Opinion | Commentary - Distribution

Search Autoparts/Aftermarket-business/Opinion-commentary-distribution/

Content is king

Monday, January 23, 2012 - 01:00
Print Article

I was in a meeting several years ago where the subject was the emerging industry data standards and my colleague Jerry McCabe made a rather bold assertion. He said, “There will come a day when product data will become more valuable than the products we sell.” In those days, his prophecy seemed absurd.

Well, John Washbish, president and CEO of the Alliance and Sage of San Antonio, recently reminded me of that comment by making an even bolder assertion. He said, “I think the day has arrived when product information is at least as important as the product itself.”

 

He was referring to a meeting he had had with a group of jobbers. Washbish’s long history in the aftermarket predisposed him to focus on the quality and brands of the products his company makes available to its prospects and customers. What surprised him was that after a solid 10 minutes of discussion on that subject, his audience quickly steered him into an hour-long dialogue about the value of information and the way it’s delivered. He admits to being a bit shocked, thus his assertion regarding product and supporting information.

I think it might be fair to say that we have reached the tipping point McCabe foretold all those years ago. Today, when it comes to selling, product data is at least as valuable as products in the value equation.

PAGE 2

With more and more repair shops relying on online parts ordering, the need for complete and accurate data is increasing exponentially. Once exposed to high quality data, most technicians quickly begin to rely heavily on the service. They invariably move from using it as a means to occasionally check stock or a price, to digging in and mining it for all the technical and selling information it conveniently offers. Most have their computers loaded with the software of several vendors. Using the phone less and less, they jump from application to application throughout the day and they are not just price shopping. They are making buying decisions based on availability, delivery times, brands, images, technical information and, oh yes, price.

Additionally, more consumers are coming into parts stores and repair shops armed with information they have collected on the web. Increasingly, they have researched brands, grades, performance, warranty and prices. They have an opinion about what they want. It becomes the counter person’s job to confirm or redirect their thinking; where they spent minutes or hours on research, the counter person has about 30 seconds. As the old saying goes, information is power, but much of the power is time related.

The reality is that good data sells more products. Think about your own online shopping experiences. Are you ever frustrated when you can’t find all the information you require to make an informed purchase? Now more than ever, complete, accurate product data is required for a line to be successful — and we’re never going back.

PAGE 3

There are encouraging signs that the market at large is recognizing the need. AAIA has long advocated their ACES and PIES standards. AASA has invested in OptiCat as an industry effort to promote rapid distribution of catalog data. And SEMA is about to launch the SEMA Data Co-op, a service that helps small manufacturers create valid, complete product and application data and share it with resellers, from national chains to small speed shops.

Washbish is right. In our environment of hyper-competition and affordable technology, data can be at least as important in the selling process as the product that a manufacturer provides. Any manufacturer with competitors can no longer pretend that data quality is not as important as product quality. And the need for data goes way beyond the year, make and model requirements of just a few years ago. Robust content, including images, performance characteristics, marketing differentiation, even video and audio, are the order of the day.

There was a time when simply declaring that your product was “ACES & PIES compliant” was an eyebrow-raising differentiator. Today, it’s little more than a wink in the increasingly rugged game of using data to sell and support products and create loyal customers.

I was in a meeting several years ago where the subject was the emerging industry data standards and my colleague Jerry McCabe made a rather bold assertion. He said, “There will come a day when product data will become more valuable than the products we sell.” In those days, his prophecy seemed absurd.

Well, John Washbish, president and CEO of the Alliance and Sage of San Antonio, recently reminded me of that comment by making an even bolder assertion. He said, “I think the day has arrived when product information is at least as important as the product itself.”

 

He was referring to a meeting he had had with a group of jobbers. Washbish’s long history in the aftermarket predisposed him to focus on the quality and brands of the products his company makes available to its prospects and customers. What surprised him was that after a solid 10 minutes of discussion on that subject, his audience quickly steered him into an hour-long dialogue about the value of information and the way it’s delivered. He admits to being a bit shocked, thus his assertion regarding product and supporting information.

I think it might be fair to say that we have reached the tipping point McCabe foretold all those years ago. Today, when it comes to selling, product data is at least as valuable as products in the value equation.

Article Categorization
Article Details
blog comments powered by Disqus