Supply chains and customer experience provide big opportunities for the automotive aftermarket

June 29, 2022
After the e-commerce jump in the aftermarket in 2020 and expected growth of 15.1 percent for the next few years, retailers and distributors in the industry will face tremendous change.
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What you will learn:

 How the automotive aftermarket is changing to be more consumer-friendly

• How missing or incorrect data contribute to supply chain risk

• How loyalty builds confidence

Almost two years into supply chain challenges, the top global automakers are still having trouble meeting customer demand due to ongoing automotive chip shortages. Tens of thousands of nearly ready cars sit in airport parking lots waiting to be shipped out to dealerships. A lack of the ability to shift quickly to other manufacturing sources has resulted in a production delay of more than five million vehicles and billions of dollars in revenue.

We’re seeing changes in the automotive aftermarket, too. After the e-commerce jump in the aftermarket in 2020 and expected growth of 15.1 percent for the next few years, retailers and distributors in the industry will face tremendous change. While much of the traditional product content was fit for the B2B model of retailers supporting local commercial shops for specific jobs, content going forward needs to be more consumer-friendly with such features as multiple images, videos, and easy-to-understand manuals.

While many companies are investing in transformative technologies to meet these expanding needs, data maturity often doesn't keep pace. The automotive aftermarket is flooded with an abundance of unstructured data. The aftermarket strength has been with strict data protection and control and quality of data. Now is the time to build on that, bringing flexibility and transparency to the supply chain and faster time-to-market while maintaining strict data protection and control, ultimately paying off in greater efficiency and profitability for the industry.

Risks to the supply chain

With hundreds of thousands of products/SKUs and vehicle configurations and millions of part-to-vehicle relations and interchange records, automotive companies face a staggering amount of data. These data records are found in various sources and domains, such as product, customer, location and supplier data, and range from product attributes to payment addresses and packaging sizes to chemical products.

Successful supply chains depend on consistent data that can be traced back to a reliable data source, a single version of the truth. Collecting data is important, but it must also be managed properly. Many parts suppliers find themselves with individual data silos that are separated from each other and programmed differently (such as inventory management systems, distribution and customer data).

Missing or incorrect product data leads to sales losses, increased returns and additional costs for correcting and maintaining data in multiple silos within the supply chain. Especially when it comes to hazardous materials — such as flammable sprays — there is a risk to sharing inconsistent information.

For the aftermarket, search is key 

In the automotive world, the number of parts involved is staggering, and around 180 new car models enter the market each year. This in turn floods the automotive aftermarket with millions of potential parts and fitment options, making search an onerous and time-consuming task for customers. Retailers that offer options for to improve search to include VINs, year, make and model, keywords and even license plate numbers offer a better customer experience.

But the foundation of complete, quality and category relevant product information underpins the experience for customers. Retailers can have an easy and fast search and an extensive product catalog, but when the customer finally lands on the product page, the customer expects to have all their questions answered immediately. The lack of a brochure, directions, or proper quality images may potentially drive customers to look elsewhere and erode long-term brand loyalty.

Build loyalty with convenience

Leading retailers are consistently looking at all the touchpoints and coming up with ways to reduce friction in the process. One of the biggest friction points in automotive retail work is the need for the customer to constantly look up VIN numbers. Retailers with the capability to log into their sites and create profiles with VINs, vehicle type and other shared personal information have an advantage in building long-term customer loyalty.

With all that customized information at their fingertips, consumers can create watch lists of specific products and can be alerted when certain parts are on sale, effectively creating a very sticky relationship through personalized promotions.

In a market that keeps expanding year after year, the automotive aftermarket has big potential to take advantage of its data to strengthen its supply chains and create exceptional customer experiences.

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