Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2014   by Auto Service World


I do not mind admitting that large, enterprise-wide initiatives fill me with a combination of fear and some degree of resignation about the necessity of it all.
What has become known as “Big Data” is coming to the aftermarket, and while I fully admit that the prospect of integrating all that you do into a single, powerful resource – from cataloguing to sales to personnel performance to customer profiles and anticipated failure rates of parts in concert with the local vehicle population – is pretty awesome, it is also daunting.
Managing the transition to this type of megalithic data powerhouse across an entire business could tax even the most astute cabal of information-technology professionals. And in an industry like the automotive aftermarket, which only reluctantly adopts even incremental change when it comes to data, it is going to be a struggle that (to be honest) I’m not sure everyone will be up to.
Now if you are a local market jobber, with, say, five stores all in the same general area, you might tell yourself that you have little need for data, beyond the sales and inventory management tools that you already have. You might even tell yourself that you have no need for e-commerce tools, as you have a small storefront and are not really interested in selling much over the counter anyway. And you might tell yourself that since you’re planning on retiring in five years, there won’t be much chance of a payback on your investment.
All valid points, inasmuch as they speak to the present state of affairs. The problem is that your competitors – both from the traditional aftermarket and, absolutely, from the original equipment service sector – cannot be counted on to see things that way.
Case in point: some time ago in a survey of independent garages, one respondent declared bluntly that jobbers have very little idea of how much business they do, figuring “if they get $3,000 a month, they’re doing okay.” The problem with relying only on your own business’s experience is that you can never know what you’re missing.
I would hazard a guess that more than a few Jobber News readers have experienced that sinking feeling when they realize that a customer they thought they were really doing well with, turns out to have been buying a lot of parts, and high-margin parts at that, from someone else.
Or they have rejected the inventory suggestions of a supplier because they “don’t have demand for those kinds of parts or those applications,” only to find out later that the reason they’re not getting calls for those applications is because the market – in other words, their customer base – has learned that they don’t stock them.
And this is where I get to the hardest part of the entire discussion: everyone has to admit that they don’t know as much as they think they know.
The market is increasingly complex, and especially in urban centres like Toronto, there are more and more players entering the market, and new strategies being introduced to win business. It is a guarantee that the original-equipment service market is using data and predictive marketing to get to the consumer, and shops that you consider to be your customers are buying more from them.
It’s become a very big world, a very big data world, and you had better get your entire business on board with that fact. You can’t simply look away and ride it out. It’s coming too fast. And it’s too important to the continued success of your business to ignore – whether you plan on being at the helm or not.
— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

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