Businesses all across the automotive aftermarket industry face a common problem. The extensive data demands and the unique marketing requirements have made the aftermarket automotive eCommerce business a very complicated industry. As a consequence, more and more auto part store owners are looking for integrated solutions to help them increase sales, drive opportunities, streamline communications, improve the customer experience, and stay ahead of the competition.
It’s very well known that online shopping has become commonplace in today’s evermore technological and digitized world. And with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend has only accelerated. Not only is this shopping method easier and less time-consuming, but it also allows consumers to better compare prices set by established businesses. It helps them look at a wider selection of products, find the best deals, and read reviews from other customers.
In fact, by 2021, over 2.14 billion people around the world will be expected to make at least one online purchase. This figure comes alongside the $722.8 billion that the automotive aftermarket industry will reach by the end of 2020. Statistics also show that by 2022, the digitally-influenced sales of auto parts will reach as high as $162.4 billion. Therefore, it will be in any auto part seller’s best interest to focus their efforts on eCommerce, online sales platforms, and database software to suit their needs.
However, simply selling auto parts online and taking part in aftermarket eCommerce will not guarantee success. In this guide, we will be taking a look at why every automotive aftermarket business will need to use an auto parts database software solution to look after their catalog fitment information.
Managing an Auto Part Catalog
It’s pretty safe to say that managing an auto parts catalog is ongoing work. There are monthly updates and validations that need to be made in order to ensure that your fitment data doesn’t spoil, and that your inventory goes unseen by your customers. With every issue in your catalog that you manage to fix, another one seems to pop up. It’s predominantly because of these frequent changes that your auto parts catalog frequent fitment checks.
If you are tech-savvy and have the necessary time to manage your catalogs, there are several aftermarket fitment data suppliers that will sell you their compatibility catalogs or charge you a fee to access their information. eBay Motors and Amazon are among these suppliers. Yet, if your auto parts and accessories are not found in these catalogs, you will need to manually introduce this fitment information.
On the one hand, there’s the option of catalog fitments where your auto parts will be matched and listed based on an already-existing catalog entry. With this option, all compatible vehicles and fitment data will be automatically assigned to your car part. A manual fitment method, on the other hand, will involve overriding the information provided by the marketplace with their own fitment data for that specific auto part or accessory. This method is also used when there is no available data in the catalog, and it is commonly used when dealing with custom-made automotive parts and accessories or those made by small manufacturers that haven’t had their fitment data added to the catalog.
It’s also important to keep in mind that fitment data is constantly changing. The Auto Care Association (ACA), which is in charge of the automotive aftermarket data standards, updates its databases every month. In doing so, the ACA is adding new vehicle definitions or redefining already-existing ones. Further changes happen whenever new research will affect your Original Equipment (OE) fitment patterns or when you are opening up new trading channels with parts in your supply chain.
Yet, if a part or component is mapped to a vehicle that has since been redefined or removed from the ACA’s databases, those components will show as invalid in your catalog. This means that anyone browsing your online catalog looking for that component will not be able to find it. This is what’s known in the industry as “holes,” which are a major cause of missed sales opportunities. It’s only when the fitment data that backs up your database is accurate, complete, and up-to-date that you can consider it a valuable business asset.
It’s a well-known fact in the industry that every vehicle, be it light or heavy-duty, marine, agriculture, or Powersports, is made of thousands of small components and has hundreds of compatible accessories that can be fitted with them. Trying to keep track of everything, as well as the many manufacturers that produce them, will be pretty difficult and extremely time-consuming.
The Need For Aftermarket Data Standards
To perform the exchange of data more easily and with fewer mistakes, the Auto Care Association has developed two leading fitment data industry standards. These are the ACES (Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard) and PIES (Product Information Exchange Standard). These two standards are used by those working in the industry to exchange part numbers and fitment information.
● The Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES)
This automotive aftermarket data standard is used to manage and exchange automotive and catalog applications data. Manufacturers and retailers send and receive product data with their trading partners by using industry-standard vehicle applications, such as year, make, model, submodel, transmission, engine, fuel type, and various other forms of qualifier statements. ACES product data typically includes information such as part types and numbers, the manufacturing brand, and other similar information that will help determine which vehicles any particular auto part or accessory will fit.
In short, the ACES aftermarket data standard is made out of two databases: the Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) and the Parts Configuration Database (PCdb). The VCdb covers over 60,000 vehicle configurations in terms of year/make/model from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, even if the ACA updates this database once a month, any universal parts that do not have any specific fitment information will not be covered by this standard.
The PCdb database, on the other hand, holds part type and category information for replacement parts, service items, and other similar supplies and accessories sold in the aftermarket industry. The Parts Configuration Database makes it easier for partners in the supply chain to put together their auto part catalogs. Those interested in buying auto parts can also use the PCdb database to determine and compare different types of components and see whether they will fit their vehicles.
Every ACES file will come in an XML format that contains data about all manufacturing brands. Aftermarket suppliers are advised by the ACA to validate their fitment data against the ACES standard to ensure that all of their catalog information is correct. If the products listed in your catalog are classified properly, there will be fewer mistakes and even fewer interpretation gaps. This, in turn, will lead to more sales, fewer product returns, and better overall customer experience.
● The Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES)
Similar to ACES data, PIES product data is used to manage and exchange part number data on the many vehicle components, supplies, and accessories that exist. The PIES standard holds over 20,000 product types divided into 25 categories and over 180 electronic data elements. The PIES XML files contain information on product attributes, such as product sizes, weights, prices, brand IDs, UPC codes, marketing content, country of origin, kits, and more.
The ACES and PIES standards are made to be used together. You start by first referencing ACES data to see whether a component will fit a vehicle. If it does, you will then cross-reference that data with PIES information to see if that component will actually satisfy all of your requirements. It’s by using the ACES and PIES data standards together that those operating in the industry will be able to eliminate much of the guesswork that goes into ordering the right parts and components, as well as reduce the total number of fitment application formats in the process. And this is where an auto parts database software will come in handy.
Eliminating Fitment Data Inaccuracies With Auto Parts Database Software
Fitment data contains all the details of auto parts that are compatible with any given vehicle. However, since new vehicles and components are being introduced to the market on a regular basis, the ACES and PIES standards will also need to be updated. The Auto Care Association does this on a monthly basis. And every time it does, anyone else who is managing an auto parts catalog will also have to do the same. If they don’t, there will be inaccuracies appearing in their catalogs, making them unusable the more time goes by.
To eliminate these inaccuracies, aftermarket businesses will have to analyze their automotive catalogs on a regular basis, updating their fitment data as needed. By using an auto parts database software such as Evokat Premier, they will ensure that the changes made are accurate and made in time to eliminate any inaccuracies and holes in their catalogs as they appear. Evokat Premier is a cloud-based management system that will not only create these ACES and PIES files on your behalf but also help manage their updates on an ongoing basis.
It’s an ultra-flexible solution that allows you to manage all disparate requests from a single place. It provides you with highly-customizable authoring and reporting capabilities, a cost-effective data management solution, and an intuitive design that mirrors ACA standards. Since this is a Software as a Service (SaaS) database solution, Evokat premier makes it possible for its users to manage their data from anywhere there is an internet connection. Also, you will not need to have any additional hardware or software to operate.
In addition, Evokat Premier will also make sure that it will keep all of your fitment and application data safe by employing several state-of-the-art security features. Among these, we can include things such as multi-factor authentication, antivirus and anti-malware protection, DDoS Protection, access control lists, unified threat management, VPN, HIPAA and PCI DSS compliance, and more. In today’s age, when data breaches are at an all-time high, data security needs to be given top priority. Illumaware’s Evokat Premier will ensure that only you and your trusted personnel will have access to it.
● Better Insight and Application Fitment Management
As mentioned, Evokat premier will also provide its users with the latest versions of the databases that govern the automotive aftermarket industry. Aside from its live vehicle mapping interface, you will also gain instant feedback into all available vehicle configurations that match your target attributes.
The platform will make sure that the eCommerce catalog will be ACES and PIES compliant. It will also eliminate the need to add fitment data manually to every inventory listing in the catalog. There are also certain circumstances when adding this data one by one is not enough. In this case, bulk importing is also available to quickly and effectively import and/or export the entire inventory and ACES XML files.
And by making use of the platform’s vehicle mapping interface, you will be able to receive immediate feedback on all of your vehicle configurations. This will tell you whether or not you are in line with your own target attributes, as well as the industry standards. In addition, the mapping process is completely configurable, allowing the user to add any details based on their own needs and preferences. Say, for instance, you only need minimum information, in which case, a simple year/make/model definition will be enough. However, you can also add more complex data, such as engines, submodels, body styles, fuel times, and more.
In addition, you will also be able to add external resources into your catalog when using this auto parts database software. For example, if you get fitment data from your partners or other third-parties, Evokat Premier will allow you the possibility to create multiple associations between different parts and across multiple catalogs at the same time.
Regular health checks of your product data and application in your auto part catalog will also be required in order to identify and resolve any existing issues. Evokat Premier offers its users easy-to-use charts and dashboards that highlight any issues and trouble areas, also providing clear resolution paths wherever possible. It will give you a clear guide on how to fix these issues.
You will also have the ability to connect with every vehicle type available on the VCdb database, including light and heavy-duty, Powersports, agriculture, and marine. In addition, you can also research all the product resources found in the PAdb and PCdb databases without having to pay for any additional subscriptions. To mitigate the problem of data holes and invalid requests that can appear in your catalog if you do not regularly update your fitment information, Evokat Premier will continuously evaluate your existing fitment information and cross-reference with the newly updated data standards as they are released. Any existing problems or issues will be highlighted for you as soon as possible and will be presented through a series of actionable dashboards.
You will also be able to better market your product on a multitude of marketplaces and with different brand names. By making use of several centralized resource libraries, Evokat Premier will reduce the number of data entry errors and will ensure that your product data is composed to the highest standards. You will also be provided with a series of comprehensive data metrics that will help you check for any issues and discrepancies as they appear.
Your branding needs will also be taken into consideration, allowing for brand-specific overrides for your PIES data element, as well as targeting select ACES fitment notes. These features will offer you plenty of flexibility in tailoring your product information based on your private label requirements, as well as your channel partner custom data demands.
To summarize, an auto parts database software will help your automotive aftermarket business thrive in today’s highly competitive and increasingly digitized market. All of the features mentioned above will not only save you time and money but will also help increase the speed to market of your products. In doing so, you will be able to expand your customer base from people who repair their own vehicles to bigger repair facilities.
By using accurate and complete fitment data, you will also be able to reduce the total number of lost sales and expensive returns, giving you more time and resources to focus on your marketing, business intelligence, customer satisfaction, and sales. If you want to know more about what the Illumaware LLC Evokat Premier has to offer to your auto parts catalog and how it has helped others, check out our testimonials and contact us at your earliest convenience.