According to a 2017 McKinsey survey, online auto parts and accessories sales have skyrocketed over the past several years (with brick-and-mortar retailers entering the online space). The growth of the market is projected to continue at a CAGR of 3% through to 2030. But due to a lack of skills, strategic focus, and digitization resources, most players in this industry are not well prepared. This ultimate guide on auto parts database software will explain how to stay ahead of the competition and succeed in the online auto parts business.
The average age of automobiles on America’s roads is 11.8 years. The figure started being tracked exactly 20 years ago, and today, the average age of cars on our roads is at its highest point. Drivers are keeping their vehicles on the road longer than ever before, and as they age, the demand for aftermarket replacement parts increases significantly. Consumers have two options for buying auto parts – aftermarket parts suppliers and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers). Manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and installers of aftermarket parts face a challenge to keep up with a myriad of vehicle configurations, numbering nomenclatures, and part numbers that may exist for an auto part or parts. What adds to the complexity is the need to remain current with new auto parts (to ensure they are available where and when needed) and to accurately predict future demand.
Auto Parts Data Complexity Issues
The average vehicle is built using around 20,000-30,000 parts. For every new vehicle produced, aftermarket auto parts manufacturers have to source, produce, or determine whether an existing part can replace those new parts in case of a breakdown or regular wear or tear. And that information must be maintained according to the standard year/make/model. The suppliers of aftermarket auto parts refer to this information as application data, fitment data, or compatibility data. Each month, distributors and retailers receive about 130 million data records, and they must maintain all of that changing and new information, as well as interchange data that doesn’t always come in consistent formats.
Imagine a situation where a driver needs to replace brake pads on a Chevy Impala. They may find an online auto parts store themselves or go to the local parts store (where the local mechanic will contact a distributor to deliver the brake pads). In both cases, they won’t get an OEM part, which is why they need the ability to determine which type of brake pads fit their car by year/make/model or by accessing an interchange that will show them a replacement for that specific part model by number. Most likely, there will be many options, and most aftermarket parts manufacturers and online dealerships strive to create or source an entire catalog. Having the correct information is critical because most auto parts aren’t resalable once the customer has attempted to install it (but found out that it doesn’t fit).
Unfortunately, complete and accurate data is still not the norm. According to some estimates, at least 1 in 10 auto part products in a typical catalog contains an error, while the unnecessary transaction costs across the automotive parts industry top at $1.7 billion annually.
Auto Parts Database Software – How Does It Help?
The efficiency and automation that come with auto parts database software allow you to create a single source of trusted and up-to-date information. Many of the industry’s best auto parts sellers are leveraging the power of database software to develop and maintain a consistent, single view of product data for thousands of products. Every implementation may span more than 300,000 vehicle configurations and include millions of part-to-vehicle relations.
Auto part database software solutions involve cloud-based software that brings highly-customizable authoring and reporting capabilities. They help auto part sellers manage all their disparate requests from a unified dashboard and improve data security. Furthermore, you can use the software to get the latest versions of the ACES and PIES databases, as well as a vehicle mapping interface (which offers real-time feedback on an available vehicle configuration that matches your target attributes).
The advanced data modeling and product hierarchy functions, data quality tools, import and export capabilities, and business rule support will allow you to regularly update product data and other digital assets. You will be able to process and deliver that data into your information supply in almost real-time. The database software capabilities allow auto part sellers to:
- Consistently provide content to all receivers in various formats.
- Ensure up-to-date and accurate information from manufacturers and third-party vendors.
- Eliminate or reduce data inconsistencies.
- Integrate the internal business infrastructure to keep other systems up-to-date with the latest content.
- Efficiently manage all product information in a single source.
Thanks to these capabilities, you can build and maintain a database to increase productivity (through the most efficient use of resources) and improve brand value (through up-to-date, high-quality content). Regardless of what kind of auto parts and accessories you are selling (perhaps you want to specialize in selling heavy-duty, light, or Powersports vehicles), you can connect to all vehicles available in the VCdb, PCdb, and PAdb databases via the software.
Leveraging the power of database software and its tools for the automotive aftermarket will allow you to easily:
- Improve inventory forecasting through VIO-based demand analysis.
- Incorporate and comply with ACES and PIES standards.
- Deliver complete and accurate data (e.g., product data, applications, part type attribute, digital assets, and interchanges) to those who request it.
Importance of Fitment Data
As new standards are added and existing ones are changed every month, the software will continually evaluate and update them, ensuring that there are no holes in your auto part catalog’s fitment data. Most consumers today don’t realize that automotive parts fit a wide range of vehicles. Therefore, including complete, clear, and accurate fitment data presented in the right format on your product listings is crucial to helping your customers find the part that fits their vehicle. If you decide to run your auto parts store on eBay or Amazon, accurate fitment data and complete descriptions will boost your discoverability in search results.
On the other hand, inaccurate fitment data will have you selling the wrong parts to customers. The bad reviews and complaints that may result from that can ruin your brand reputation, and should we even mention the cost of all the returns when customers send the incorrect parts back? By using myFitment, you will be able to eliminate the occurrence of manual data entry errors, miscommunication with customers and partners, and the risk of missing sales opportunities.
Importance of ACES and PIES Formatting
Keeping up with today’s online auto parts industry can be a challenge. The automotive aftermarket sector moves a lot of products, which is why automating their database management can save a lot of time and ensure consistency. Fitment data has always been relied on in the automotive aftermarket on the (now outdated) green screens of auto parts counters. The amount of data one could look up is quite limited. However, the way aftermarket auto parts are sold has undergone a revolution, thanks to the advent of the Internet. Today, everyone, from online shoppers to counter clerks to installers to DIY enthusiasts, can access a mass of data about the parts they are interested in.
The most successful suppliers know what it takes to stay competitive in a crowded marketplace – providing in-depth descriptions and product-specific data, including fitment data. The two key automotive industry standards are – ACES (the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard) and PIES (the Product Information Exchange Standard).
ACES is used to exchange data between automotive catalog applications for helping users find their desired aftermarket parts online (or in a brick-and-mortar store’s database) based on a certain year, model, or make of vehicle.
PIES is complementary to the ACES standard. It includes product information such as brand ID, dimensions, weight, list prices, UPC codes, marketing content, and other information.
Both ACES and PIES utilize the ACA part terminology categorization, which controls the relationship of market copy and digital assets to parts, and from auto parts to vehicle applications. Having regularly updated fitment data is the foundation for the success of anyone in this industry because that success depends on whether their customers will be able to find what they are searching for. So, whenever a customer is searching for a specific part, the fitment data will display all the compatible parts available in your store’s inventory. This eliminates doubts about whether that part will fit the intended vehicle.
Where solutions like myFitment come into play is in automating fitment data updates and maintenance. The ACA (Auto Care Association) created these standards and regularly updates them about once per month, while myFitment keeps them complete, clean, and accurate.
Software You Should Use to Run an Auto Parts Store
To run a successful auto parts store, you will need to utilize an integrated software solution in order to build an efficient business management system. However, some of the software solutions are different from the ones employed by typical retail businesses. The software solutions you should use to run an auto parts store includes:
- Cloud ERP solution
- eCommerce software
- CRM solution
- POS solution
- Warehouse management software
- Database software
- Auto repair software (if you decide to run an auto repair shop for installing aftermarket parts to your local customers’ vehicles)
ERP software. In the aftermarket parts industry, ERP is important because it offers a comprehensive system that can be audited at any moment, serves as a tool for collaboration, facilitates functions that involve supply chain management, and provides an end-to-end perspective on what is happening in the company.
eCommerce software. Having a well-built eCommerce auto part website that can support accurate and real-time inventory, detailed fitment data, and millions of SKUs (stock-keeping units) will set you up for success. When choosing your eCommerce platform, make sure that it can be integrated with the accounting software, auto parts inventory software, compliance software, auto parts retail POS, and customer management solution that you plan to use (or are currently using).
Customer relationship management (CRM). CRM software is important because it helps you collect customer information that helps you improve customer experience. Building a customer-centric business is crucial for success since most of today’s customers are loyal to brands that deliver a great customer experience. CRM allows you to make well-informed, data-driven decisions on everything from coordinating marketing endeavors, managing sales, and improving customer communication to up-selling and cross-selling.
POS software. An automotive aftermarket parts POS system is required to support the off-stocking of a range of auto parts and accessories and allow superior customer service. It can report your bestsellers, track incoming shipments, and send automatic invoices to customers. Thanks to POS hardware, you can capture electronic signatures, store documents, scan items, and check single and multiple location inventory.
Auto parts database software. Auto parts inventory management software is essential because managing an auto part database is an ongoing process. You need to upload the right fitment information, but that information gets updated and changed every month. And if the fitment information doesn’t match the new changes, you will start having gaps and holes in your catalog that prevent your customers from finding the parts they’re looking for. With software such as myFitment, you will be able to upload auto part fitment information in bulk and have your database automatically updated every month.
Warehouse management software. Warehouse management software (WMS) is essential for updating records and optimizing the flow of products through your warehouse. It manages all your warehouse activities – from optimizing processes, inventory tracking, and inventory control to goods receipt, picking, and shipment.
Automotive repair software. Many auto parts dealerships also have auto repair shops for installing aftermarket auto parts. It will help you automate all tasks related to auto repair shop management.
Other Benefits of Using Auto Parts Database Software
Auto parts sellers have many choices when it comes to auto parts database software. Most of them come in the form of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) that enables users to access and manage their data anytime and from any location (as long as there is a stable Internet connection).
- Improved product branding. With an auto parts database software, you will be able to market different product brand names, as well as products on different marketplaces (e.g., Amazon and eBay Motors). For example, if you open an eBay store, you can use myFitment to set up compatibility by using the four categories on eBay Motors. Your fitment or compatibility table will benefit you if you are an Amazon seller, as well, because ACES data is what drives Amazon Part Finder’s features. Regardless of the platform, your database software will prevent common data entry errors from occurring, ensuring that your product info is up-to-date as consistently as possible.
- Expanding your auto parts store reach. If you don’t optimize your aftermarket parts eCommerce store with fitment filters, you will lose tons of opportunities for your business. Without listing each vehicle that a particular part fits, you won’t meet your business’ potential because you are not reaching all the potential customers looking for parts that are compatible with their vehicles. Thanks to database software and fitment filters, you will increase visibility, maximize your search exposure, and reach more interested customers.
- Application fitment. An auto parts database software will allow you to connect to every vehicle type available on the vehicle configuration database (VCdb), including everything from light to heavy-duty, Powersports, marine, and agriculture. Also, any monthly changes that ACA makes to its ACES and PIES standards will be presented to you through an actionable and easy-to-navigate dashboard.
- Data security. With the steady rise in the number of cybersecurity breaches, data security is imperative. That is why it’s essential to secure your auto parts database and other information. Auto parts database software solutions come with various security features, such as antivirus and anti-malware protection, access control lists, multi-factor authentication, VPN, PCI DSS and HIPAA compliance, and others.
Avoiding Data Spoils in Your Auto Parts Catalog
As new automotive components and vehicles enter the market, vehicle configurations change. In other words, all the auto parts information is compared against specific point-in-time configurations, and if you don’t manage your database regularly, you risk experiencing fitment data spoilage. Monthly validations and updates are essential to keep your fitment data from spoiling. Since the changes are frequent, with every issue you fix, there will be another one popping up. That’s why every automotive parts online store or website with a catalog must have regular fitment checks.
Your fitment data is the most critical business asset you have, meaning that you must detect and resolve any problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. To be able to do that, you need coverage metrics on both products and vehicles that will allow you to detect holes and gaps in your catalog. Trying to discover and fix those problems manually can be done if your catalog is limited and small. But in practice, that is rarely done because even small auto parts store owners don’t want to waste their time doing this themselves.
What happens if you have products mapped on removed vehicles? In that case, they’ll appear as invalid and won’t be visible to online shoppers browsing your catalog in search of the right part. These are all gaps in your fitment data, and to prevent them from occurring, you must map the products to the new vehicle records every month. Since changing records manually one by one may not be advisable or possible, you should use your database software to make bulk changes to your auto parts catalog, such as adding, changing, or updating product data and vehicle definitions, without any disruptions in receiving orders and making sales.
Utilizing an auto part database software brings a wide range of benefits. These softwares integrated into your existing systems are designed to increase the accuracy, efficiency, and speed of your work, taking manual and tedious tasks off your plate and allowing you to focus on core business issues. Whether you operate an auto part store on your eCommerce website or online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay Motors, you need to know that there are excellent tools at your disposal that will help save time. Import fitment data in bulk, create auto part listings quickly and with ease, and have your fitment data updated regularly.
The myFitment solutions tool was created to maximize fitment productivity – with the right fitment data that’s updated regularly, you will boost your online sales, prevent product returns from happening, and reduce customer questions. Feel free to contact us for a free trial.