“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
During a recent family vacation to the island of Manhattan, we marched into the world’s famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum on 42nd Street. As we strolled through floors and floors of perfect renditions of famous people and celebrities, I kept egging my kids to be wowed by all the rock stars they have there; my secret agenda was just to show their Dad’s cool factor quotient. So, I would say things like: “Hey guys far out, that’s Ozzy Osborne”; “OMG Mick Jagger looks soooo young!” “No, Really? Is that the Beatles in Sergeant Pepper uniforms!” The kids were psyched and I was happy introspecting that years of indoctrination into all things Rock and Roll were percolating nicely into their young brains.
As we moved to the next exhibit hall, there were two wax guys with glasses wearing sweaters and turtlenecks, which not too many people paid much fanfare to at all. My 11-year-old daughter, asked “Who are they, Papi?” My swift geeky answer: “Oh, That’s Steve and Bill, you know the guys that created Apple and Microsoft.” My daughter’s dropped jaw was a thing of beauty. “Really, Papi? I love PowerPoint and iPhones. These guys are awesome.” Next thing you now, we were taking pictures with their statues. Sorry John, Paul, George and Ringo there has been a revolution after all.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are vivid representations of what innovation is all about and the tech revolution we have been teleported through. The mere mention of their names invokes awe of all things tech. There has been a lot of press lately about innovation and a book written by Gary Shapiro called “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.” I don’t really know much about Mr. Shapiro or his book, but it seems to me that he might know a thing or two about what’s being done right know that’s innovative, as he happens to be the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.
These are the folks who put together the CES International show in Las Vegas. That’s right, he is the CEO of the CEA and does the CES (ahh-cronyms!). That show is bigger that our industry’s gargantuan AAPEX show; so maybe Shapiro does know a thing or two about technology and innovation, or at least he is exposed to a whole lot of it.
Shapiro has come up with an intriguing idea to promote his views on innovation (and as a marketer, I’m sure this helps sells his book as well). In true American fashion, he has created website to promote what he calls “The Declaration of Innovation.” It’s an online pledge where you can add your voice to encourage Washington to support policies that ensure innovation remains the strategic advantage of the United States of America. In a nice parallel to our other famous declaration and as their website distinctly recaps: We the people, hold these truth to be self-evident:
Innovation drives economic success.
Innovation creates new jobs, markets and industries.
Innovation will move us forward as a nation.
Take a look at www.declareinnovation.com and exercise your free will right to add your John Hancock to it, or not. Isn’t democracy great?
There is clearly a political agenda here that is important to some; but, is not the focus on my thinking today. I thank Shapiro (and Bill and Steve for that matter) for making me think about innovation in our industry today. No doubt, adding eCommerce platforms to our business models wholesaling auto parts has brought true innovation to our industry by increasing our capacity and leveraging our distribution assets. The same can be said about ecatalogs and standards like ACES and PIES. Today, many newcomers to our industry quickly grow into outstanding counterpersons with the e-tools available to them. No more Microfiches like so many of us had to plow through way back when.
Funny thing about innovation though it ends quickly. So, what’s next for us in the business of selling auto parts? Are there any innovative ideas out there? We seem to be in somewhat of an innovation lull in our business at this time. But we do see some interesting ideas looming in the near future for us. I do get excited about what’s coming for us in the area of social media, mobile technology and daily sale sites. Facebook has reached its 750 million monthly users milestone while Google tries once again to become relevant in the social media arena with its recent launch of Google+. There are more mobile phones and tablets in our customers’ hands today than PCs and computers in their stores and shops. And new companies like Groupon and Living Social have turn the business of marketing coupons and promoting local offers upside down in merely months.
Is our industry poised to jump in and play ball in these three new arenas? There have been some forays into social and mobile that seem to be creating new revenue streams; but, nothing ground-breaking yet. I have to sadly report that I have yet to see my first automotive-related Groupon offer yet.
Social, mobile and daily ecoupons: are “We The People of the Auto Parts” ready to innovate in these areas?
Mandy Aguilar is a regional vice president for Jacksonville, Fla.-based The Parts House. Visit his blog at www.mandyaguilar.com