part catalogs are working properly and that their fitment data is accurate and up-to-date.
The BIG Problem Facing the Automotive Aftermarket Industry
While a lack of potential customers is not as big a concern as it currently is for the rest of the business world, the automotive aftermarket has its own unique series of problems. By their very nature, spare parts are not as easily sold online as other products. It’s not because they are not in high demand or anything of the sort, but because of their versatility.
On average, any given car part can be compatible with as many as 32 different vehicles. When we take into account that each of the many different vehicle models out there is an assembly of hundreds of smaller pieces of equipment, we are suddenly dealing with tens of thousands of possible combinations of spare parts, components, and accessories for any given vehicle. Not to mention, the majority of these do not even come from the same manufacturing brand as the vehicle itself.
So, when a potential customer is looking to buy an exhaust pipe, air conditioner, rear view mirror, air filter, flow sensor, or spark plugs for their Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Altima, or Honda Accord, they want to make sure that the component will fit. Unfortunately, many car owners are not aware that they are not limited to their car’s brand but can choose from dozens of others. It’s up to the manufacturer, retailer, and pretty much everyone else in the aftermarket supply chain to ensure that customers can find a component that satisfies their needs, regardless of who makes it. If they don’t, numerous selling opportunities will go by as potential buyers will look elsewhere.
Yet, keeping track of the many spare parts and accessories out there is easier said than done. This is where fitment data comes into play. Fitment data is simply the details of auto parts and the vehicles that they fit. On the one hand, we have the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES), which deals with information such as brand, vehicle model, make, year, submodel, transmission, engine, etc. On the other, there is the Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) that covers the attributes of automotive products like brand ID, description, auto parts prices, weights, dimensions, UPC, NAFTA, HAZMAT, etc. These two Auto Care Association standards, which make up fitment data, work in unison to “mix and match” aftermarket components with compatible vehicles or vice-versa.
Fitment Data’s “Use-By Date”
Every aftermarket company that wants to have a chance in today’s world will need to have a comprehensive auto parts catalog containing the right information for their customers to find what they need. Complete descriptions and accurate data will not only help increase sales, improve customer experience, and lower the incidence of product returns and shopping cart abandonment, but they will also work towards improving your catalog’s discoverability in Google’s search results pages. This means that a well-optimized catalog will also work to bring in new customers just by being well-optimized.
From heating systems to warning lights and nuts and bolts, many new vehicles and even more replacement parts are being introduced on the market on a regular basis. Therefore, the fitment data used to populate your catalog is more fleeting than most people realize. Every month, the Auto Care Association updates its databases to add new vehicles, as well as redefine, update, or remove existing ones. In addition, new research will also change your Original Equipment (OE) fitment patterns, similar to how opening new trading channels will add additional data requirements.
In other words, the accuracy of your fitment data and, by extension, your catalog can be comparable to an open carton of milk in the refrigerator. One month everything is clean and healthy, but leave it there unattended for long enough, and some of your records will “spoil.” If you have parts or accessories mapped out for any removed or redefined vehicles, then these components will be marked as invalid. This means that potential buyers will no longer be able to look them up, let alone purchase them, even if they want to. These “holes” in your catalog will cause many items in your inventory to collect dust on your shelves, while your competition is snatching up your customers.
How to Avoid Data Spoils and Holes in Your Catalog?
It’s pretty safe to say that managing an auto parts catalog is a never-ending task. Monthly updates and validations are a requirement to keep your data from spoiling and your inventory from going unseen by customers. With every problem you manage to fix, another one seems to pop up. Because of the many frequent changes, every auto part website or online store that has a catalog also needs to have regular fitment checks done on their fitment data.
After all, your fitment records are a critical business asset, which means you need to locate and resolve any issues as quickly and easily as possible. To do this, coverage metrics on both vehicles and products need to be provided. This way, you will be able to locate any gaps and holes in your auto parts catalog, preventing you from missing sales opportunities, while saving money in the process.
You can try to manually discover and fix these issues one at a time, but most small to mid-sized auto parts store owners don’t have the time to do this themselves. An auto part catalog management software will help a great deal in this regard. Though it will not solve all of your problems, it will greatly increase the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of your work. Evokat Premier is one such catalog management system. As an online-access, cloud-based solution, it helps those who sell auto parts online with their inventory control by initiating complete health checks on both product and application data. Its intuitive and easy-to-use interface will not only highlight existing issues but will also provide solutions, wherever possible.
Evokat’s built-in live mapping capabilities also provide users with instant feedback on all available vehicle configurations, matching them with your own custom-build set of attributes. Comprehensive and easy-to-use charts will also illustrate all potential eCommerce market opportunities for adding more relevant data and staying in line with your coverage goals. If you want to know more about what Evokat Premier has to offer to your auto parts catalog and how it has helped others, feel free to check out our testimonials and success stories and contact us at your earliest convenience.