By aftermarketNews staff
This AMN Executive Interview features Walter Scott, VP of eCommerce and eServices for Advance Auto Parts. In the interview, Scott discusses the company's "Creating Customers for Life" initiative focusing on the commercial market, along with the roll-out of the new Advance eServices, Driverside and Motologic. Scott also talks about the company's commercial market share today and where he thinks aftermarket e-tailing is headed.
Late last year, Advance kicked off a new training and business growth initiative for commercial customers, called "Creating Customers For Life." The program involves on site training events across the country. Tell us why the company is putting such a hands-on effort into helping commercial customers.
Advance Auto Parts Professional is committed to being a partner with our commercial customers on every level we want to help commercial customers grow their businesses and to provide them with the tools and training they need to best serve their customers. We accomplish that by providing quality and affordable parts and services, best-in-class customer training and partnering with our customers to provide business solutions for their specific needs.
In fact, we recently hosted our Customer Council an opportunity for key Advance team members and commercial customers to bounce ideas off one another in roundtable sessions and strategically plan for the upcoming years. We are convinced that a hands-on approach is the best avenue to grow our presence in the commercial space and continue to deliver upon our promise of "Service is our best part."
How much of Advance's business comes from the commercial side today?
Today, 38 percent of Advance's business is focused in the commercial sector. Continued long-term growth of the commercial business is our No. 1 growth emphasis. Each year, we continue to make serious investments in commercial. In the past year, Advance launched our in-house commercial credit program, opened new regional distribution centers and entered the market in the boroughs of New York with the acquisition of BWP. During 2013, Advance plans to open 170 to 190 new stores, ensuring we can deliver even faster on the quality brands and products our customers need. And with our expanded eServices offerings, Advance is able to do business with national and international markets where we may not yet have store locations.
A central focus of these training events included demos and introductions of the new Advance eServices MotoLogic and DriverSide. Give us a brief rundown of these two new offerings.
MotoLogic is a best-in-class repair and diagnostic service. Fully searchable, based on virtually any criteria (sight, sound, smell, diagnostic code and more), MotoLogic delivers fast results with detailed OEM service information, clickable and color-coded OEM wiring diagrams, service bulletins, diagnostic flowcharts, owner's manuals and more.
DriverSide is an innovative marketing program to help shops drive more business. Tools allow shops to create websites, targeted emails, coupons and more all custom tailored to their business. Customer data allows shops to send targeted emails to customers about service and recall announcements, plus standard maintenance reminders to strengthen customer retention.
You just recently announced expanded coverage for MotoLogic. What does the increased coverage entail?
It's two things. First, our eServices development team is regularly adding new manufacturers to MotoLogic. We launched last April with the "Big Six" manufacturers (Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan), followed by adding VW, Audi, Mazda, and most recently Smart and Mercedes. Our development team uses technology allowing the information in MotoLogic.com to be displayed without any human editing and [it comes] direct from the manufacturer, making the info 100 percent OE. This process also allows us to preserve hyperlinks throughout the articles found in MotoLogic as well as enhances the quality of the OE images. It's this technology that makes the information in MotoLogic unique, while also presenting quite the development feat with each new manufacturer added.
The second coverage increase came with the addition of an older model vehicle library. MotoLogic now offers services information for vehicles as far back as the 1950s.
And finally, we've also introduced an automotive support staff, which offers training support and a fax-back service for the remaining 6 percent of manufacturers not in MotoLogic today.
With these two products being relatively new, what kind of feedback are you getting in the marketplace and how are you using it to refine the products?
The feedback has been positive and exciting as we've gained exposure in the industry. The innovative features that MotoLogic brings to a shop have been well-received, and even recognized with multiple awards since last October. Advance strives to be innovative, and more importantly, we strive to develop and refine current products to provide solutions to existing challenges faced by shop owners and technicians. It's a significant part of Advance's commercial growth strategy and continues to drive product development.
Coming from an eCommerce background, what are your thoughts on e-tailing in the aftermaket today? Many have concerns about its impact on bricks and mortar stores. What's your take can the two peacefully co-exist long-term? Do they (online e-commerce and bricks and mortar stores need each other in some way?
All the data we see shows that customers are increasingly relying on the web to find the parts they need. Initially, the industry had seen slower e-commerce penetration than other industries, but those trends are changing quickly. The interesting difference for the aftermarket is that when customers are looking for a part online, they typically still need the part very quickly. From Advance's perspective, our network of stores, along with our commercial and real e-commerce sites, give the customers the best of both the online and store worlds. The growth of our sites suggests we have made it easy for our customers to find quality parts at a great value in the timeframe they need.