SEMA Data Co-op: Past, Present and Our Vision for the Future

SEMA News—December 2015

CHRIS KERSTING

SEMA Data Co-op: Past, Present and Our Vision for the Future

  Chris Kersting
   

The idea of an industry-owned product-information data repository, run like a utility company for the benefit of the industry, was a topic of discussion at SEMA for many years.

Then, as web searches increasingly became a driving factor behind sales growth, the need for high-quality product data to power wholesale, retail and web-based business systems became more obvious. And the benefits to specialty parts manufacturers—improving speed to market and providing information capable of driving consumer purchase decisions—became “must-have” capabilities linked to success in the marketplace.

By 2012, the idea had been shaped into a firm plan, with a budget and clearly defined goals, and the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) was launched.

Fast-forward to today, and we can say that a number of initial objectives have been achieved. Industry-standardized data management, storage and distribution capabilities at SDC have been developed and are operating to serve the industry. The database currently includes more than 400 brands representing more than four million parts and is the industry’s largest automotive specialty parts data repository.

In fact, the SDC’s steady growth of both suppliers and receivers has achieved critical mass. As receivers (resellers and retailers) download product information to populate retail marketing outlets, manufacturers (data suppliers) are now beginning to see real returns on the investments they made in organizing and upgrading their product data sets. True, tracking marketing results can be a bit mysterious, but members are reporting that the gains are real, and the cost to increase sales is affordable.

We’re also seeing the industry recognize the benefit of improved data quality. More suppliers are racing to upgrade by adding images and video and including more data fields useful to receivers. More than 400 upgrades—which we call “data steps” through the SDC-defined Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels—have been made so far by suppliers. Data quality and completeness for more suppliers is getting to optimal levels. (Our index of these data innovators is published quarterly in SEMA News, with the next edition to appear in the January issue. If your company is not on the list, you should talk with the SDC team about how they can help you get organized.)

Meanwhile, the SDC team of developers has made great strides in leveraging the rich data store that the repository now holds. The latest is SEMA Search, a highly focused search engine that accesses the SDC database to provide precise product information for a specific year, make and model. This allows salespeople to share an understanding of what parts are available, with customers using the latest available information, and provide more options to make a sale.

SEMA Search is free and Internet-based, without the need for special software. It provides ready access to the largest automotive product database in
the industry.

In the future, we can expect that SEMA Search will become a heavily trafficked resource that will be used by our industry as an electronic catalog, making it easer for anyone in the world to learn more about specialty parts for any particular vehicle.

An important element of the long-term SDC plan is industry ownership. The SDC is owned and operated by SEMA, and as such, it is an industry-owned enterprise. The SDC has a board comprised of individuals from SEMA-member companies and is overseen by the SEMA Board of Directors.

The SDC operates to help advance the industry in the marketplace. Regular monitoring, analysis and adjustments to the business plan are part of the process that allows the SDC to provide tremendous value to the members. The SDC helps companies individually, but it also assures that the industry as a whole will remain viable and competitive in a world where consumers look online for information about the products they aim to purchase. So far the approach has been a tremendous success, and we are looking forward to even more of the industry taking advantage of this resource in the future.

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