Gearing Up For The Online Buying Trend
e-Commerce Fitness Is More Important Than Ever
Millions of American consumers who were sequestered beginning in March spent lots of time online. As specialty-equipment businesses seek to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce is emerging as a lifeline—and the SEMA Data Co-op is helping manufacturers and resellers of all sizes to keep product data flowing to consumers.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic set back the American economy beginning in March, it was encouraging that American consumers spent more time than ever online—an increased habit that’s likely to stick for some time.
“With businesses throughout the aftermarket dealing with interruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the current economic climate is more challenging,” said Gigi Ho, director of operations for the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC). “However, the surge of consumers shopping online also presents an opportunity to mitigate the impact of this downturn for both manufacturers and resellers, and enhanced product data can be a key component in bridging the gap between shutdown and recovery.”
That is exactly the strategy for which the SDC is well designed. The SDC is an industry initiative to help manufacturers create and distribute standardized product data sets to resellers, which in turn helps consumers make informed buying decisions about the products they want or need. In fact, the SDC is the largest aftermarket industry database, incorporating some 500 brands listing more than 5.56 million parts and making data exports available to resellers in virtually any format that’s needed.
Ho said that the SDC always values the role it plays in helping aftermarket businesses succeed and prosper. With those businesses facing various levels of economic stress, the SDC team is working just as diligently to assist them in meeting the challenges.
“We’re continuing with full-force, uninterrupted support to help suppliers and resellers alike with their data-enhancement goals,” Ho said. “For manufacturers, data can convey your brand and message to the market at a time when online shopping and buying activity is up. This means that now is an ideal time to work with your SDC team to add new products or improve your product data. Potential areas for enhancement might include product attributes, vehicle fitment review and coverage, detailed product descriptions, and an upgrade of digital assets where possible.”
Manufacturer Digital Assets
Different companies may have divergent needs, but generally speaking, when manufacturers compile their digital assets, Ho said they should include the following:
Visuals: These can include images, diagrams, charts, videos, audio, schematics, downloadable instructions or a combination thereof. Some basic rules of thumb are:
- Images should be clear and in focus.
- The product must be easily recognizable.
- The images should be high resolution against a solid white background.
- Include views from more than one perspective, such as zoom-in/zoom-out views, front/rear/side views or 360-degree “walk-around” views.
Product Attributes: These are distinct characteristics of a finished product that can help differentiate it from others in its category. These can include information such as:
- Available colors.
- Dimensions (height, weight, thickness, diameter, etc.).
- Materials used.
- Hardware included or excluded.
- Weight or pressure tolerances.
There are doubtless many other attributes that a manufacturer can add, which raises a question of whether there can be too many attributes in a product listing.
“That all depends,” Ho said. “Does the product attribute help to differentiate your product from other products of yours or your competitors? If so, the attribute belongs in your product data. This is where the SDC data team can help you correctly identify attributes for your product
Features and Benefits: Tell your customer, in brief, what function the product feature serves, along with the benefit it confers on the purchaser—that is, how this feature helps them. Why should the customer purchase your product and not a competitor’s similar offering? Here’s where you differentiate your brand from the rest of the field.
Product Descriptions: This is where your product information needs to get truly granular, providing detailed, specific, in-depth descriptions of your product, its functions and attributes, its benefits and requirements. But how much information should you provide?
“Again, different companies and products will have varying needs,” Ho said. “But as a rule, you should provide only as much as is needed to allow resellers to craft their own descriptions without misrepresenting your product. If you sell direct, though, you may want to provide more details so that customers are equipped with all the knowledge they need to make the right decision. Again, the SDC data team can lend guidance here and help expand knowledge of other description options.”
Advice to Resellers
Manufacturers are not the only specialty-equipment businesses that can benefit from SDC membership. Resellers could well find online sales an important channel to help shore up revenues as we move toward the nation’s economic recovery. After all, an online presence obviously broadens a retailer’s geographical reach and opens up a 24/7 sales channel.
While beefing up their online presence, resellers should keep in mind that today’s consumers are increasingly sophisticated with their online searches, checking everything from part numbers and fitments to price and even item availability. Satisfying their thirst for knowledge will give a retailer an edge over the competition. So whether a retailer is strictly brick-and-mortar, e-commerce or a combination of both, the goal should be taking full advantage of the wide range of information and digital assets available from parts suppliers.
“There are many types of resellers who join the SDC, and I wouldn’t say that there’s one specific business model any more than another,” Ho said. “We get a lot of solely e-commerce resellers, a lot of resellers who are marketplace merchants, installers and retailers who also have both an e-commerce and brick-and-mortar shops. You name it, there’s a pretty wide variety. Whatever the nature of their businesses, now is definitely the time to add or refresh data from the SDC.
“Resellers looking to launch online sales or who are looking for an easier way to consume and merchandise the product data from SDC can install the SDC e-commerce plug-ins. The one for WooCommerce is available now, and the one for Shopify will be launching soon. The best part is that reseller membership in the SDC and access to the plug-ins are free.”
Ho pointed out that the SDC can help resellers get an improved sense of the marketplace beyond merely supplying data for e-commerce.
“The SDC has product information—pricing, attributes, ACES and PIES information—for hundreds of brands in multiple formats,” she said. “In other words, everything you might need for a robust website or simply to increase your own product knowledge is readily accessible.”
For many businesses, the road to recovery will be paved with hard work, and adding and improving product data will be no exception. Some tasks may require advanced knowledge and skills that can take time to learn. For resellers, especially, a solid knowledge of what ACES and PIES can provide will be key.
“Aftermarket data can get complex, so knowing its ins and outs can make a difference in selling products,” Ho observed.
Fortunately, this is where the SDC and its experts can help, providing member companies—and companies with limited IT resources in particular—with the data-building and management tools they need to stay competitive. For both manufacturers and resellers, the SDC makes one-on-one training available, so regardless of the size or type of your business, there’s no reason not to seize this moment and review your data options. Doing so could make a real difference at this critical juncture.