Technology Newsmaker: Wendy Hardesty

Jan. 1, 2020
Wendy Hardesty is the director of merchandise systems at O'Reilly Auto Parts, and also serves on the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association's Technology and Standards Committee.

Wendy Hardesty is the director of merchandise systems at O'Reilly Auto Parts, and also serves on the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association's Technology and Standards Committee.

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What do you consider your company's biggest technology challenge, or the aftermarket retail industry's biggest technology challenge?

It is difficult to pinpoint the largest technology challenge for either our company or the industry, but I believe the creation, publication and ongoing maintenance of product content is a challenge many in our industry are tackling right now. ACES and PIES are standards with real adoption and traction now, but the quickly expanding product content consumer expectations and supply chain efficiency needs means that many of us are upgrading systems, processes and procedures to both create and to maintain this ever-growing and very important data set. Ever-expanding expectations from consumers —videos, diagrams, interactive experiences — are truly driving a "boom" in content creation.

But it isn't just the flashy content that is having to be actively created right now. Many of our suppliers are still working on creating systems (and the data to populate those systems) that can store and repeatedly publish some of the basic product content needs like product weights, customer understandable product descriptions and necessary product attributes. Over the past few years, product content has become nearly as important as the product itself. Many more individuals are researching products online prior to purchase, and if your site is the one missing the image or doesn't have the features listed and the important product attributes displayed, then you may be the one missing the sales opportunity. This goes for both product retailers and the suppliers’ brands that they are promoting. You may have the best brands, but you also have to present those brands in the best ways.

PAGE 2

How has the use of aftermarket industry data standards impacted your business and your business systems?

We are using the Aftermarket industry data standards to streamline legacy processes with the goal of removing manual processing and making product available to our supply chain quicker, more accurately and more efficiently. Our business systems are having to be replaced and/or expanded/enhanced to support the processing of industry standard files, but much of this work is necessary just to support the larger breath of product information now being provided/produced. This larger breath of product information is being used to both drive supply chain efficiencies, but also to support the information-hungry consumer. So upgrades and replacements are necessary, but they are not solely due to the entry of standards usage in our business model.

What types of new/upcoming technologies or systems do you think would have the most beneficial impact or show the most promise for your business, or on the industry as a whole?

I think that telematics is a very interesting technology that the aftermarket should be researching and watching closely—the expanded use of customer communication technologies rolling out on new vehicles today could vastly change how we market to, inform and communicate with the car owner.

In the realm of aftermarket standards, I feel that IPO (Internet Parts Ordering) for procuring hard-to-find part numbers fast could have a beneficial impact on business. Its purpose, to replace manual phone calls and web searches with computer-to-computer conversation, increases response times and offers better service to the customer. Increasing customer satisfaction, while at the same time potentially reducing inventory from our supply chains is a win-win for the aftermarket.

PAGE 3

What would you consider the most challenging aspects of product data management?

One challenge we face is procuring the product data from our suppliers. Not all suppliers have created quality, robust product data that we can utilize in our systems. For many suppliers, the sheer volume of aftermarket SKUs poses a challenge. For other suppliers, the cost of creating product data is a hindrance to entrance. And for others, the challenge is number of different systems that currently house the different pieces of product content needed. As a retailer, we struggle with integrating a more robust set of product data into legacy systems designed to save disk space. It has been a culture shift for many to go from a small disk footprint to a much larger database. But more importantly, we are always working toward ways to ensure that the data we are receiving and the data we are presenting in our interfaces is accurate and quality information. Not all product content is meaningful to our team members and our customers. We need to be diligent in reviewing the product information to make sure that what we decide to display is accurate, meaningful and helps drive purchasing decisions. Another challenge we face is that product content expectations are rapidly changing — product attributes and video standards are currently being created by the aftermarket industry.

These were merely "nice to have" a few years ago, but are becoming minimum expectations for today's researching consumers. While many are still playing catch up on product images, customers are now going out expecting to find product videos.

Wendy Hardesty is the director of merchandise systems at O'Reilly Auto Parts, and also serves on the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association's Technology and Standards Committee.

Like this article? Sign up to receive our weekly news blasts here.

What do you consider your company's biggest technology challenge, or the aftermarket retail industry's biggest technology challenge?

It is difficult to pinpoint the largest technology challenge for either our company or the industry, but I believe the creation, publication and ongoing maintenance of product content is a challenge many in our industry are tackling right now. ACES and PIES are standards with real adoption and traction now, but the quickly expanding product content consumer expectations and supply chain efficiency needs means that many of us are upgrading systems, processes and procedures to both create and to maintain this ever-growing and very important data set. Ever-expanding expectations from consumers —videos, diagrams, interactive experiences — are truly driving a "boom" in content creation.

But it isn't just the flashy content that is having to be actively created right now. Many of our suppliers are still working on creating systems (and the data to populate those systems) that can store and repeatedly publish some of the basic product content needs like product weights, customer understandable product descriptions and necessary product attributes. Over the past few years, product content has become nearly as important as the product itself. Many more individuals are researching products online prior to purchase, and if your site is the one missing the image or doesn't have the features listed and the important product attributes displayed, then you may be the one missing the sales opportunity. This goes for both product retailers and the suppliers’ brands that they are promoting. You may have the best brands, but you also have to present those brands in the best ways.

PAGE 2

How has the use of aftermarket industry data standards impacted your business and your business systems?

We are using the Aftermarket industry data standards to streamline legacy processes with the goal of removing manual processing and making product available to our supply chain quicker, more accurately and more efficiently. Our business systems are having to be replaced and/or expanded/enhanced to support the processing of industry standard files, but much of this work is necessary just to support the larger breath of product information now being provided/produced. This larger breath of product information is being used to both drive supply chain efficiencies, but also to support the information-hungry consumer. So upgrades and replacements are necessary, but they are not solely due to the entry of standards usage in our business model.

What types of new/upcoming technologies or systems do you think would have the most beneficial impact or show the most promise for your business, or on the industry as a whole?

I think that telematics is a very interesting technology that the aftermarket should be researching and watching closely—the expanded use of customer communication technologies rolling out on new vehicles today could vastly change how we market to, inform and communicate with the car owner.

In the realm of aftermarket standards, I feel that IPO (Internet Parts Ordering) for procuring hard-to-find part numbers fast could have a beneficial impact on business. Its purpose, to replace manual phone calls and web searches with computer-to-computer conversation, increases response times and offers better service to the customer. Increasing customer satisfaction, while at the same time potentially reducing inventory from our supply chains is a win-win for the aftermarket.

PAGE 3

What would you consider the most challenging aspects of product data management?

One challenge we face is procuring the product data from our suppliers. Not all suppliers have created quality, robust product data that we can utilize in our systems. For many suppliers, the sheer volume of aftermarket SKUs poses a challenge. For other suppliers, the cost of creating product data is a hindrance to entrance. And for others, the challenge is number of different systems that currently house the different pieces of product content needed. As a retailer, we struggle with integrating a more robust set of product data into legacy systems designed to save disk space. It has been a culture shift for many to go from a small disk footprint to a much larger database. But more importantly, we are always working toward ways to ensure that the data we are receiving and the data we are presenting in our interfaces is accurate and quality information. Not all product content is meaningful to our team members and our customers. We need to be diligent in reviewing the product information to make sure that what we decide to display is accurate, meaningful and helps drive purchasing decisions. Another challenge we face is that product content expectations are rapidly changing — product attributes and video standards are currently being created by the aftermarket industry.

These were merely "nice to have" a few years ago, but are becoming minimum expectations for today's researching consumers. While many are still playing catch up on product images, customers are now going out expecting to find product videos.

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