Spring Sales Ramp-Up: Are You Ready for the Season?

SEMA News—March 2014

BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY
By Jon Wyly

Spring Sales Ramp-Up: Are You Ready for the Season?

Jon WylyWith the spring selling season gaining momentum, now is the time to be thinking about how to get your share of sales in the months ahead. Economic forecasts look promising in many areas, meaning we could be looking at some strong signs of normalcy coming to the marketplace after a seven-year drought! With that positive swing, however, will come more aggressive competition than ever. Businesses that have struggled to keep inventory available will be filling the shelves, and competitors will regain market position and confidence as their business kicks in.

So how do you stake your claim early and keep that competitive edge? It’s back to the basics, with strong inventory availability, great customer service, multifaceted marketing and a competitive position on price.

Let’s focus on the first one, inventory. Today, inventory availability means much more than what is (or isn’t) sitting on your shelves. For brick-and-mortar retailers, carefully managed physical inventory that creates visual appeal and meets customer’s expectations has never been more important. But to compete in today’s “information overload” world, it’s what is deeper that often makes the difference between making the sale and losing it to someone else. Now when I say deeper, I’m talking about depth of parts availability through the powerful combination of great product information backed up by great fulfillment partners. So what does your “virtual” inventory look like? The point is, if you don’t have it on the shelf, you darn sure better have it in your catalog!

Internet resellers bought into that idea from the very start—in some cases to their detriment. “Throw it all out there and see what sticks,” they said. But the ugly reality behind the scenes was that only 10% to 20% of the parts being offered were really “in the catalog” in many cases, meaning they actually had good enough product data and images to capably represent the product. The other umpteen-thousand parts were just taking up space and disappointing customers with such a lack of detail that they couldn’t comfortably make buying decisions at all. Then there’s the question of whether product pages with poor content actually hurt the image and reputation of a website. Make no mistake, they are figuring it out and, in fact, are some of the most powerful drivers in promoting the development of good product data, but there is a long way yet to go.

This is where the never-ending challenge of having a level playing field between brick-and-mortar and web resellers comes together with respect to product availability. Data. Yep, you knew I was going to bring it up again, and here it is. Think about it: If every manufacturer out there had a good, complete data set available, doesn’t that make everyone equally capable of fulfilling a customer’s need for information? Doesn’t it stand to reason that the guys with the information have a better chance of making the sale? Why do you think more than 50% of performance and accessory parts buyers do their research on the Internet? Information! Sure, there’s always the price factor, but chances are the brick-and-mortar guy and the web guy are getting the part from the same place!

There’s a key point here for you manufacturers (suppliers) as well: Great data sells more parts!

It sells more parts on the web, and it sells more parts in the store. Don’t waste another minute thinking about getting your data in order—just do it! Your quality data set spreads accurate product information across the marketplace, giving your brand a leg up over the competition, creating brand awareness and helping all of your resellers—both brick-and-mortar and web—to succeed.

To learn more about how you can take control of your product data and manage it at the lowest possible cost, contact SEMA Data Co-op Director of Membership Jim Graven via e-mail at jimg@semadatacoop.org or by phone at 888-958-6698 x4.

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