Auto Service World
News   May 6, 2022   by Adam Malik

Why these experts want you think more about e-commerce

From left, Mike Mohler with The Group, Jon Stanley of Bridgestone Americas, Susan Starnes from NAPA and Barry Neal of Roland Berger take part in a panel discussion at AASA Vision 2022

Whether you’re ready for it or not, e-commerce business is here — and here to stay — in the automotive aftermarket, according to an industry executive.

Even worse, some may not even realize it’s here, observed Mike Mohler, executive vice president and chief purchasing officer with The Automotive Parts Services Group (commonly referred to as The Group).

“I want to raise the collective consciousness here around e-commerce,” he said during the recent Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association Vision Conference in Detroit.

And, he added, it’s going to change a lot of the existing infrastructure that exists in the automotive aftermarket.

“For example, if we don’t take a very hard look at our ability to change the very nature in which we sell brand equity, sell premium products versus lower placed products; if we don’t learn how to do that with our vendors and our digital marketing and our data and all the things that will appeal to our now-disembodied customers — because they’re online 50 per cent of the time — and then ordering without any communication, the differentiator becomes what? It becomes five screens on the shop’s desktop [and comparing], ‘Who can give me that Tier 1 product at the least cost?’ And that’s the last thing that we want,” he said.

Mohler was speaking as part of a panel alongside Susan Starnes, vice president of emerging markets at NAPA, and Jon Stanley, executive director of B2B and strategy in the consumer tire division at Bridgestone Americas. Barry Neal, senior partner at Roland Berger moderated the discussion.

If the choice comes down to price, then automotive parts are just another commodity in the eyes of the customer.

“If we don’t get our arms around the potential for commoditization, if we don’t figure out how to digitally market ourselves, if we don’t figure that out, welcome to 100 per cent commoditization of everything we do. That’s my opinion,” he said.

During another session at the conference, Brent Berman, vice president of repair products at First Brands Group noted the appetite for e-commerce most definitely exists and is already there. After all, when a shop connects to their local jobber through their computer, chooses the parts they need and has it all delivered to them, that’s e-commerce. It has existed for some time.

“I think the habits are definitely there. I think they might already be there more than you think,” he said during his session E-tailing: Growth Beyond the Pandemic.

Another key question on Mohler’s mind was how the industry can translate its message of being premium providers of premium products and bring that to the marketplace. “And then how does that transfer into our ability to really speak without our voices?” Mohler asked.

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