Companies operating in the automotive aftermarket industry face a unique set of challenges that are not found within other industries. Unlike other businesses, those in the auto care industry have to deal with extensive data demands and marketing challenges.
With online shopping becoming commonplace, particularly in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for increased digitization has never been higher. Online shopping has not only made the process easier and more convenient, but it also allows consumers to read product reviews from other customers, compare prices, and choose the best deals that will fit their needs.
More than 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to make online purchases within the $722.8 billion global automotive aftermarket industry by 2021, and digitally-influenced sales in the automotive eCommerce sector are only expected to increase in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it’s in the best interest for those operating in this sector to focus their attention on eCommerce and online sales platforms and invest in an ACES and PIES software that will best suit their needs.
Nevertheless, just by selling automotive products online, will not automatically ensure that you will increase sales and stay ahead of the competition. You will need to find a digital asset management solution capable of streamlining communications with trading partners, improve customer experience, drive opportunities, and ensure that you are up-to-date on your fitment and product data.
What Goes Into Auto Part Catalog Management?
Before we can address the features needed to choose the best aftermarket catalog system, we need to take a quick look at what goes into the process of catalog management in the first place. One of the most important features here is the ACES and PIES standards. For those of you who don’t know, the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) and Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) were created by the Auto Care Association (ACA) – formerly known as the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) – and are used by those in the industry to manage and exchange fitment and part number information aming themselves and their customers.
To put it simply, the ACES and PIES standards work together to provide users with a means of better coordination and vehicle configuration. So, when an automotive eCommerce shop owner searches for a certain component or accessory, they will reference ACES data to see if it will fit a certain vehicle configuration. If the part is compatible, it will move onto PIES data to determine whether it will meet all necessary requirements. In doing so, they will be certain that the component will fit the desired vehicle and fulfill all of their needs. This will eliminate the guesswork that goes into ordering automotive products.
However, maintaining catalog data is much easier said than done. It’s not a process that’s done once and left alone. The Auto Care Association updates its own databases roughly once a month, adding and replacing different vehicle configurations. Other changes will happen whenever new research impacts your Original Equipment (OE) fitment patterns, or when you are opening new channels with a trading partner within your supply chain.
If your catalog data doesn’t keep up with these constant changes, it will begin to “spoil.” In other words, it will become out-of-date, and all components attached to it will become invisible to searches and lookups whenever someone is interested. It’s pretty well-known that all vehicles – light or heavy-duty, agriculture, marine, or Powersports – are constructed from thousands of small components and hundreds of compatible accessories. Knowing which parts and components fit which vehicles, as well as keeping track of all the new market entrants and their manufacturers, is next to impossible.
If you have enough auto care industry experience, are well versed in fitment data, and have enough time on your hands, you can manage your product data manually. In fact, there are some aftermarket fitment data suppliers, such as eBay Motors or Amazon, that will sell you their compatibility catalogs and charge you a fee to access their product information. However, if the auto parts or accessories in your inventory are not found in these catalogs, you will have to introduce that fitment data by hand.
But if you want a professional aftermarket eCommerce data validation tool to provide you with the most benefits, you will need to know what to look for. Below is a short guide on how to choose the best ACES and PIES software that will keep your automotive aftermarket data up-to-date and keep you selling parts and components at a higher rate than ever before.
Choosing the Best ACES and PIES Software
While there are numerous digital asset management software out there, not all of them will provide you with the necessary benefits to keep you above the competition. The tools that can help you in today’s highly-competitive and increasingly digitized business environment have several key features in common. Among these, we can include the following.
Proper Application Fitment Management
A professional auto care industry catalog data tool will have to connect you to the Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb), the Parts Configuration Database (PCdb), and the Product Attribute database (PAdb), which are part of the ACES and PIES industry standards. Keep in mind that these databases will typically require their own subscriptions. A professional software will provide you access without needing to pay those extra costs.
In addition, a good aftermarket catalog solution will need to help you tackle the challenge of keeping up with the monthly changes to product and vehicle definitions used by the Auto Care Association to generate ACES and PIES XML files. Your data management software will not only need to be able to evaluate your catalog’s data against the new standards, but it will also present you with the results in a series of easy-to-use and actionable dashboards.
It should also provide you clear and actionable solutions, as well as customization options for your data mapped. This means that you can go as simple as a year/make/model configuration, or add extra details such as body styles, engines, fuel types, brand IDs, and more, based on your needs and requirements.
Generate Useful Insights
Aside from providing you with access to the aforementioned databases, a professional catalog management system will also offer you with a live vehicle mapping interface that generates immediate feedback on all available vehicle configurations that match your target set attributes. Since new vehicle configurations and components are being introduced onto the market, and old ones are being redefined, regular health checks of your catalog data is an absolute requirement for the software.
It should also offer you easy-to-use and highly intuitive interfaces that will highlight any trouble areas, as well as ways to resolve them. While no system will be able to solve all fitment data issues, they should be able to cover most of them. In addition, your ACES and PIES solution should be able to identify any opportunities where you can add more data in such a way that you can keep up with all of your coverage goals.
Effective Product Branding
It should go without saying that a great aftermarket catalog solution will prevent you from making data entry errors and will ensure that all inputted data is authored as consistently as possible. It needs to be fitted with a list of comprehensive product data metrics that will allow your aftermarket business to check for any existing product data issues and other similar discrepancies.
Similarly, the platform will have to take into account all of your branding requirements and allow for any brand-specific overrides on your PIES data elements and target ACES data notes. In doing so, you will have the necessary flexibility to tailor your product information based on your channel partner custom data demands and private label requirements.
Enhanced Data Security
Lastly, the system will need to keep your digital assets safe and secure from data breaches. Security features such as antivirus and anti-malware protection, multi-factor authentication, DDoS Protection, unified threat management, HIPAA and PCI DSS compliance, and access control lists, should be integrated and ready to go.
Evokat Premier is one such aftermarket catalog solution that will provide you with all of these benefits. And since it’s a cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, you can manage your data from anywhere there is an internet connection. In addition, you don’t need to invest in any other in-house hardware or software to operate. It will help increase the speed to market, lower incidence of product returns, and reduce lost sales opportunities.