What data isn’t being used?

James Vogel, general manager of RigDig, says businesses with proactive leadership are the most accepting of new data sources, while “those who aren’t already using some data from their business are much less likely to use it otherwise.”

But Bryan Funke, senior director, commercial vehicle sales at IHS Automotive, says things are moving in the right direction.

“I can’t think of the last time I talked to an OEM, supplier, aftermarket distributor or dealer who hasn’t asked for help in running a smarter business,” he says. “I think it’s kind of natural progres- sion. We have a lot of smart people in this industry. They all see how much data is available. They can see a better way to use it [in their businesses].”

GRAPHIC: Top 10 inspection violations for the past 24 months 

Vehicle sales and population data provides an excellent place to start. With the wealth of information now available in the trucking industry about fleet utilization, purchasing, duty cycles, maintenance and repair, aftermarket businesses have the ability to proactively hunt for new customers.

“Putting all of that together is what makes our business,” says Vogel. “There’s so much information out there. We have an entire team that integrates it and makes it actionable [for aftermarket businesses].”

Marketing used to be putting up a sign on the nearest highway and hoping for the best. The game has since changed.

Distributors can now access vehicle population data that shows the exact number of vehicles operating within their area, the make, model and year of each truck, who owns them, how they were spec’d during production and their service history, suppliers say. From there, they can dig even deeper and see how many of those customers perform their own maintenance or outsource, the fac- tors surrounding both choices and the parts and service required.

And vehicle performance and inspection data also is available, which allows distributors to identify which CSA violations are most common among a select customer base.

Funke says distributors can then develop marketing campaigns or sales promotions aimed exactly at those cus- tomers and their needs.

“Data allows you to be so much more strategic in nature,” he says. “It’s not just useful for running your business day-to-day, it can help you grow.”

That access to fleet maintenance information also will be a key to data’s proliferation in the aftermarket, says Seeburg.

“We are to the point now where we can start predicting when a truck is going to have an issue based on the data we have on it,” he says. “From the aftermarket side that offers a lot of opportunities.”

While aftermarket businesses don’t have the advantage of accessing fleet telematics, they do have the ability to access aggregated fleet performance data, which they can mesh with customer data from their own service bays.

Once cleaned and organized, Seeburg says the data offers aftermarket facilities the ability to see what component is most likely to fail next, and create a strategy for communicating that information to customers.

“If an aftermarket facility can reach out to a fleet and say, ‘We know when this part is likely to fail. We have the parts available and ready to replace it,’ that’s a great selling point.”

“These fleets are so focused on running more efficiently and reducing downtime they can’t afford to wait until they are on the side of the road to decide what to do. They want to have a plan for reducing downtime before [the downtime] even occurs.”

And Kuo says it’s also important for aftermarket businesses to not forget the data they already have on hand. Aftermarket sales data shows a lot more than just what brake shoe was the most popular last March — it also shows customer buying habits.

“If you can understand buying habits, you can determine what product lines to market to your customers. You can determine why they buy what they buy when they buy it,” he says.

And just like the data pulled from a third party or a customer, it’s all beneficial to your bottom line.

“I think distributors are starting to play a lot more like the OEM channel,” Funke says. “I think they’ve realized how data can help them; it allows them to compete.”

“It’s really about being smarter about what you do,” adds Vogel. “There are a lot fish and a lot of lakes out there. It makes sense to find the lakes with the most fish.”

Seeburg concludes, “I think companies that are not on this trend are going to fall behind astronomically. I think a lot of them know they need to change but don’t know where to start.

“If they keep waiting, one day they are going to wake up and realize [the aftermarket] has passed by them.”

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