Those selling auto parts online know that there are numerous challenges in the eCommerce market and the automotive aftermarket industry. There are numerous changes in the industry regarding customer expectations and experience, the rise in competitiveness, and technological innovation of the past couple of decades. All of these work to influence how automotive suppliers, original equipment manufacturers, retailers, and customers conduct their business when it comes to auto parts.
The automotive aftermarket industry is valued at around $400 billion, spread across over 535,000 auto part retailers across North America. And since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, automotive aftermarket part sales have increased to millions of customers, at a time when the rest of the automotive industry has seen a serious dive. That said, several significant opportunities exist on how businesses dealing with aftermarket components improve their sales, brand image, and overall auto parts inventory management system.
Auto parts catalogs play an important part when it comes to the eCommerce side of the automotive aftermarket industry. This is where customers go to find the parts they need and determine whether or not those parts fit their vehicles. However, selling auto parts online is unlike any other product. Those in the industry will need to make use of fitment data to help communicate with their supply chain partners and help their customer base in its search.To put it simply, fitment data provide relevant information in the form of year, make, and model of the vehicle, as well as other, more in-depth information such as submodel, trim, engine, fuel type, and more, regarding each individual component.
And with the average car or truck component, be it the air filter, ignition switch, or fuel pump, among others, it is compatible with hundreds of different vehicles. The fitment (compatibility) data that accompany them also need to be clear, accurate, and complete. This way, your customer base can find the exact components that they need. Auto parts catalogs will help both aftermarket and original equipment manufacturers and suppliers, distributors, retailers, and other aftermarket automotive eCommerce businesses with selling online. It also helps those starting an online auto parts business create websites, warehouse products, and separate their brands from the competition.
Why Fitment Data Spoils
When it comes to an effective auto parts catalog management system, it’s important to keep in mind the strong relationship between your fitment data and the ACES automotive standard that it’s attached to. In short, ACES Product Data is the industry standard used in North America to manage and exchange automotive catalog application data between partners and customers across the supply chain. Stakeholders can send and receive vehicle and component-specific information by using ACES data.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that this information is compared against target databases that always represent specific point-in-time data for various vehicle configurations. In other words, that data is changing on a regular basis. The datasets are created and managed by a group of researchers who record the information in a vehicle configuration database (VCdb), which is part of the ACES standard. To note is also the fact that this data is not researched or provided by original equipment manufacturers but by aftermarket researchers. This means that, at best, this information is an informed guess, based on data found in various specialized publications.
As such, when a company builds its auto parts catalog, then adds all the necessary fitment data, it will be only a matter of time before that information “spoils.” To put it differently, fitment data has a “sell-by date” and will need to be constantly updated and validated before it becomes obsolete. The more time that goes by without that information being updated, the more out-of-date the auto parts catalog becomes.
Every month, various vehicle configurations are removed and/or replaced with newer ones. Any parts and accessories that are mapped to these removed vehicle configurations will appear in the catalog as “invalid.” This means that they will no longer appear to potential customers interested in buying them. As such, monthly fitment data validations are needed in order to properly maintain an auto parts catalog.
Maintaining Your Auto Parts Catalog
Ensuring that your fitment data is properly mapped and up-to-date is very time-consuming and complex. Major eCommerce platforms like Amazon or eBay Motors have their own vehicle lists that are updated regularly. You can list your products based on geographic location and type, which will allow for fitment data modifications in terms of vehicle makes and models. But while these eCommerce platforms have some built-in tools to manage your catalog listings, the process still remains quite labor-intensive. Just adding a few fitments to a single listing, such as a fuel tank, braking system, or air filter, can require a lot of time and effort. It’s for this reason why many will turn to third-party eCommerce solutions that will help them out. One such software solution is Evokat Premier.
It is a platform that’s driven by the latest versions of the ACES standard database (VCdb), which means that it will make that information available to you. The platform’s vehicle mapping interface will also ensure immediate feedback on all vehicle configurations present in your catalog. This will include everything from sports cars or trucks, including light and heavy trucks and agriculture and marine vehicles in North America.
The mapping process is 100% configurable. This means that you can go with a simple year/make/model definition or can also add extra information in the form of engines, fuel types, body styles, and more. Evokat Premier will also create associations between the different parts within your catalog and across multiple catalogs at the same time. As such, you will be able to incorporate any external sources into your catalog mapping strategy, especially if you get your data from your suppliers and/or manufacturers.
Managing an Auto Parts Catalog
Since all of a company’s fitment records are critical business assets, it’s important for that company to perform regular health checks on the viability of the catalog. As mentioned earlier, fitment data has a sort of “shelf life” and needs to be updated on a regular basis. However, this is often easier said than done. Fixing one issue will result in two more problems popping up. Evokat Premier will provide an easy-to-implement solution to this problem by initiating complete health checks on both the product data and application information. In doing so, it will quickly identify and resolve any outstanding issues.
Easy-to-use dashboards and charts will highlight the health status of your fitment data. They will also provide clear metrics and information about any trouble areas, as well as provide clear resolution paths on how to solve these issues. To further help in the managing of an auto parts catalog, Evokat Premier also offers an extensive and continuously expanding report format library. These reports can be customized to include all the relevant information you need.
Suppose you are operating in the automotive aftermarket industry but have not yet started selling auto parts online. In that case, you will soon find out just how important lean fitment data will be to the success of your auto parts catalog, website, and business as a whole. In order to remain competitive in the market, you will have to ensure that your fitment information is always up-to-date and that your customers will be able to find the product listings they are looking for. Otherwise, you risk missing out on a huge number of sales opportunities.So, whether you already sell car parts online or have business plans to start an auto parts and accessories online store, feel free to contact us today to learn more about starting and managing your own auto parts catalog.