While the distribution sector may lag behind other industries when it comes to enhanced e-commerce solutions, companies that employ digital, customer-focused parts-and-service options stand to thrive during a sometimes-chaotic era for the distribution industry, executives from FleetPride said during a recent webcast.
“I’ve been in the business a long time, and right now the pace of change is faster than ever,” said Mike Harris, FleetPride’s senior vice president of sales and branch operations.
The company’s web customers previously could only look up product information and were unable to purchase items. There are more than 176,000 products available online for all Class 6-8 vehicles and heavy-duty trailers, FleetPride said.
Customers can search by part number, cross reference, year, make, model, engine type or vehicle identification number.
The site features “My Fleet,” where customers can securely store information on their vehicles to easily find needed parts, the company said.
Customers also can create lists for the products they want to save, find alternative parts and look for additional parts to help complete their jobs.
FleetPride also said its e-commerce site will enhance the customer experience by offering direct shipping options to customers from its five distribution centers, as well as branches across the U.S.
Understanding customer behavior
Embracing enhanced e-commerce solutions can be customer-friendly, and distributors can learn a lot about their own clients by taking advantage of digital sales data.
“About a year ago, we started releasing e-commerce features in beta mode in order to deeply understand customers’ behavior and accelerate digital transformation across FleetPride and the industry,” said Darren Taylor, the company’s senior vice president of digital. “What’s interesting about this industry is that it is behind other industries in adopting, or are slower to adopt, e-commerce and other digital social solutions.”
Leaders in the HD aftermarket, however, are “actually in a perfect position to lead” in digital because they can leverage scale to invest in the most relevant digital toolbox, artificial intelligence and mass amounts of product and customer data and combine that with local expertise from the branches to understand customer’s needs and create tailored digital solutions for the customers, Taylor said.
“Combine that with the second piece of big news, which is that we’ve enhanced our supply chain and implemented an IBM Sterling order management system to now offer more inventory visibility and more delivery options to customers by opening up our distribution centers and branches to direct customer shipping,” Taylor said. “So, this is a game changer. And it’s a great example of listening to customers and transforming how we do business and making it just simple for them. This changes how the customers get their job done on a daily basis and changes the physical global flow of goods across the country.”
Enhanced e-commerce solutions tips
Taylor said there a few “key things” distributors can do to be successful when implementing enhanced e-commerce solutions:
- Establish a user experience and practice to deeply understand how HD customers operate and how they may change over time.
- Constantly “test drive” new experiences with customers and learn how they use digital tools in real life.
- Become adept at digital transformation: “What you see on the surface is just a simple little button on the website, but in the background it’s actually digital transformation from the outside in.”
- Master data collection and management.
“It’s a lot of change for the industry, and I believe it’s our responsibility as leaders in the industry to help simplify all of that and make sense of it for folks,” Taylor said. “And, you know, help them adapt to the change. Game-changing innovations often come from combining new technologies, with practices or outside the industry. I’ve seen digital play out in other industries first hand, and it can have a profound impact on the industry.”