Anyone attending AAPEX in Las Vegas was sure to hear one word repeated many, many times. And its importance can’t be overstated.
Data, data, data.
Data is certainly important to the counterpro in his or her everyday working life. It comes down to this: The better the data that manufacturers provide to those who distribute catalog information, the easier it is to do your job. Good parts info means fewer returns, fewer errors, more satisfied customers and profit and loss statements that don’t jump up and down like a yo-yo.
Stalwart paper catalog users have said for years paper was better because it had more detailed information. In many cases, those days are over. If you were working on a green-screen system a while back, there were no helpful diagrams to assist partspros. And so paper ruled.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should note this column is not about the well-worn topic of paper versus computer catalogs. We can duke that out some other time.
If you’ve ever been frustrated looking up parts information and think it was due to bad data, you’re not alone. But rest assured, there are plenty of people out there, like members of the National Catalog Manager’s Association, working to make sure the data is good. There are plenty of reasons to do so, including the fact that accurate catalog information leads to reduced costs, more efficient operations and more products and parts sold. Let’s face it: Bad data is like a bunch of in-laws who have overstayed their welcome.
But hard parts aren’t the only products that require good data. Chemicals and other supplies do, too. In Vegas, John Washbish, CEO of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, addressed members of the Automotive Specialty Products Alliance, and told them this: Provide good, clean data with lots of detail.
Sure “parts” is part of the term “parts store,” but it’s surely not everything they sell. After all, Washbish told the group, about 50 percent of the SKUs the Alliance sells these days cannot be looked up by make, model and year. It was a figure that astounded Washbish, he said.
“Well, how do you look that up?” Washbish asked. “It’s OK if you have a really experienced counterperson. But what if you don’t?” A newbie working the counter without a strong background in non-application products might be stumped without the ability to look it up, he said.
I think Washbish summed it up best with this statement: “We’re all hindered by the lack of selling data.”
“We need robust, standards-based product attribute data,” he said. “Without human interaction, information is king.” For its part, the Alliance has spent near 8,000 hours compiling its own non-application database. “We’ve introduced our S.A.T. catalog, or Supplies, Accessories and Tools,” he said. “This is where your [ASPA members] stuff gets sold. We’ve designed our own online lookup for non-application products.”
“If you’re missing information, you’re missing sales,” he said. “At the counter and on the Internet, customers have no patience for lousy information.”
With a dizzying number of parts being added to catalogs and store and warehouse shelves every week, it’s never been more important to have good, clean data.