SEMA Data: A New Approach to Data Management
Building a Digital Pipeline to Empower Member Companies
By Douglas McColloch
For manufacturers and suppliers, maintaining and regularly updating a high-quality dataset is crucial for communicating effectively with resellers to help streamline operations and maximize sales opportunities. For resellers and retailers, having access to the latest manufacturer data is essential to effectively track and update in-store product offerings. Incomplete or inaccurate data can create inefficiencies, making products more difficult to find and increasing the likelihood of customer dissatisfaction.
As time has passed, the need for ever richer, more robust datasets becomes more crucial for businesses, and the greater the need of SEMA-member companies—from the smallest speed shop to the biggest multi-state retailer—to receive those datasets in easily accessible formats to be able to market products to customers. For those companies in the aftermarket that lack the technical or logistical means to build and maintain a deliverable product database, hands-on technical support has never been more crucial. This is where SEMA can be of assistance with SEMA Data, its rebranded data management and distribution service.
We recently spoke with Gigi Ho, SEMA Data vice president of operations, to learn more about the latest changes to the organization, and to discuss SEMA Data initiatives that are currently in the works. What follows has been edited for clarity and length.
SEMA News: Let’s talk about some of the new initiatives that SDC has undertaken for 2021, starting with the rebranding of SEMA Data Co-op. Why make the change?
Gigi Ho: The reason for rebranding from SEMA Data Co-op to SEMA Data is twofold.
The SDC, when it was formed, was really about being a central place where manufacturers could deposit their data—similar to a “green” co-op, where companies drop in their produce to a place where it would be shared or distributed with the industry. In the unfolding years of operation, we realized
there were two things that happened: One was the manufacturers needed help to get the data to the co-op, so that was when we started working with manufacturers to create standardized datasets for them. That changed the whole “co-op” aspect of it.
The second reason—and this is even more important—is that it’s not just about distributing that “grain” out into the industry. We needed to help the industry know what to do with it, and the whole function of our department had morphed into not just a collection or a centralized database or whatever the intention was at the beginning. We are more now a resource of services, a resource of technology, and soon—with the SEMA Data Marketplace—a resource for information as well. Now people don’t come to us just to deposit their data, though that’s still one aspect of what we do. We are now actively helping the industry progress and grow through data, and by dropping the “Co-op” from the title, we wanted people to concentrate on the “Data” aspect of what we do, and also to concentrate on “SEMA Data.”
SN: Why the new emphasis?
GH: This is an industry initiative that was formed by SEMA to perform as a service for the industry, and we are central around data in almost all its forms—that’s the crux of the rebranding. We started this back in January of last year when we started to offer the plug-ins for the e-commerce platforms that are available now to our resellers. At this point we have close to 600 downloads of those plug-ins for companies to power their websites or to power the data feeds into their business systems and into their e-comm platforms. The APIs [application programming interface, a set of specifications used by a software program to query another software program] have been around for a couple of years, and we’re now a real resource to access data the way it was intended.
We’re evolving slowly from print to spreadsheet to XML and, now, to push-and-pull data through APIs—an exchange that will help update business systems more frequently and in a more timely manner. The whole “speed-to-market” aspect will be able to be addressed by live queries to and from our database.
SN: Does this differ from the way SDC’s data was collected and managed previously?
GH: The compilation and management of data is still somewhat manual, though that’s why we purchased PartsHub—to help manufacturers streamline that task, to make it more user-friendly and collaborative, to enable more product and richer content to be managed and delivered to the industry. So the aspect of data management hasn’t changed too much, but it has become easier because of PartsHub.
Then there’s the question of, “What happens to it once [the data] gets into a standardized format—now what?” The industry standards were built for the larger retailers and suit the hard-parts side of the market more than the specialty side, where we have so many companies that are smaller, and their level of technology may not be enough to be able to work with XML files or even to aggregate and manage multiple Excel files from all the brands they carry and sell. So they’re looking for technological tools to help them be better in their businesses, and that’s what we’re evolving into. We have the data to help them power their sales, but we’re also building the pipelines for the members to utilize that power.
SN: Talk a bit about the respective benefits of this evolution to the manufacturer/suppliers, the distributors and the reseller/retailers.
GH: For the manufacturers, PartsHub enables them to be more collaborative, and to provide richer content in an easy-to-use interface. The new resellers’ portal and exports interface that we just rolled out earlier this year is for the distributors and resellers to be able to keep track of the new content that’s coming out and to grab that information. The bigger distributors probably have the sophistication to manage the standardized formats of XML, API calls, etc., and to get that rich content from the manufacturers into their systems.
For the resellers, the ability to utilize the data in their websites and in their systems via the plugins we’ve developed and customized formats helps make it easier to consume and to present that data to their customers.
For SEMA members, the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) has been a valuable asset for product data creation and management. Not only is the Co-op the largest aftermarket industry data resource—representing more than 550 brands with a collective inventory of more than 4.6 million parts with 67 million applications—but its unique approach to data management and file transfer makes exports available in any format a member requires. Whether the need is for complete PIES and ACES XML files, via API access, or a custom-designed spreadsheet, the SDC can provide it.
SEMA DATA Membership: Additional Features and Benefits
In addition to helping to make the most of your company’s product data, SEMA Data membership provides a host of other benefits that can help manufacturers to optimize business operations, including:
- Unlimited exports to approved resellers at no extra cost to the manufacturer—and SEMA Data’s permissions-based export protocol ensures that manufacturer data is only shared with approved resellers.
- Full file refreshes or “net change” updates on a schedule members choose—daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever a supplier makes changes to its product database. This can put buyers and suppliers closer together, and enables greater speed to market.
- SEMA Data is a one-stop source for all manufacturer product information, new-product announcements, digital assets, fitment info and more.
Using the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum scales, SEMA Data can show exactly how a dataset rates, and the required fields to achieve each level are based on feedback from buyers and resellers, so manufacturers can know at a glance what information their client-customers need to maximize sales.
For more information on SEMA Data and its range of services and benefits, visit www.semadata.org.