SEMA News—November 2020


The SEMA Data Co-op’s Data Excellence Awards

Four Ways to Optimize Your Product Data Set

By Douglas McColloch

Hosting a data depository of 500 companies boasting more than 4.5 million parts, the SEMA Data Co-op can provide resellers with “one-stop shopping” for the latest new-product and fitment information.

For SEMA members, the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) is a valuable asset for product data creation and management. Not only is the SDC the largest aftermarket industry data resource—it represents more than 500 brands with a collective inventory of more than 4.5 million parts—but also its unique approach to data management and file transfer can make exports available in any format a member requires. Whether the need is for complete PIES and ACES XML files or a custom-designed spreadsheet, the SDC can provide it.

For manufacturers, maintaining and regularly updating a high-quality data set is crucial to communicating effectively with resellers, helping streamline operations and maximizing sales. Incomplete or inaccurate data can create inefficiencies, making products more difficult to find and increasing the likelihood of customer dissatisfaction.

Even if your current product data is accurate, however, it can become outdated if not frequently reviewed and revised—and, in many instances, replaced altogether with data created in newer, richer file formats. Earlier this year, the SDC released a new member “scorecard” with recommended data improvements for SDC members to maintain their respective product-data rankings (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum). Many companies answered the call, and SEMA is recognizing them this month with the SDC Data Excellence Awards, which honor the companies that have worked with SDC over the year to recreate and relaunch industry-leading product data sets. (See p. 102 in this issue for the complete roster of 2020 SDC Data Excellence Award recipients and their company descriptions.)

We recently spoke with Gigi Ho, SEMA Data Co-op vice president of operations, to learn more about the Data Excellence Awards and to discuss other SDC initiatives in the works for 2021 and beyond. What follows has been edited for space and clarity.

SEMA News: Since the SEMA Show has been cancelled for 2020, what are some of the things the SDC has in the works for the next few months that you might have announced during the Show but that you’d like to share with our members now?

Gigi Ho: The feedback from our manufacturer members is that getting their data to resellers is an important aspect of the SDC, helping them communicate the products and fitments that they have available to the larger industry. What we’re still working on and will soon be releasing is a new Export Manager for our reseller members.

Over the last eight months, we’ve increased our reseller membership in terms of participants by 20% over last year. That’s a pretty significant rise in usage. That number has really grown in the last four or five months, which is reflective of everyone staying at home and shopping online during the pandemic. People are doing more and more online research than ever, and that has increased the interest of resellers to get data online to facilitate sales.

The new Export Manager allows resellers a lot of control around how they want that information exported to them—whether it’s to feed a website, to feed a point-of-sale system, or simply to hand over to their merchandisers and category managers so that they can have a quick view
of what’s available for each brand.

SN: We’ve heard that some resellers were having difficulty accessing some of the data as it currently existed. Is the new Export Manager meant to address some of those issues? How did it come into being?

GH: In February of this year, we released a new V2 scorecard with new criteria for the SDC, and there were instances where a manufacturer might have been ranked highly but was now missing information—often, important information. We scored all 500 brands in our system, and many of them dropped down one if not two levels from their current standings based on these new scoring criteria. Since then, the brands have worked really hard to improve their standings—getting descriptions together, getting assets together, getting the information that they need—and there aren’t a lot of shortcuts they can take.

The SDC Data Excellence Award recognizes those manufacturers and brands who have stepped up their game, realized that they were “kicked down” but worked themselves back up to meet the needs of their customers. We wanted to recognize that as a group, there is more consistency around what we can expect of product information.

SN: What role have resellers played in the creation and implementation of the new system?

GH: We went through a two-month interview process and a lengthy UX design review process with a handful of our resellers who have been outspoken in the past about utilizing our system. We got their buy-in with regard to how they can navigate these new interfaces and get the product information in the format they need.

SN: What criteria determine a Data Excellence Award winner? How much data—and what kinds specifically—do manufacturers need to have accessible for resellers if they want to optimize their data set?

GH: The biggest chunk of the score comes from product descriptions. We need descriptions that matter to resellers and their customers, so questions companies need to ask include: Are your descriptions detailing your products effectively? Are you listing all the key points of that product information within your descriptions?

The second criterion is features and benefits. It’s a description type, but more of a short-form presentation.

A third criterion is product attributes. These are the finer points, especially if you’re talking about things that have specific sizing or material matters. So product attributes become a huge aspect of the scoring.

Finally, because we’re in 2020, digital assets are a huge matter in the data scoring. Nowadays, you need more than one image of a product and multiple angles of that product, especially if there are connection points, which will require their own images or videos. These could be either lifestyle-type videos or instructional or demo-type videos.

Another thing that’s crucial is that images are not pixilated when a consumer clicks on them, so they can get the best view of that product. The more complicated the part is, and the more attachment points that it has with other parts, the more high-resolution images you need. But video is becoming the most vital aspect of the data set that you need to provide.

SN: How has the COVID-19 disruption affected consumers’ buying habits, and how in turn does that impact the need for companies to continue to optimize their product data?

GH: Even if people are buying in-store again, they’re researching online first. The number used to be 80%, but honestly, something like 98% of consumer product researches start online now. They say it takes something like 16 weeks for a habit to form—and we are well past 16 weeks at this point. When the pandemic started, there might have been a little hesitancy, but maybe a month later, everyone was shopping online.

Prior to COVID-19, the conventional wisdom was that people might conduct online research but didn’t really buy online. Well, that’s not happening anymore. That habit has completely flipped on its head, and even if everything opens back up and people are able to go into retail stores, the number of people who are comfortable with buying online will be higher than before. That’s where product data comes in—and product data drives sales.

SN: Are there any additional product-data initiatives under consideration for 2021?

GH: An important aspect for manufacturers, which SDC managers don’t yet have worked into the database but which we will work with partners who can help us get there, is handling inventory—knowing your current inventory levels to feed to your customers.

Having an inventory feed is a critical aspect of your product data. We provide the product information as mentioned before, with attributes and digital assets and descriptions and such. But people can’t buy if they don’t know what’s in your inventory, and if they don’t know that you have it, they will go with someone that they do know has it for sale. So inventory and availability of product is a huge factor in maintaining that—especially for 2021.

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