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Just the Facts – An Analysis of Content

Monday, October 1, 2018 - 06:00
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It has been gratifying to see the level of interest and participation in the catalog judging of the Automotive Content Professionals Network (ACPN) increase to current levels. The results of a peer review of technical accuracy and usability of paper, web and electronic catalogs has been a highlight of the conference. And I have been witness to many ACPN (formerly NCMA) Catalog Excellence Award plaques on display in aftermarket company offices around the country.

But something new was introduced this year which offers a valuable facet to the judging. The ACES and PIES Content Excellence Awards differed in two important ways: the analysis was performed by the data management team at Parts Tech, not a panel of peers or channel partners. And, the entire range of content was evaluated, including application catalog records, product information including packaging and market copy, as well as digital assets and other components of the industry standard and best practices – ACES and PIES. 

In the words of Eric Lough, Director of Data Management at Parts Tech, “We conducted an objective measure of the quality and completeness of aftermarket product content from 21 top brands.” The results of the analysis offer interesting insights into what the aftermarket is getting right with respect to publishing functional and complete content – and where the industry can afford to up its game. Remember, “Content is King” and he with the best data will sell the most … and keep it sold. Quite simply, deficiencies in content are sure to contribute to lost sales and returned goods. As Jerry said long ago, “It’s all about the data.”

In all, 21 brands submitted files for the analysis – a total of 3.8 million catalog application records and 92,000 parts. That was certainly a fair sample and it yielded interesting results that should help guide a marketing manager or content manager in where to look for deficiencies in their data files. As I like to point out, preparing catalog and product content files is an “open book” exercise. There are no secrets or hidden elements to either the standards or the data. The only constraint is time and how it is invested in looking for quality and completeness issues.

The bad news is there were several error conditions found that can introduce confusion and lost sales to the catalog. Incomplete product information also leaves some things to the imagination of the user and may contribute to lost sales, or worse, sales that come back as costly return goods.

Overlaps are cases in catalog data of two or more listings that are identical except for the part number. If the vehicle and part type are exactly the same and two records indicate two part numbers, which is the customer to choose? The remedy is as simple as a part position (“left” and “right”) or a manufacturer note, such as Premium or Economy Grade. Eleven of the 21 brands analyzed had some overlaps – three had severe overlaps.

Ninety-eight percent of the parts had PIES product data available. That sounds pretty good. But 2 percent or 1,840 parts had no PIES data and no likelihood of selling. All of the parts with applications should have product information.

Missing data or under-used segments of the standard can negatively impact sales with confusion or diminished brand satisfaction. In the ACPN analysis: 98.4 percent of parts had packaging information; 89.4 percent had one or more digital assets (that’s a picture folks) and 54.6 percent had one or more records of market copy about the brand or the product. Ask the marketing manager if it is sufficient to say “Ball Joint” or if there is some romance copy that tells more of the brand story.

On a positive note there are fields and segments that seem to get near 100 percent support. For example, 100 percent of parts had a valid Quantity tag indicating how many are required for the application (four spark plugs for example); 100 percent of parts had some interchange information and a valid Part Description. And nearly 100 percent has a valid Part Position (is this the Left or the Right or NA) and at least a minimum amount of Extended Product Information (EXPI) which includes everything from a GTIN, to Warranty terms to Country of Origin.

The technology exists to QA a file before it goes out the door to ensure that it is complete and best represents your brand. Look at content in the same way a customer or parts professional does. If the image or market copy or vehicle part position is not found in the data, no one will chance making a poor selection. They’ll just look for another brand that allows them to choose with confidence.

Thank you to the ACPN and the team at Parts Tech for providing this objective, fact-based analysis of aftermarket data quality. Every brand can benefit from what can be learned from the results. And congratulations to VDO, Moog and Bilstein for demonstrating how high the bar is set and leading the industry in data quality. To learn more refer to the infographic: https://www.partstech.com/blog/2018-aces-pies-content-excellence-award/



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