In today’s digital world, it’s no longer a stretch to say the long-term success of any independent aftermarket distribution business will be defined by its online presence.
While it’s unlikely customers will completely abandon conventional purchasing habits such as phone calls or walk-in purchases, it’s no longer prudent for distributors to invest exclusively in those touch points at the expense of e-commerce. Customer buying trends in all industries are changing and the aftermarket is no different.
But as nerve-wracking as that may sound, Ram “Chandra” ChandraSekar says it also offers independent aftermarket distributors a tremendous opportunity. E-commerce in the aftermarket is a new frontier. Few distributors have entered it and even fewer are thriving.
Chandra says that means there’s an opening in the front of the pack.
During his workshop presentation “Defining the Heavy-Duty Aftermarket Experience” Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW), Chandra says he plans to showcase the possibilities that exist for distributors who seize the chance to revolutionize the aftermarket and lead the industry into the digital age.
“There is a transformative opportunity out there if you take the lead,” he says.
Chandra says digital leadership for distributors is far more than just e-commerce. It’s about leveraging available technology to develop tools customers can rely on and want to use.
That last word is important, he adds, because in the digitalization age, it is the user that distributors need to reach.
“I believe there is confusion in this industry about the difference between a customer and a user,” he says. “Amazon doesn’t care about the customer. They might not even know much about the customer. They care about the user.”
Chandra says what he means by that is Amazon’s primary focus isn’t on understanding why a customer chooses to search for a book, an appliance or a heavy-duty vehicle part. The company may know some of that information if the customer is a regular user but discovering more of that information is not the e-retailer’s priority. Instead, Chandra says Amazon wants to ensure that regardless of how a customer comes to its website, that once they arrive, they have a pleasant experience and are able to quickly and easily find the information they need.
And that information is likely more than price. Users also want to know features, available quantities, shipping information, related products and more. Chandra says technology exists today that can enable distributors to provide that information to customers and he believes the first distributors (and suppliers) who properly implement that technology will take over the marketplace.
He references a recent meeting he had with a fleet operator, saying “I asked them what their No. 1 problem was in delivering to customers on time. They said, ‘If we place an order today, we have no clue afterward if that order was confirmed, what the order number is, what our delivery date will be,’” Chandra says. “They want real-time answers and they’re not getting them.”
This is the fourth of seven presenter previews for HDAW 2019. Please check later this week for more information about each HDAW workshop presenter. Previous HDAW 2019 preview articles are available HERE.