Heavy Lifting: Using Technology to Create Value
Mark Iasiello, VP of Heavy Duty and Commercial Vehicles
A common lesson from 2020 is that technology once thought of as a simple customer convenience can become essential to operating a business in times of emergency or uncertainty. There are many examples of this from food delivery services like Door Dash and Hello Fresh to Amazon.
For the heavy duty parts and service provider, it is critical to understand how something as simple as e-commerce capabilities can enhance the customer experience, position the business for the next generation of customers, and potentially provide stability in troubled times. In both B2B and B2C scenarios, a strong e-commerce tool will be an increasingly important factor in the value of a heavy duty parts business.
A common theme in the customer experience for parts and service providers across many industries is the value of self service. While self service allows greater access to the “menu” of products and services, its role in the heavy duty market is just one element of customer focused sales support.
For the commercial vehicle parts and service marketplace the current parts fulfillment process and the inclusion of an e-commerce platform provides greater efficiency for the customer service or traditional counterperson. The self-service aspect of technology is an everyday occurrence across our everyday activities. The “self” aspect introduction of the customer’s involvement in the purchase of goods and services ranges from web shopping, pay-at-the-pump gas, visiting the ATM or self-checkout at a wide range of stores.
The difference for the heavy duty parts buying process is the specific part, brand and performance criteria identified by the purchaser. The customer service representative becomes the go to person during or after the purchasing process reinforcing the sales process with their expertise and knowledge and reduce manual order processing activities.
To understand the value of a technology solution, what are some of the expectations of the current and prospective customers that are becoming more focused on technology in the part and service fulfillment process?
- Live access to inventory at single or multiple distribution locations and pricing.
- Convenience of 24-hour, 365 day access to the ordering, parts information, and catalogs.
- A process to promote products or services to multiple customer types or a focus on a specific customer segment.
- Management information regarding sales history, forecasting and customer utilization of an e-commerce solution in the management of a distribution organization.
- Access to interchange information supporting where applicable OE, OES and aftermarket part buying decisions.
Comments from a distribution executive, who is years younger than myself, reflect many of the expectations listed above. While many features and benefits were targeted, their investment in an e-commerce solution focused on a few elements.
- An ease of use tool that a greater population of users will expect now and grow in importance over the next few years term.
- A sales and CRM process that addresses the shift to a younger age demographic of the parts and service decision maker.
- Provides efficiencies and ability to invest in additional employees and processes resulting in continued growth of their organization.
- For most of their customers availability and rapid delivery are ranked at a higher value than price.
The value of adopting an e-commerce solution as a tool for efficiency, increased engagement and growth will only increase, not decrease with time. Businesses positioned to serve a more technology savvy customer while offering greater convenience and flexibility will continue to be more valuable and more viable long term.
As a business owner considers their exit strategy and the steps necessary to maximize the value of their business when that time comes, e-commerce solutions will play an increasingly important role. The past 12 months has shown the fragility of in-person business and accelerated the shift to online business. Businesses that have utilized technology to increase accessibility and bridge generational gaps will considered more valuable and more desirable to buyers.