The Future of Business Technology
By Chris Kersting
It’s exciting to see the progress industry investments in business technology have yielded in the last decade. For example, we’ve seen additive manufacturing and computer-aided design dramatically reducing product development iterations, speeding up time to market and saving time and money.
We’re seeing another, even bigger game changer when it comes to sales and marketing: development of product data as a key solution to growing business in an era when consumers are relying on e-commerce like never before.
Product information can now be seamlessly delivered to distribution channels, growing sales opportunities and providing a competitive advantage for manufacturers. As a result, data excellence—clean and accurate standardized product information that is rich in detail—has become an increasingly valuable business asset.
Enabling this kind of industry advancement has been the goal of the SEMA Data team since the original member program was launched in 2012. Since then, SEMA Data has evolved to encompass more than just providing a standardized storehouse for manufacturer product information. It now offers tools and services that empower more rapid transactions, opening up ever-broader distribution options for manufacturers and providing a valuable resource for a growing list of retailers looking to add to their businesses.
This is great progress, but the pace of technology has accelerated, and our industry never stands still. As we look ahead, we can foresee recent initiatives from the SEMA Data team that may well change our ways of working in the future.
One challenging long-term goal is to create a searchable, web-based auto parts showcase. The concept might best be understood when compared to the SEMA Show New Products Showcase—a key asset when it comes to discovering new products at the Show. Now imagine a virtual New Products Showcase that is populated with the industry’s best innovations, is open 24/7 and is accessible to enthusiast consumers and industry resellers alike. It could be called the SEMA Data Marketplace.
In time, the SEMA Data Marketplace will become a key destination for aftermarket parts and will be a destination enthusiasts can explore for new ideas. Retailers will use the SEMA Data Marketplace to stay current on industry advancements and identify new products that will enhance their sales. Manufacturers will be able to feed in new-product announcements and gain immediate worldwide exposure.
Developing a searchable electronic New Products Showcase will be easier said than done, of course. The trick will be to figure out how to “normalize” product data so that minor differences in industry categories and terms don’t trip up computer searches or confuse enthusiasts in their journey to finding the products that interest them. At the 2021 SEMA Show, the SEMA Data team held a user group session that demonstrated how it intends to address that challenge.
Another SEMA Data advancement is the development of application programming interfaces (APIs) and plug-in tools that facilitate automated, rapid data transmission to retailers. Retail sites building on the WooCommerce and Shopify platforms already have taken advantage of SEMA Data plug-in tools, greatly increasing data download ease and speed. A new plug-in will be available soon for another high-usage platform called BigCommerce. Visit www.SEMAdata.org to access these tools and stay current with the latest developments.
It’s been inspiring to look back and see how far we’ve come and recognize progress made on many fronts, but there are still plenty of big ideas that will move the industry forward and create new opportunities. Looking ahead to the next decade, we can foresee that the pace of business will keep accelerating, that access to broader markets will increase, and that consumers will continue to tap into web-based sources in search of ever-more-detailed product information. It’s exciting to think about how companies will embrace technology in the future and how we can make smart investments to realize that potential.