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Point of View: Impact Of e-Tailing Quickly Unfolding

As I noted in my “Industry Week Notes” column in last week’s issue of The Greensheet, one of the more compelling speakers I heard in Las Vegas was at the AAIA Town Hall breakfast. Google’s automotive industry director Danielle Russell presented the online search engine’s exclusive data and analysis, revealing motivations, interests, and influences as consumers shop for automotive maintenance products and services via the web.

It wasn’t that Russell was such an enthralling speaker, though she was more than pleasant, very articulate, with a dulcet voice that spoke with passion and energy. And it wasn’t that she presented a wealth of information in her short presentation, getting just a few minutes at the podium prior to a political discussion that had the audience in stitches.

Yet, in that short time, she pointed out some Google figures that must capture your attention: Google sends 40 million people to auto parts and service sites every month, with 24 million visiting aftermarket sites each month. Additionally, there has been an 800-percent increase in mobile look-ups over the past three years. And that should have caught your attention as well.

No one reading this is unaware of the Internet or the impact it has had on all of us. Over the last five years, bandwidth has exploded, mobile devices are in everyone’s pockets, and every aspect of every business is influenced by or affected by electronic functionality. And even this industry – often slow to move into the digital world – has taken great strides in adopting technology and adapting to the new e-tailing world.

Currently, for example, AASA is compiling returns from an industry survey defining the supplier perspective on what it defines as “this high-growth sector” of the aftermarket. A previous AASA survey, released in early October, indicated that aftermarket information technology spending increased significantly in 2012 and at a faster pace than other manufacturers.

AAIW had a number of learning opportunities focused on the subject, at both AAPEX and SEMA, and they were well-attended and took advantage of well-placed players in this market area.

You are certainly not going to get a lecture here on how important this subject is to your future – regardless of where you are in the channel. If you are that far behind, you may wish to consider a second look at your succession plan. This train left the station a few years ago and is moving at an incredible speed.

Nor will you find a lot of “what to do” advice here as well, because things are not that simple regarding the transactional side of the Internet

Technology and the web are like most tools – they are only effective when used properly and specific to the job at hand. Your specific strategy is defined by where you are in the channel, the size of your operation, the nature of your trading partners, and the kind of products and services you either provide or purchase.

This is just a broad-brush approach to the questions you need to address; there are literally thousands of minor steps along the way.

By now, you should have been addressing at least some of the issues your enterprise would face as you decide what your company’s role will be in the new sales environment. And you should be reading as much as you can on the subject, and getting your staff to industry events and conferences that offer speakers with insight into this new selling and purchasing channel.

Over the course of the next year, there will be much offered on this subject, and you and your leadership team need to be in the room when the questions are asked and the answers analyzed.

One of the nice things about the aftermarket is that some of the fundamentals remain in place, but these are interesting times where those fundamentals are being impacted with unique and ever-changing strategies.

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Gary A. Molinaro
Editor/Publisher

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