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More power to auto parts counter people will help block Amazon

Friday, May 19, 2017 - 06:00
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If employees in auto parts stores could have it their way, would they vote Amazon out of the marketplace? Scores of counter people who serve on the frontlines – selling product directly to do-it-yourselfers and service repair shops – are at risk of being replaced by e-commerce technologies. Self-reinvention to update the role of counter people by combining relevant tools and social skills is the smartest offense to ensure that Amazon doesn’t gain the upper hand.

Amazon, which thrives on innovative customer-centric solutions, is capitalizing on the trend that future shop owners will be ordering parts directly from them. Throughout 2016, Amazon signed billion-dollar contracts with Federal-Mogul, Cardone, Bosch, and Dorman Products.

Tomorrow’s Tech, a trade magazine, reported last year that 71 percent of vocational students between the ages of 17 and 25 conduct online searches for automotive content. Many industry experts concede that the shop techs’ self-help mentality happens over their mobile devices, but not over the phone. Techs who use Amazon can research a part they need within a fraction of the time that a counter person can do the same.

Apart from the annual $99 Amazon Prime unlimited delivery subscription, Amazon has transformed its model from simply connecting and placing orders to serving as an affordable business utility that tells repair shops the most available product at the best price. While Amazon has yet to address the immediacy issue of delivering parts within 30 minutes, The New York Times observed on March 26, 2017 that experiments involving automation to improve access to product are on the rise.

Given massive amounts of power exercised by shop owners, the auto care industry should not take a wait-and-see position regarding what the endgame will be as Amazon executes more tests toward a workable e-commerce model that optimizes service and price. Amazon’s vast scope reduces the chance for brick-and-mortar stores to sell products or services that the online giant cannot offer.

Consequently, parts stores need to focus more on customer outcomes. Specifically, they must find unique ways to improve the shop owners’ lives. To this end, they must reshape that role of counter people by releasing them from the task of taking orders and making them invaluable business advisors who are focused on assisting the shops’ goal of turning the bays.

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