DETROIT — Watching how fast things change in today’s aftermarket is amazing to many, especially as the industry moves to more electronic means of business. ACDelco has been working with its customers and end users to make sure they all stay on top of the changing technologies in running a distributorship today.
The 2011 ACDelco eForum is focusing on the changing ways today’s jobbers and WDs use information in a shifting social world. ACDelco wants to bring the new ideas, innovation and technologies forward.
“It just always amazes me how fast things move,” says Nancy McLean, director of ACDelco marketing.
It is moving fast, as Stephen Sigg, ACDelco eBusiness manager, shared with attendees during the eForum general session how the electronic segment rose in 2010. “We had a very good year in 2010. In the U.S., e-commerce sales went up 27 percent. In Canada, it went up 34 percent.”
He adds that the e-business area is broken into two categories: e-commerce and data management. “Data is the engine that runs e-commerce,” he explains. “If you don’t have good data, you aren’t going to be successful at e-commerce.”
So how do you take all aspects of the changing marketplace and convey their importance? That’s just one focus on the eForum, execs and customers explain.
Information in a Social World
Starting to employ social media, marketing and other electronic processes is important to do now, not later, says Paul Copses, executive director at ACDelco.
“I think we’re starting early, relatively early. I believe the generation we’re dealing with today probably doesn’t see this as mainstream,” he says. “Things do take a long time to get installed in people’s minds. We’re starting to make sure that first we get a basis of understanding of the comprehensive tools available.”
He notes that ACDelco is working with both mainstream and innovative vendors to take the core automotive data and put it into an easy-to-use format. McLean says that is imperative in getting both ACDelco’s clients and their customers involved.
“There are hundreds and thousands and millions of combinations of vehicles and parts that go on them. We’re in a time where all that information is shooting at you and it is overwhelming at times,” she says. “We try to focus on simplifying it. Simplifying the information so it just keeps being intuitive in how you look for data.”
Both McLean and Sigg addressed the implementation of ACES and PIES data, as well as items like multiple photos of products to ensure the right ones are shipped to independent repair shops.
“I think every piece of it, you have to keep stepping back to how do I simplify this? How do I make it fasters and more accurate in terms of how it’s available? That’s what people are going to use,” McLean says.
No longer is just having a hard copy process good enough. All of this information must be electronic for today’s distributors and end users. The easier to use, the better, and can result in better feedback for the company.
ACDelco takes what the customers and end users say and utilizes it as these processes change and evolve. Sigg showed attendees new features in ACDelco products that include thumbs-up images to track feedback.
“You need to be soliciting feedback from your customers,” he says. “We’re going to be doing it through WIP. You need to be going it with your customers.”
Copses adds that ACDelco is taking the lead from mainstream sites, such as the thumbs-up/thumbs-down sign, in its feedback processes.
“When we’re seeing a bunch of thumbs down sings in terms of a site that we’re suing a tool that we’re providing, that’s an indication that the dogs aren’t eating the dog food,” he says. “From my perspective, I believe we’re taking lessons learned from those that are doing it best. The more people that are looking at things in our information sites gives us an indication of the interest. To me e-tools, be them standards tools delivered on our customers’ systems or on social media sites, the traffic will determine what we work on.”
In addition to the visible tools for feedback, Sigg adds that lookup impressions also are tracked to better serve ACDelco customers.
“Our attitude on lookup impressions is that anybody that comes in and looks up a part, that means that that part is being serviced in that WD’s sphere of customers,” he explains. “If he came in with a Volkswagen for an alternator, in all likely that same customer is going to come back to you customer base for brakes. It not only records that he actually looked up that specific component, but you can also leverage that information across all product lines anticipating that that vehicle is going to be serviced in your customer base.”
No matter the format — traditional or tracked data — or whether it’s praise or criticism, McLean says the feedback is key to making sure customers are getting what they need from ACDelco.
“I learned at a very early age in this business that if somebody is taking the time to give you feedback or criticism in any way, they’re doing it to make it better, make it better for them, make it better for us,” she states. “I take any idea as let’s leverage it. Or say, ‘Hey, it’s not working as well as it should be. Ok, how do we make it better?’”
Moving the Message Down
While ACDelco is gathering feedback from customers, it also is making sure that the distributors are conveying the message to their customers, the independent repair shops. McLean notes that the consistency of information is key here, and involves tiered branding and breaking down data. She says they understand that not everyone needs or wants to know every thing about every product, but the information needs to be there in simple forms.
Then it can be a challenge to move that message down. Robert Roos, vice president of marketing at XL Parts in Houston, says the independent repair shops comprise a two-fold set: those who have accepted the move to an electronic world and those that haven’t.
“I think one of the largest challenges that our industry has is education and driving that down to the installer level. Getting an installer to realize the importance of computers and the electronic age and all of this information, and cataloging data and pricing information and all of that is very huge,” he says. “It’s one of the things that our company has really over the last couple of years we’ve really identified that as a major part of what we do with that installer. We want to help that installer become a better businessman. These types of tools are very key in being able to do that.”
From top to bottom, e-commerce is affecting how your vendors, you and your customers do business. It’s growing on all accounts, notes McLean, and the eForum is working to address all of those for today’s distributors.
“E-business, e-commerce is changing every single day. We want to be there with our customers with the right kind of tools, data, analytics to drive this business and growth,” she says. “We just want to really leverage all of the tools and the customers and feedback to really be great in this space and to support our customers as they grow.”
The ACDelco eForum brings together distributors and ACDelco customers from around the U.S. This year’s eForum focused on a goal of driving incremental sales through e-business solutions. This is done by leveraging data to maximize customers’ inventory value, getting ACDelco to be great on catalog and product information and delivering first-choice e-business solutions.