Technology Newsmaker Q&A: Scott O'Toole

Jan. 1, 2020
Scott O'Toole is the founder of RPM Data Services, a data solution provider for the specialty, racing and performance automotive aftermarket segments.

Scott O'Toole is the founder of RPM Data Services, a data solution provider for the specialty, racing and performance automotive aftermarket segments. He is a nearly 30-year veteran of the aftermarket and previously worked for Motor State Distributing before forming RPM in 2010. He has also served on the SEMA Business Technology Committee and is a member of the AAIA Technology Standards & Solutions committee.

What do you see as the biggest technology challenge facing companies in the industry today?

I can sum that up in one statement: Slow adoption of the PIES and ACES data standards by product manufacturers.

While many WDs and resellers have invested heavily during the past several years ramping up both their business systems and content management platforms driving their websites, there seems to be a big disconnect in getting the PIES/ACES message to the supplier level. With all the great tools now available to store and manage data on the reseller side, it can be extremely frustrating to these factory clients when they cannot get a properly formatted file or quality product content to push into their computer systems.

Full and rich product data allows all resellers to properly promote a factory brand, reduces product returns by allowing them to sell the correct part the first time, and is an overall key driver to selling more products in today’s electronic age.

I recommend that all product manufacturers listen very closely to their customer’s needs when this topic comes up in any conversation. Please remember, Mr. and Mrs. Parts Makers, your resellers and distribution partners are not discussing PIES and ACES to just hear themselves talk or to make noise.

PAGE 2

Do companies in the SEMA sector face different data or technology challenges than companies in the rest of the aftermarket? How so?

WDs and resellers from both the AAIA and SEMA side are now pretty much on the same page and are asking for the same type of quality product data.

Today you’ll find hundreds of the SEMA-type brands available for sale in both the large and small traditional auto parts stores and also on their web sites. However, you must remember that on the SEMA side, ACES (fitment data) is not applicable to thousands of these types of specialty products. So in order to properly sell these very unique and mostly universal types of products, such as engine diapers, tubing benders, AN fittings, drag slicks, gauges, ignition boxes, sound-dampening insulation and the like, the key is having a quality PIES data set that has full and rich ‘extended product descriptions,’ proper ‘marketing product descriptions’ and also a robust and complete assortment of high quality ‘product attributes.’

The attribute definitions and assignments usually begin at the factory level, but since many manufacturers overlook this segment, the resellers are now populating their own attribute definition fields and then go back to the factory personnel in order to fill in many of the blanks. This can many times cause much confusion, as a reseller can sometimes assign an attribute ID and then ask for product attribute detail that has nothing to do with the actual product. This wastes time and money for both the factory and the reseller, but there is hope and help on the way.

The ultimate goal is to define some best industry practices for product attributes. Therefore, both the AAIA and SEMA Technology Standards Committees are taking steps to address this important area and will be compiling and recommending some industry best practices in the near future.

PAGE 3

Is there a particular new technology or advancement that you think holds a lot of promise for the aftermarket? Why?

As I just mentioned, standardization of product attributes is going to be a huge step for our industry going forward.

Another area that I think will be a big deal is the expansion of the ‘Digital Assets Industry Best Practices’ to include recommendations on product videos and audio. I am currently involved in an industry task force that is researching these digital asset topics and we are reaching out to companies at all levels on both the AAIA and SEMA sides of the industry for valuable feedback and input.

Product videos have a lot of value, especially when it comes to new product introductions, add-on parts recommendations, installation instructions and end-user/consumer tips. We will be attempting to define some best practices for video length, type of format, delivery method and also hosting services (i.e., YouTube, Flicker, Photobucket, etc.). We are still in the very early stages of exploring these areas, but just think how cool it would be to be able to find a part on a website or in a point-of-sale system in your local parts store and have a video about that product readily available to help you or your customer make the proper selling or buying decision for that particular product.

The final thing I would like to say is there’s been a great deal of talk over the past few years about establishing an Industry Data Pool. Personally, I think this type of program would have great benefits by taking a lot of the burden of data distribution off of the manufacturers and also guaranteeing a standardized delivery method and output structure for the PIES and ACES data files.

 

Scott O'Toole is the founder of RPM Data Services, a data solution provider for the specialty, racing and performance automotive aftermarket segments. He is a nearly 30-year veteran of the aftermarket and previously worked for Motor State Distributing before forming RPM in 2010. He has also served on the SEMA Business Technology Committee and is a member of the AAIA Technology Standards & Solutions committee.

What do you see as the biggest technology challenge facing companies in the industry today?

I can sum that up in one statement: Slow adoption of the PIES and ACES data standards by product manufacturers.

While many WDs and resellers have invested heavily during the past several years ramping up both their business systems and content management platforms driving their websites, there seems to be a big disconnect in getting the PIES/ACES message to the supplier level. With all the great tools now available to store and manage data on the reseller side, it can be extremely frustrating to these factory clients when they cannot get a properly formatted file or quality product content to push into their computer systems.

Full and rich product data allows all resellers to properly promote a factory brand, reduces product returns by allowing them to sell the correct part the first time, and is an overall key driver to selling more products in today’s electronic age.

I recommend that all product manufacturers listen very closely to their customer’s needs when this topic comes up in any conversation. Please remember, Mr. and Mrs. Parts Makers, your resellers and distribution partners are not discussing PIES and ACES to just hear themselves talk or to make noise.

PAGE 2

Do companies in the SEMA sector face different data or technology challenges than companies in the rest of the aftermarket? How so?

WDs and resellers from both the AAIA and SEMA side are now pretty much on the same page and are asking for the same type of quality product data.

Today you’ll find hundreds of the SEMA-type brands available for sale in both the large and small traditional auto parts stores and also on their web sites. However, you must remember that on the SEMA side, ACES (fitment data) is not applicable to thousands of these types of specialty products. So in order to properly sell these very unique and mostly universal types of products, such as engine diapers, tubing benders, AN fittings, drag slicks, gauges, ignition boxes, sound-dampening insulation and the like, the key is having a quality PIES data set that has full and rich ‘extended product descriptions,’ proper ‘marketing product descriptions’ and also a robust and complete assortment of high quality ‘product attributes.’

The attribute definitions and assignments usually begin at the factory level, but since many manufacturers overlook this segment, the resellers are now populating their own attribute definition fields and then go back to the factory personnel in order to fill in many of the blanks. This can many times cause much confusion, as a reseller can sometimes assign an attribute ID and then ask for product attribute detail that has nothing to do with the actual product. This wastes time and money for both the factory and the reseller, but there is hope and help on the way.

The ultimate goal is to define some best industry practices for product attributes. Therefore, both the AAIA and SEMA Technology Standards Committees are taking steps to address this important area and will be compiling and recommending some industry best practices in the near future.

PAGE 3

Is there a particular new technology or advancement that you think holds a lot of promise for the aftermarket? Why?

As I just mentioned, standardization of product attributes is going to be a huge step for our industry going forward.

Another area that I think will be a big deal is the expansion of the ‘Digital Assets Industry Best Practices’ to include recommendations on product videos and audio. I am currently involved in an industry task force that is researching these digital asset topics and we are reaching out to companies at all levels on both the AAIA and SEMA sides of the industry for valuable feedback and input.

Product videos have a lot of value, especially when it comes to new product introductions, add-on parts recommendations, installation instructions and end-user/consumer tips. We will be attempting to define some best practices for video length, type of format, delivery method and also hosting services (i.e., YouTube, Flicker, Photobucket, etc.). We are still in the very early stages of exploring these areas, but just think how cool it would be to be able to find a part on a website or in a point-of-sale system in your local parts store and have a video about that product readily available to help you or your customer make the proper selling or buying decision for that particular product.

The final thing I would like to say is there’s been a great deal of talk over the past few years about establishing an Industry Data Pool. Personally, I think this type of program would have great benefits by taking a lot of the burden of data distribution off of the manufacturers and also guaranteeing a standardized delivery method and output structure for the PIES and ACES data files.

 

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