Technology Newsmakers Q&A: Scott Drozd, Denis Ivanov

Jan. 1, 2020
FCP Groton, based in Old Saybrook, Conn., is an import parts distributor that specializes in European vehicles.

FCP Groton, based in Old Saybrook, Conn., is an import parts distributor that specializes in European vehicles. Recently, the company launched a new Web site, FCPimport.com, for Asian makes that is based on an entirely new, standards-based e-commerce platform. We spoke to COO Scott Drozd and head developer Denis Ivanov about the new ACES-based platform.

Why did you decide to develop the new online catalog site?

Drozd: There is a lot of opportunity in catalog management. We kind of looked at all of our competitors, and we realized that there is a better way to manage our online inventory and the cataloging of automotive parts.

We realized that ACES held great potential for us, and we were surprised at how slow the industry has been in terms of moving to the standard. We were surprised that not everybody was already on the standard. We took a great deal of time looking at our competitors, and seeing what their shortcomings were in terms of the platforms they were using. It seems even some of the companies that have adopted ACES have taken their catalog and moved too quickly. If you look up a part for a Honda Civic, they've got 42 different options for drive belts or brake discs.

Instead of our company serving as the middle man, we wanted to close the gap completely and allow the parts vendors to communicate their product information straight to the customer. We now have a system that uses the ACES catalog data, and we apply that exact detail to each part that we sell.

Even thought he back-end of the system is built for adding products at a very high rate, there still has to be some cleansing of the data. The manufacturer's data is not always accurate. You also have to limit some of the redundancy in the different catalogs you get from the manufacturers.

What sorts of challenges have you faced in getting data from suppliers?

Ivanov: It seems like many of the vendors don't have enough capability in house to take care of the catalog data themselves. We see very different quality work provided by different catalog suppliers. Some seem to disregard the specifications, and others follow them very closely. The industry as a whole just doesn’t seem to have that in-house capability to create the ACES catalogs.

You're using an open-source product to create your online catalog. Can you tell me about how it works?

Ivanov: We use the open source database in the background, and we update that with the ACES data we get from the suppliers. Then we build our own proprietary layers on top of that.

We're doing this in a way that allows us to develop new capabilities at an incredibly fast rate. It's more agile and flexible than anything else I've seen. We have full control over what our URLs look like, full control over the pages we create, and it's still incredibly fast.

Drozd: We can train someone within 15 minutes, and they can be adding up to 500 products per day. We designed it so you just needed minimal training to add products. That's important for us, because we want to cleanse the data that's going on the site.

We ultimately want to give our customers three options: good, better and best. Eventually, we'll have a customer rating system on those products. There's no need to offer redundant listings of more than three makes for a particular product. That makes the choices a little easier for customers.

What are you doing with the Web site that you think differentiates you from your competitors?

Ivanov: We've made the interface more intuitive and less busy. With other Web sites, you'll see 50 elements on the Web page competing for your attention. We've streamlined the interface and made it extremely clear for our customers. You can add a product to your cart from the browsing page, for instance.

Drozd: On this platform, less is more. We wanted everything 'above the fold' so we could eliminate all that scrolling you have to do to find the product you want. That was difficult due to the nature of the automotive taxonomies, and fitting everything into ten or less top level categories. But we have overcome those issues, and we're happy with where the navigation is.

How have customers responded?

Drozd: We're gauging response from the bounce rate right now. Using Google Analytics to check our bounces, we're seeing bounce rates as low as 3.95 percent on the new site. The main site, for comparison, has a bounce rate around 20 percent or up to 40 percent. So to see that low bounce rate on the new site is pretty amazing. That means over 96 percent of users being directed to the site stay on the site, and that's remarkable.

What are your plans for the main FCP Groton site?

Drozd: Right now, that's our breadwinner, but we've reached our maximum output in terms of flexibility and growth with that platform. We don't have control over the core database structure.

We wanted to introduce a platform for the Asian import market first, and then solicit the European audience to see if they liked that platform. We're working on FCPeuro.com right now, and that will be up and running soon. We'll have those three platforms running in tandem. Once the FCP Groton customers have experience with FCPeuro.com, then we can move that platform on top of the existing site.

Eventually, we'll have those platforms hooked up to one back-end system.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to standards adoption in the aftermarket?

Ivanov: I think people just don't understand the benefits the standards provide. It's monumental the kind of difference that proper adoption of the standard has made. It really changes the business. End retailers need to constantly ask for it, and provide feedback when the data is not clean. There needs to be a conversation about how to move forward, because it should be the future of the industry.

Drozd: To give you an example, on the FCP Groton platform, it took us two years to add 13,000 SKUs to the site. For the new site, it took us one month to do that. It's incredible.

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