ShowMeTheParts may get the most attention due to its position as the largest public parts database in the world, but that doesn’t mean we’ve left our other products behind. Our entire system from paper to e-catalog publishing is constantly being updated and expanded to meet the needs of our customers. We’ve decided to run this new blog series to show you some of the new features we’ve been working on.
Classic Vertical Development Feature
If you’ve worked around parts catalogs, you’re familiar with the Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb.) This relational database is used in ACES to handle vehicle information including the year, make, model, trim and other attributes to correctly identify applications. Since the beginning, our catalog system has been set up to allow our clients to add their own entries, letting them expand the scope of VCdb well past standard vehicles.
We may be famous today for our massive ShowMeTheParts database, but Vertical Development has been a leader in aftermarket parts catalog publishing for over 30 years, developing mapping and publishing software to fit the needs of a wide range of clients. In this series, we want to highlight some new features we’re bringing to our catalog system. This time, we’re taking a look at alternative part numbers.
There are a lot of variations of parts out there. For brake pads, a company might offer standard, heavy duty and high performance pads. A suspension company may offer rubber and polyurethane versions of a bushing, standard and heavy duty springs, and a variety of shock and strut options built to fit different ride characteristics. Shopped for an oil filter lately? Those come in different ranges, too, offering different levels of filtration to fit a variety of oil change intervals. This range of options means each application may have several compatible variants.
We are excited to announce our 30th year in operations. Based in the greater Chicago area, Vertical Development got its start as a small programming firm, but we soon shifted gears to digital catalog development when contracting with Champion Laboratories in neighboring Albion, Illinois. Today, we are an award-winning technology development firm providing digital catalog software and services to more than 300 aftermarket brands.
Since 1987, Vertical Development has worked with aftermarket companies to first understand their business needs and then, develop solutions to better streamline processes, increase efficiencies, and ensure industry compliance. Each year, we take those learnings and create a development roadmap for future product upgrades and industry innovations. Last year, we announced significant upgrades to our catalog software and systems including near real-time inventory management and stock status updates, a direct result of feedback and feature requests from clients.
Over the last seven years we have been standardizing our vCat application, allowing us to add features and roll them out to our clients quickly. We have grown from a software provider to full service catalog services organization and will continue to operate on the cutting edge of technology to bring state-of-the-art aftermarket catalogs to our clients.
Vertical Development’s ShowMeTheParts database can show your customers which parts will fit their vehicle, what those parts look like and what their design characteristics are. That just leaves one thing they can’t find: inventory. With the near real time inventory system, your customers can see how many of an item you have in stock alongside all the other information that helps them find what they need for their vehicle. We recently added this feature to AP Exhaust’s catalog to take some of the work out creating a parts order.
This system is automated, so when a part is ordered, it’s subtracted from the inventory automatically. These inventory changes are pushed to the website every hour, which is far faster than the days it can take to get information into a system by manually filing and checking orders against the inventory. Automating this process also eliminates errors made when transferring stock information to the system, so the inventory is always accurate.
For buyers ordering from a distributor or wholesaler, that means they don’t have to call ahead to make sure the parts they want are still available. AP Exhaust added real time reporting to their site at the request of their customers. Their distributors already use SMTP to find the parts they want to order, so it seemed logical to display the inventory alongside the parts information. This doesn’t just shorten the time it takes to make an order, it makes it easy for these customers to choose alternative products if the part they want isn’t currently available.
We’ve worked hard to make ShowMeTheParts as easy to use as possible not just for users, but for clients as well. That means quick, easy parts management that allows new parts to be added to the database in days instead of the months required of most parts systems. Now we’re adding a new feature to speed up turn-around times in your business: “near” real time inventory and stock status updates. By automating inventory updates, processing times can be streamlined, and customers can see inventory levels directly from SMTP-based databases while they’re looking for parts.
How does it work? This new feature can be set to download inventory information from an FTP site that is hosted by the client company (DIY) or by us (DIFM.) The update interval time and frequency can be set to match the needs of the company from once each night after closing to multiple times per day. This information is matched up with the SMTP database, and the results are shown as part of the parts information in a column alongside other categories like application notes and quantity of parts needed per vehicle. For the end user, finding a part in stock is as simple as putting in their vehicle information and checking the inventory column to see which compatible options are available. Put that together with other SMTP features like photos, data sheets and 360 images, and the customer can be sure they can get a part that will work for their application.
Now, automotive aftermarket companies can easily add ShowMeTheParts catalog lookups to WordPress websites with a new WordPress plug-in created by Spork Marketing and Vertical Development, Inc. Combining our ShowMeTheParts’ massive aftermarket parts database with the world’s most popular website platform makes bringing parts information to your customers easier than ever before.
The first company to use this new tool is GMB North America, Inc. On the previous GMB North America website, customers had to leave the site to check parts information on ShowMeTheParts.com. As part of developing a new website for GMB, Spork Marketing created a WordPress plug-in that integrates GMB’s ShowMeTheParts catalog directly into the WordPress website system, so now customers can find what they need for their vehicles immediately. The results are now live on GMB’s website, www.gmb.net.
“Our new WordPress plug-in leverages the ShowMeTheParts’ API, which allows any parts seller or manufacturer to add a full suite of catalog lookup tools to a WordPress website,” says Jason Lancaster, president of Spork Marketing. “As perhaps the most popular website platform in the world, WordPress is already a reasonable choice for any auto parts or accessory manufacturer’s website. Our plug-in makes WordPress an even better option.”
“e-Commerce” may be starting to sound like a tired buzz word, but make no mistake: the growth of online sales is nothing to take lightly, even in the aftermarket parts sector. As the data comes in for the past year’s sales, we’re getting a better picture of how the online marketplace is changing. More than ever, buyers are turning to online tools to help with shopping, whether they’re ordering items at home, on the go, or even making decisions inside a store. Most of that growth has centered around smartphones, making it more important than ever to have a solid mobile presence.
In the past year, the biggest growth area in e-commerce has been focused squarely on growth through mobile devices. There are over 125 million smartphone users in the United States, and 62% of these people have made online purchases from their phones in the last six months. What does that translate to for overall sales? Last holiday season, shoppers used smartphones for 1/3 of all online purchases.
For those businesses with a physical location, e-commerce is still important. Last year, 40% of sales for Black Friday at brick and mortar stores came from online sales. Even when buyers are coming to your stores to buy, over 80% used smartphones in-store to look up product information and reviews or to search for other locations where they can find the products they need.
Recently, Aftermarket Business World shared an article detailing Gorlick’s Distribution Centers and ShowMeTheParts’ collaboration, modernizing Gorlick’s B2B ordering system. This was a challenging endeavor given Gorlick’s volume and variety of inventory. Read here how we were able to tackle the challenge and work with Gorlick’s to create an easy-to-manage system for the company and a simplified buying process for its customers by leveraging the power and scalability of ShowMeTheParts and integrating the database and shopping cart into Gorlick’s existing website.
Self-Driving cars are getting a lot of press, whether it’s Google cars roaming the streets, GM’s purchase of Cruise Automation, or Uber’s plan to put a fleet of self-driving Ford Fusions to work carrying passengers around Pittsburgh. How will this shift to self-driving vehicles affect parts management for fleets when their use becomes widespread?
What makes a self-driving car or truck different from a regular vehicle? To make a car self-driving, a system is added that uses a series of sensors to make judgments about driving conditions and react accordingly. A lot of the interface is already in the modern vehicle with systems like throttle-by-wire, adaptive cruise control and the steer-by-wire system recently introduced in some Infinitis. In other words, from a purely functional perspective, this just adds another small set of electronics to today’s electronically complicated systems.
In practice, there should be a major difference in how and when parts fail. Replacing human drivers with electronics means a consistent driving style across the fleet, and that should lead to fairly consistent wear patterns. Parts like brake pads and suspension components may wear with such consistency that they can be put on a maintenance schedule just like oil and filter changes.
Vertical Development, Inc. and GCommerce Inc. are launching a new product collaboration called “ShowMeTheParts B2B GCommerce Edition.” The new business-to-business e-commerce tool integrates GCommerce’s Virtual Inventory Cloud (VIC) system into websites powered by our ShowMeTheParts (SMTP), adding drop-shipping and special ordering capabilities.
Download the PDF and read more about the exciting new B2B e-commerce solution from Vertical Development, Inc. and GCommerce Inc.
ShowMeTheParts B2B GCommerce Edition is the capstone to a system that addresses every aspect of parts ordering between mid-market manufacturer/suppliers and their direct channel partners. With SMTP you can give your customers an account to see their own prices at log in. Since it leverages the SMTP database, buyers can see information including compatibility, attributes, data sheets and even photos of the part before placing an order.
“Partnering with Vertical Development to create ShowMeTheParts B2B GCommerce Edition leverages the best of both companies to contribute to increased sales,” shares Scott Luckett, Vice President, Industry Strategy of GCommerce, Inc. “In our more than 15 years in the e-commerce business we’ve built the largest network of trading partners serving the vehicle aftermarket. Combining the scale of our e-commerce system with the power behind the ShowMeTheParts database is game changing for mid-market wholesalers and distributors in the aftermarket industry.”