“Do It With Me”
How the SEMA Data Co-op Can Take the Hassle Out of Data Management and Streamline Manufacturer Operations
Created in 2012 to help members adapt to the rapidly evolving automotive marketplace, the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) provides a full range of services, including “Do It With Me,” which allows members to have their product data tailored in any format to meet their particular requirements.
For SEMA members, the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) is an indispensable resource for product data management and delivery. Not only is the SDC the largest aftermarket industry database—representing nearly 500 brands boasting more than 4.5 million parts—but its unique approach to data management and file transfer can make data exports available in whatever format a given member requires. Whether the need is for complete PIES and ACES XML files or a custom-designed spreadsheet, SDC can provide it.
For manufacturers, maintaining and regularly updating a high-quality data set is a crucial component of effective product communications. Incomplete, outdated or inaccurate data makes products more difficult to find online and increases the likelihood of costly returns and greater customer dissatisfaction. The SDC is an important ally in streamlining data-management processes to help generate sales, improve product delivery times, and streamline business operations overall.
“As a manufacturer, we would see our products listed all over the internet with incorrect info,” recalled Trevor Miller, senior account manager at Fastway Trailer. “Part numbers not matching descriptions, outdated info, old images, obsolete parts—this was a headache for our customer service team. SDC has been a great resource for us to control our content better, which has resulted in less confusion from our customers.”
Gigi Ho, SEMA Data Co-op director of operations, stressed the importance of accurate, up-to-date product data to drive sales.
“In this age, everything starts on the internet in terms of product acquisition,” she noted. “Research for parts begins 98% of the time online, and the only way customers can get information correctly in their research is by product data provided by the manufacturers. The consumer may eventually make the purchase at a traditional brick-and-mortar outlet, but the initial search almost always begins online.”
Each year at the SEMA Show, the SDC hosts educational sessions that can help attendees set up and manage their product data; learn how to export data in ACES, PIES or Excel formats; understand the SDC’s brand scorecard; and work efficiently in the SDC’s Product Information Management system, among other useful subjects.
Problems can arise for manufacturers that are unfamiliar with building and maintaining a content-rich product database. Given the complexity and cost in man-hours involved, many manufacturers—and smaller companies and startups in particular—can benefit from assistance in setting up and distributing their databases, updating product entries or onboarding content. To that end, the SDC’s “Do-It-With-Me” (DIWM) Data Service can assist members with any step in the data management process, whether it’s starting an online database from scratch or refining existing content to improve quality, accuracy and/or speed to market. Manufacturers can utilize SDC’s Product Information Management (PIM) system to continually monitor data quality, and SDC’s Direct Connect and Smart Content features can help to automate the data-loading process to save time and avoid redundancies.
To illustrate the procedures, Ho walked a prospective SDC member-manufacturer through the DIWM process: “Sign on with us. We’ll hold a kickoff call with our data team, and they’ll review with you the product information that you have in whatever format you currently have it—spreadsheets, images, your product and application information and so forth. “
Then the SDC data team will, Ho said, “template out the data and review it with you to see if it is correct. Once reviewed, we’ll load it into the PIM system, at which point it’s live to the industry. We announce it as an available product line at the SDC through our reseller network and also in our newsletter. If your product line is of interest to them, they’ll make a request to access your data. You’ll review who they are and approve the request. The resellers can then get your data transferred in the format they need in the time that they need it.”
That last remark is key, because the ability to receive data in a variety of formats is crucial in the internet age, as Ho explained.
“Years ago, it used to be, ‘We just need the standardized ACES and PIES data,’” she said.
“But now, as search-engine optimization and keywording become more important, the uniqueness of the data for the reseller and jobber becomes even more crucial, so now manufacturers need to review how to better augment their basic product descriptions and how to make that information more easily searchable and presentable online.”
Ho additionally pointed out the advantage of online marketing over older communications tools that many manufacturers have traditionally relied on.
Manufacturers—and smaller, less-well-known companies in particular—can utilize SDC’s DIWM services to build brand awareness in the marketplace via SDC’s “net change” feature, which notifies resellers whenever a manufacturer/supplier’s data is updated.
“Catalogs cost money and printing costs money,” she said. “But it doesn’t cost very much to send a few gigabytes of data over the internet, and there are some things that you can display online—such as video and 360-degree product views—that you can’t transmit in a paper catalog. The online platform is the sales tool for manufacturers today. It’s their ‘silent salesperson’ who’s always awake.”
The number of companies joining the SEMA Data Co-op has ramped up in recent months as more members of the industry—and resellers in particular—become aware of the advantages that membership conveys.
“The improvement of data completeness and quality has increased, and that has attracted more resellers wanting that data,” she said. “The increased interest of resellers in turn attracts more manufacturers who want to take advantage of our service.”
Besides the convenience afforded by the DIWM service, SDC 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 the SDC’s permissions-based export protocol ensures that manufacturer data is shared only 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. It can also help smaller, less-well-known manufacturers build greater brand awareness with resellers.
- The SDC is a one-stop source for all manufacturer product information, new-product announcements, digital assets, fitment info and more. This can optimize manufacturer product communications and eliminate guesswork on the part of resellers and consumers alike.
- Using the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum scales, the SDC can show exactly where a data set is rated. 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.
As the online marketplace continues to evolve, the SDC’s data scorecard will likewise adapt to the shifting requirements of the market. To that end, rating levels will be recalibrated within the next year “that more closely match the feedback we’re getting from buyers and resellers,” Ho said. “The scorecard is evolving in a way that moves in accordance with what the market demands, and our PIM system will evolve to reflect those changes.”
For more information on the SEMA Data Co-op and its range of services, visit www.semadatacoop.org.